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6 data points your nonprofit organization is tracking wrong

What’s the price of incorrect data? The loss of fundraising dollars and donors – the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization.

That may sound extreme, but as we’ve discussed in many of our blogs and webinars, data is the number one asset nonprofits have right now. And quality data management practices allow you to make the strategic decisions needed to provide a sustainable future for your organization.

Audience modeling, personalization, ask arrays, digital ad targeting – these are all strategies that can help boost your fundraising programs. But if they’re built based off incorrect or insufficient data practices, they could do more harm than good.

In this blog, we’ll examine six data points you may be tracking incorrectly and the impact they can have on your strategic decision making.



Insufficient data can not only lead to a negative impact on your net revenue, but also may result in a loss of quality decision-making, contamination of other data projects and decreased levels of internal trust.

As we move to making decisions backed by data, having total – and trusted – data points at your fingertips when needed will propel you to the front of the race.


We all love an interesting data point, but if it’s not actionable for your organization, it may be a waste of resources.

Data should help you find alignment and make critical decisions. It should help explain why something occurred, not just that it happened. If it doesn’t provide insights, you’re likely tracking it wrong and may need to re-examine your processes.



If your traffic and clicks are driven by audiences who don’t donate or that you aren’t actively trying to engage, then you are wasting your time and energy on the wrong people.


Not all revenue is equal. The full effort must measure income, cost and return on investment for each program.

As we all know, different channels take different levels of investment. And introducing a new program or a new channel does as well. Identifying the critical differences in program maturity and value will help you determine the success of each of your investments.


Are you tracking donors across all channels correctly? Are you matching online and offline donors in a way that makes sense?

There are many ways donors show engagement with your organization. By tracking engagement across all channels, you can get a true sense of how committed they are to your cause.


While this is an excellent way to identify areas for improvement or ways to boost donor engagement, it can also put them in a box that doesn’t reflect their accurate giving patterns.

Did they give monthly and then suddenly stop giving? Do they only donate to emergency appeals? Are they classified as direct mail donors but are now giving through donor-advised funds (DAFs)?

There are plenty of factors that can drive behavior change from year to year. Don’t limit donor engagement because of this.

Incorrect, incomplete and poor data management practices can cause harmful ramifications for your organization’s fundraising strategies. As we all move to a data-driven future, most of your decisions should be based on insights gleaned from these data points.

If you can’t trust what your data is telling you, you’ll be setting yourself back in more ways than one.


Cathy Folkes

Cathy Folkes has worked in big data long before she (or anyone else) knew it was big data. She has developed databases, processes, CRMs, and analytic and reporting environments for many organizations. Cathy has worked with AARP, the American Cancer Society, The Salvation Army, Dell, Disney, Habitat for Humanity and Nike. As Chief Data Officer, Cathy leads the RKD Insights team, empowering nonprofits with the ability to confidently and efficiently execute data-driven fundraising strategies. She will work alongside your team to connect data to enrich marketing segmentation, analysis and insights.

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