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How smarter data use can revitalise charities

  • Jed Mole

    Jed Mole

Created at October 30th, 2013

How smarter data use can revitalise charities

In economically challenging landscapes, charities and organisations with a substantial reliance on fundraising can suffer. To enhance existing funding and generate new support, personalising the giving experience for donors is an important factor – forming part of a positive consumer/contributor experience. But charities are often either unaware of the data they have, or are unable to use or effectively manage it. Revitalisation via big data can be difficult without the help of data professionals.

An example of this, Save the Children, the charity providing better futures to children suffering the effects of poverty, natural disasters and war, used Acxiom’s services to create a clear picture of the donors behind donations. Aiming to enhance its donor database with intricate lifestyle information, the charity wanted to deliver more appropriate and personal targeting for marketing communications, and better connect with individual supporters. As Save the Children is active in 120 countries, it has a substantial consumer base to target!

Using data to create a wider customer view

Priding itself on the importance of its work, of every £1 donated to Save the Children, 89p goes directly to charity work, and 11p towards raising the next pound. In economically challenging environments, such an output is impressive. But enhancing donor targeting through precisely targeted communications could make it more so. If charity assets are enhanced, not only can they generate new funds, but more relevant targeting would reduce the percentage of funding required to source worthy donor leads.

To help Save the Children personalise its consumer view, a multifaceted perspective of donor’s unique lifestyle attributes – a full consumer picture – had to be created. Data vendors are there to provide such information, and enable profiles detailing contributor ages, typical disposable income, lifestyle and household situation, to be built and acted on appropriately. Acxiom was chosen specifically by Save the Children as the only company to offer the level of in-depth lifestyle data required.

Prior to developing cross-segment personal profiles, Save the Children had only in-depth transactional data to source consumer information from. This information – from over 2.5 million donor records – was alone valuable, telling the charity how much, when, and how frequently individuals gave, but had infinitely more power when used in conjunction with vendor data, forming the foundations for personalised profiles to be built on.

What impact did big data bring?

Once Acxiom enhanced Save the Children’s insight, the data could be used to revitalise the charity in a number of ways:

  • Improving donations. Successful data use doesn’t see consumers as numbers, facts or records. It’s important to view consumers as unique individuals, and use data to provide the most relevant offers and donor opportunities. If you know a valuable proportion of your donators are of a certain age, and have a particular lifestyle, you can target communications, design style, offers, locations etc, accurately and at the right time, enhancing donation likeliness and minimising irrelevant messaging.
  • Enhancing adaptive abilities. With greater understanding of a donor base comes a greater capacity for variety. Messaging and channel strategies for example, can be better adapted to fit the profiles of varied data segments. Charities who can use big data in this way also have the capacity and opportunity to test targeting approaches in different ways, so can ensure messages will be effective, and invest in marketing with confidence of an improved ROI.
  • Providing competitive advantage. For charities, effective data use offers great competitive advantage. In austere climates, multiple charities all compete for donations from a public with limited resources themselves. So if a charity offers the best giving experience (appealingly targeted communications and marketing messages, achieved via detailed data) it stands to benefit.

By using big data to identify exact end users as individuals, charities can learn how best to target valuable donors, and maintain loyalty.

Combining old databases with new information also greatly builds on current knowledge and resources, enhancing marketing potential and adaptability in multiple areas. Firstly, this provides a substantial competitive advantage, but secondly adds a degree of future protection and long-term perspective to marketing campaigns.

Revitalising entire charity infrastructures, big data’s impact on marketing strategies, affects not only income, but the advancement of charity missions themselves, creating a more satisfying result for donors, NFP organisations, and causes helped alike.