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Charity sector struggling to turn data into donations

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13th Feb 2014
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A report published by Blackbaud claims the UK’s not-for-profit sector is “drowning in data”, with many charities lacking the necessary resources required to successfully tap into the social media and fundraising data they accumulate.

Blackbaud, which itself provides fundraising software to the not-for-profit sector, produced the Data Driven Fundraising report in collaboration with research consultancy nfpSynergy, to try and gain further understanding of how charities are making use of the different channels of information in the donation seeking process.

It found that 70% of the 300+ sector professionals participating in the research felt there was “untapped potential in the data their organisations hold”, and that more than half of not-for-profits felt they were struggling to unlock the marketing and fundraising potential of their data.

“The sheer volume of data generated in modern fundraising can be bewildering for not-for-profits and the research shows how many are struggling to make sense of the data they hold on donors and supporters,” said Azadi Sheridan, Blackbaud Europe’s product manager for CRM.

Data can be invaluable for fundraising and marketing, but not-for-profits must be able to analyse that data to get the maximum value from it. Not utilising social media data is a major missed opportunity to better understand supporters.”

Known as the UK’s ‘third sector’, there are over 180,000 registered charities in the UK, grossing a total annual income of over £61bn in 2013. However, the total amount of donations given by individuals saw a sharp decline between 2005/2006 (£11.8bn) and 2011/2012 (£9.3bn). While much of the blame is directed at the economic downturn after the 2008 banking collapse, many also believe charities need to do more to tap into potentially missed opportunities in the donation giving process.

Social data is said to be a resource that not-for-profits could make better use of, however Blackbaud’s research found that only 15% of sector professionals felt able to integrate social media data. Just 38% of the research participants felt their organisation was able to integrate online data, stating the complexity of their CRM systems as a barrier to them using data properly.

“A lack of resources to manage CRM and data was a common issue amongst not-for-profits, but what was more worrying was their CRM system being unable to do what they needed to,” continued Azadi Sheridan.

“Whether that is a lack of support from the vendor or whether their system couldn’t cope with the volume of data, it is something that should be addressed as a priority.”

57% of Blackbaud’s respondents stated the most common challenge faced in terms of data integration was having to manually key in data from different systems, while 50% cited conflicting objectives on data across the organisation as the second biggest challenge. This figure was 61% among those stated as ‘larger’ not-for-profits.

Cost will always be the greatest barrier to new technologies for charity organisations,  and while 31% of respondents stated they were now using a cloud-based CRM system, Blackbaud's findings suggest old legacy technology is likely to continue to play a major part in whether not-for-profits feel it viable to invest in building data analytics tools into IT infrastructure in the near future; especially when the rewards can't be guaranteed.  

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