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Get Rid of Data Silos, Unlock Fundraising Potential

Are data silos preventing your nonprofit from reaching your fundraising potential? Our sector has historically functioned within the confines of data silos, with each department often working in isolation. While this has been manageable in the past, it’s now holding us back from reaching our fundraising potential. Join us in uncovering the detrimental effects of data silos, and learn how to integrate people, systems, and data.

When your nonprofit organization operates in data silos, it prevents your team from reaching its fundraising potential. Let’s paint a clearer picture of what this looks like: Imagine each department separately collects and stores information about your donors. However, this information is hidden away from the rest of your organization.

How could you possibly craft a seamless supporter experience?

Your supporters are engaged human beings, not just isolated data points. They interact with your organization across various touchpoints—subscribing to newsletters, attending events, making donations, and volunteering their time.

This layered engagement is what strengthens your community. When data silos prevent your team from seeing the full picture, it creates a fragmented experience for everyone.

At a high level, data silos can hinder your ability to:

  • Understand donor behavior: When donor information is scattered, it’s hard to see the bigger picture and personalize your outreach.
  • Measure campaign effectiveness: Without a consolidated view of data, it’s challenging to track progress and optimize your fundraising efforts.
  • Make data-driven decisions: Siloed data limits your ability to analyze trends and make informed choices about your fundraising strategy.

Nonprofits Have Traditionally Worked in Data Silos

For decades, nonprofits have kept donor data in silos; keeping information manually in filing cabinets or in disparate systems. This gridlocks organizations into processes that take more time to manage or limit transparency from other team members.

While this data process wasn’t optimal, it still worked to some degree because fundraising was in the form of direct mail, face-to-face asks, or phone calls. Now that fundraising has expanded into digital channels like email, website, and SMS, the limitations of data silos become increasingly apparent.

The reason? Fundraising success can no longer rely on a single channel. As fundraisers, our roles have evolved past just fundraising. We are also focused on things like multichannel engagement, personalized communications, and attribution.

The barriers of data silos can cause of ripple effect of problems within an organization. Here are a few examples:

  • The marketing team launched a digital campaign, but they don’t have the tools in place to measure their effect on major donor contributions.
  • The volunteer team asks for donations but lacks visibility into the outcomes of the effort.
  • The direct response agency doesn’t have easy access to the most powerful programmatic stories for appeals.
  • The program team is uncertain about which stories and outcomes appeal to donors. And they can’t share program outcomes in a way that helps close the loop on specific gifts.

The tide is turning in how nonprofits manage data. Driven by powerful digital tools, organizations are now searching for a more holistic approach. This shift will unlock significant fundraising potential for those who adapt, while those clinging to outdated methods risk falling behind.

Dismantling Data Silos Through Responsive Fundraising

By breaking down the walls of data silos, what you’re left with is the ability to augment personalized experiences. This takes a simple transaction and fosters that moment of generosity into a deeper connection, motivating donors to become active supporters of your mission.

To truly break free from the mold of data silos, it requires a shift toward responsive fundraising. This innovative framework leverages modern technology, data intelligence, and human interactions to craft donor-centric giving experiences.

Responsive fundraising always starts from within the organization. Without a clear understanding of your supporters, you are unable to curate the personalized, high-touch experiences that they deserve.

At Virtuous, we believe dismantling data silos promotes collaboration across your entire organization. This achieves transparent team dialogue, KPI alignment, effective reporting, and generosity growth.

5 Steps to Unifying People, Systems, and Data Within Your Nonprofit

Without finding a way to data and system integration, fundraising can quickly become disarray and along with it, your people. This often manifests as a collection of platforms operating in silos, each holding isolated pieces of donor data. As a result, teams across fundraising, marketing, volunteering, and programs find themselves unable to grasp the full picture of what’s happening within the organization.

But there’s a silver lining: No matter how overwhelming your internal processes may seem right now, there are solutions to creating cohesion within your organization.

1. Find a Comprehensive Responsive Nonprofit CRM

Your CRM should act as a single source of truth for all your donor and supporter data, gathering information across departments like fundraising, marketing, and programs.

In today’s modern world, organizations rely on an entire tech stack of tools to manage their operations effectively. Utilizing such tools means there should be a process for creating a seamless flow of data between systems.

Responsive nonprofit CRMs like Virtuous are at the forefront of this integration, offering native system connections that span across email marketing, event management software, and online donation platforms. This eliminates the tedium of manual data entry and freeing up staff time to focus on more mission-critical tasks.

2. Build a Generosity Operations Team

High-growth for-profit companies look to their revenue ops team to drive revenue growth by sharing data insights and creating strategic alignment across the entire business.

The primary responsibilities of the revenue ops team are:

  • Coordinating the collection and integration of data and software for reporting
  • Delivering centralized, actionable insights to the entire organization
  • Providing enablement and training to the teams on messaging, tactics, etc.

Larger nonprofits have adopted an iteration of this in the form of “fundraising ops.” However, this role often focuses on operational support. While these tasks are important, there’s a missed opportunity in using this role strategically to uncover growth opportunities.

Similar to revenue ops, a generosity ops team would focus on maximizing generosity. But this goes beyond just tracking donations—they’re champions of shared data insights and learnings, bridging the gap between departments.

Here are a few examples of how generosity ops could optimize team collaboration:

  • Integrating volunteer and donor data to offer a comprehensive view of each supporter.
  • Highlighting program impact data and stories to fundraising and marketing teams, ensuring they are correctly tagged for easy access and use in donor segment targeting and impact communication.
  • Proactively identifying potential ambassadors and activists using social media, engagement, or event data, and aligning them with opportunities based on skills and interests.
  • Making relevant connections between marketing, volunteer, program, and fundraising activities to drive conversion and sustained support.
  • Aligning the entire organization by sharing KPIs across teams, which then enhances the team’s understanding and collaboration, such as informing teams about campaign goals and program impacts.

3. Goodbye to Data Silos: Create Shared Goals Across the Organization

Having a shared vision across teams keeps everyone aligned with priorities, unifying the team’s strategic approach to identify areas for growth. It further encourages open communication and cross-departmental collaboration, allowing for a diverse range of perspectives and skills to be brought to the table.

Because your team will share the same target goals, various team members will be responsible for different tasks, deliverables, and KPIs for nonprofits. This means organization-wide access to your CRM. In the past, the norm was to have a single person or a designated team as system administrators, which led to several challenges, such as the dependency on one source to gather, analyze, and extract the required data for the entire organization.

This then creates bottlenecks and delays in data accessibility. When only a few people have the keys to critical information, it slows down decision-making processes, disrupts the ability to respond to emerging opportunities, and can lead to a lack of transparency and data sharing across teams. Organizations like Rainforest Foundation US experienced the limitations of this firsthand. While having a sole system administrator might be manageable in the early stages, it quickly creates inefficiencies as your organization grows and expands.

“Our system before was that I managed the CRM and everybody came to me for reports and questions. Then, we realized that would not be the same case now, because we were growing and there is so much to learn about Virtuous,” says Viviana Briseno, Development Operations Manager at Rainforest Foundation US. “I needed my team to also learn some of it because if they were going to wait for me to learn everything, it was going to be a very long wait for them.”

While there are benefits to giving your entire nonprofit staff access to your donor management system, some organizations might raise concerns about having too many cooks in the kitchen. The more users you have in the system, the higher the risk for something to go wrong, like someone accidentally deleting or mistakenly changing critical donor information.

Virtuous understands this concern, which is where user permissions come in. Our platform provides flexible user access, enabling you to designate certain team members as admins, while also offering the option to restrict access through specific user profiles, including those with no access to financial data.

This allows the distribution of organization-wide system access, ensuring security and functionality without compromising data integrity.

4. Establish Internal Processes That Encourage Organization-Wide Collaboration

Collaborative internal processes ensure that every team is not just working towards individual goals, but also contributing to the collective mission of the organization. It empowers team members to leverage each other’s strengths and work more cohesively towards common objectives by knowing what data insights they need to pull from your CRM for nonprofits.

This is why it’s important to have a responsive system that is easy to use and pleasant to work in. When the CRM is intuitive and user-friendly, it encourages staff members to use it regularly, optimizing their workflow.

On the other hand, a cumbersome system can lead staff members to actively avoid using it due to the frustration it causes. This delays the completion of critical tasks and hinders the way your team is achieving their collective goals.

“All of our staff have direct access to Virtuous and are working from it. We have to provide our staff with far less training with Virtuous because it’s very intuitive. It doesn’t require a 500-page training manual”, says Sheryl Root, Partner Database Manager at OneHope.

If you need some inspiration on how to elevate your internal processes, here are a few to get you started:

  • Clear communication channels: Regular updates, open forums, and accessible feedback mechanisms create a two-way flow of information, contributing to a more positive and productive work environment.
  • Collaborative objectives and projects: By working together towards shared objectives, diverse perspectives and skill sets are brought to the table, leading to more impactful solutions, stronger relationships, and a culture of collective accountability.
  • Shared cross-team reporting platform: KPIs should be readily available to all team members and departments. Each role should have instant access to the specific reports they need for their job functions, eliminating the need for manual or delegated report-building.
  • Continued system training: Creating opportunities for continued system training equips your team with the latest tools and knowledge, keeping them up to date in a constantly changing environment. Check with your technology provider for ongoing education, like Virtuous Academy.

5. Knock Out Data Silos By Mapping Out Donor Journeys

Donor journeys are not only vital for nurturing supporters through various touchpoints, but they also provide teams with deeper insights into the experiences and interactions supporters have with the organization.

Using marketing automation for nonprofits, you can create automated donor journeys for every supporter type you have—be it donor, advocate, volunteer, or event participant. These automated workflows ensure supporters are receiving timely, relevant, and personalized interactions, reducing the manual workload of your team and ensuring consistent and accurate communication at every touchpoint.

Virtuous provides dynamic automated workflows in which every touchpoint is activated in response to specific donor actions, such as signing up for a newsletter or signing up for a fundraising event.

At Millard Public School Foundation, the team uses automated workflows to cultivate deeper relationships with its donors, guiding individuals from becoming new donors to lifelong supporters. Their thoughtfully crafted welcome series extends over three weeks, during which they send a series of emails to warmly welcome new donors into their community and educate them on Millard Public School Foundation’s overall mission.

“We start with just a welcome email and then a phone call as well. Within the next two weeks, they get a series of five emails. The last email asks them to become a monthly donor—so there’s just one ask throughout the entire series. Otherwise, it’s just information about the programs that we do, the services that we provide,” says Kristie Anthis, Annual Giving Manager, Millard Public School Foundation.

Since partnering with Virtuous, Millard Public School Foundation has seen greater engagement from supporters, and the team has learned more about their supporter preferences.

Next Step: Fine-Tuning Segmentation and Personas

To help you become a more responsive nonprofit, we’ve adopted a maturity model framework, a step-by-step guide often used by organizations to benchmark their current level of maturity against industry best practices.

As you progress across each step, you’ll see increased team effectiveness, increased donor retention and gift size, decreased staff burnout, improved advocacy, and improved donor acquisition metrics.

To learn the five building blocks to responsive fundraising, download The Responsive Maturity Model: 5 Building Blocks to Drive Increased Generosity.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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