Best Practices

Data-Driven Fundraising for K12 and Higher Ed: What to Know

Data-Driven Fundraising for K12 and Higher Ed: What to Know




October 10, 2023

Last modified: 

October 10, 2023

K-12 schools and higher ed institutions, public and private alike, rely on smart fundraising strategies to generate the revenue needed to maintain and grow their operations. But planning and carrying out fundraising initiatives without the donor data to inform them can feel like a shot in the dark.

By harnessing the power of data analytics, however, educational institutions can unlock new avenues of support and establish personalized fundraising tactics that resonate with supporters on a deeper level.

In this blog post, we delve into the world of data-driven fundraising and explore what schools of all shapes and sizes need to know.

Maximizing impact with minimal resources

The Value of a Data-Informed Fundraising Approach

A data-informed fundraising approach empowers school fundraisers to build and strengthen donor relationships in a rapidly changing landscape. Today, tailored engagement efforts are seeing particularly high levels of success, with personalized initiatives resonating deeply with organizations’ support networks.

In fact, according to industry research, personalized emails see open rates over 82% higher than generic emails, while segmented campaigns produce up to 760% revenue growth! 

Each contact in your CRM is a different person who has their own unique set of behaviors, preferences, and history with your school. For example, Sarah⁠ (a recent college grad and devoted alumnus who has recently begun donating to the college's scholarship fund) and John⁠ (a retired faculty member who actively participates in campus events and has supported the annual fund campaign for the past twenty years⁠) should not be engaged with in the same way.

Instead, the insights gleaned from personal interactions, surveys and forms, and third-party resources⁠—powered by smart technology⁠—can guide your efforts with individualized engagement recommendations and more.

In this guide, we’ll explore several critical donor data points and how each one can inform your school’s efforts. These include:

  1. Demographic Information
  2. Relation to the Institution
  3. Engagement History
  4. Communication Preference
  5. Employment Details
  6. Wealth Level
  7. Affinity and Interests

The more you know, the better you can tailor your strategy for each person supporting your cause. By establishing donor-centric fundraising practices, you can create a positive giving experience that fosters long-term engagement that goes beyond any single transaction.

Demographic Information

Demographic data is some of the most basic information you can collect about a donor. And it’s the foundation of a successfully personalized strategy.

Key demographic points to look out for include a supporter’s name (full name and preferred name or nickname, if applicable), contact information (phone number, email address, social media handles, etc.), address and geographic location, age or D.O.B., and more.

How to get this data point: Ask for these details on your online donation pages. While you’ll want to limit the number of required form fields to the must-haves (typically name and email), the rest can be optional requests. Tons of donors are willing to provide additional information when asked!

Relation to the Institution

Understanding a donor or prospect’s affiliation with your school can be the key to pulling off an effectively tailored strategy. After all, it’s likely one of the primary motivations behind an individual’s giving.

For example, you’d likely take a different approach to alumni engagement than you would for a current student, faculty member, or unrelated donor. Each group has its own unique set of defining characteristics, and acknowledging a supporter’s relationship with your school can establish a more personalized giving experience.

How to get this data point: This is another piece of information you can ask for in your donation form. Consider implementing an optional drop-down field that encourages donors to mark their status as a student, alumnus, family member, friend, faculty/staff, or other.

Engagement History

A donor’s past giving patterns can be one of the largest indicators of future behavior. By tracking how your supporters are involved with your school, you can take key steps to encourage further support. For example, you’ll be able to better understand giving motivations, predict engagement trends, and even uncover major donor opportunities.

Keep in mind that engagement history should go beyond traditional donations⁠—and encompass all instances of giving, volunteering, peer-to-peer fundraising, attending events, matching gifts, and more.

How to get this data point: This information should be quick and easy to locate in your donor database. To ensure you have a thorough understanding of each individual’s engagement with your institution, regularly updating your CRM is a must.

Communication Preference

If you send donation appeals using a channel that a donor doesn’t care for, your outreach is more likely to be discarded without consideration. On the other hand, if you use an individual’s favorite means of communication, you can expect a significantly greater response.

Thus, tracking and analyzing donor communication preferences can go a long way⁠—not only in securing more gifts for your school, but also in reducing costs invested in non-responsive channels.

How to get this data point: Take a look at your recent interactions with a donor. Do they tend to be more responsive over email compared to direct mail? Do they favor phone calls or text messages? Your past campaign conversion rates can provide a ton of useful details. Alternatively, consider sending a donor survey that asks respondents to share their preferred communication channels to get straight to the point!

Employment Details

Knowing where your donors work is one of the most impactful data points you can have. Not only does employment data allow your team to uncover existing workplace giving opportunities (i.e., matching gifts, volunteer grants, annual giving stipends, and more) within your support network⁠, but it can also inform your broader corporate partnership strategy, provide wealth insights, and allow for increasingly personalized outreach.

While the employing company is the most important aspect, it also helps to have additional insights such as their job title, rank, and part-time versus full-time status. Many companies even match donations made by their retirees⁠—so don’t count them out, either!

How to get this data point: Employment information is another data point that can be collected directly within the online giving experience. But our #1 recommendation is to integrate your fundraising platform with an innovative matching gift tool⁠—like Double the Donation’s partnership with Almabase!

Leveraging a solution like this empowers your school to collect employment data from donors as they reach the confirmation screen. Plus, it allows you to screen contact information for corporate email addresses and trigger automated post-donation outreach⁠—each of which provides your team with employer insights.

Wealth Level

Asking for too much from your donors can lead to extra “no’s,” while asking for too little often leaves available dollars on the table. Thus, having a basic understanding of an individual’s wealth level and capacity to give can help your development team tailor gift requests with optimal donation suggestions that resonate with the prospect.

This information can also help uncover major donation opportunities that already exist in your network⁠—you just might not know it yet!

How to get this data point: Conduct a wealth screening of the donors, prospects, and alumni in your database to identify those with the ability to contribute substantial gifts. Take a look at common wealth markers like stock ownership, real estate holdings, past giving, and previously uncovered employment details to estimate an individual’s capacity to give.

Affinity and Interests

Beyond a donor’s financial giving abilities, another key tenet of prospect research includes looking into the person’s affinity to give. In other words⁠—do they take a natural liking to your cause?

If an individual has an existing relationship with your school (i.e., student, alumnus, faculty member, family, etc.), that connection often does produce an affinity to support your efforts. However, you’d want to note that a chemistry student would likely be more inclined to donate to an expansion of the college’s science wing rather than a scholarship fund for incoming art classes.

How to get this data point: Make a note in your donor database after each meeting with a major donor or prospect. If they mention any particular interests, jot it down to have on record going forward. If an individual is an alumnus of your institution, their major or field of study can provide some insight into their personal and professional interests.

Advancement Playbook

As the educational fundraising landscape continues to evolve, data-driven fundraising becomes increasingly essential to unlocking untapped potential. 

The invaluable insights gleaned from supporter data can empower your institution to make the most of available resources, identify and engage effectively with high-value prospects, and enhance donor retention⁠—from first-time donors to life-long supporters.

Make sure your development team has the tools and the strategies in place to collect, store, and analyze the data available to you. Don’t let that resource go to waste!

About the Author

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of matching gift tools to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Adam created Double the Donation in order to help nonprofits increase their annual revenue through corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

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