Sylvia joined Make-A-Wish International in 2011. In 2020, she returned to her former position of Vice President, Marketing and Digital, after overseeing a two-year transition during the infrastructure change, leadership adjustment and relocation of the operational head office, when she served as Chief Administrative Officer. Her primary objective today is to build data-driven decision-making processes to ensure Make-A-Wish continues learning and optimizing its actions and performance. Her team is responsible for global marketing, including all digital marketing and fundraising, public relations, internal and external communications, creative services and management of global brand campaigns and signature events.
Investing in a comprehensive data strategy will increase your ROI – I cannot emphasize that enough. Nonprofits understand that data is essential when quantifying the impact of their work. However, many organizations are reluctant to add to the cost of fundraising through data acquisition. Organizations that use data as part of their fundraising strategy seem to be more successful in engaging the donor and raising more money.
High-quality, actionable data will enhance your fundraising outcomes. Properly investing in data takes internal knowledge and strategy or a good partner.
Nonprofits (big and small) need to ensure that their boards and donors understand that comprehensive data empowers the organization and its stakeholders.
Once your board understands the value of this data strategy, then priority is usually given to implementation – which should equate to an increase in donations, donor engagement and acquisition. And in regard to your donors, they will appreciate the custom-tailored engagement that clearly resonates with them and builds your relationship with them, as well as having the story to tell that quantifies where their donation is going.
As we have seen from an international perspective, a good majority of our donors are U.S. based. With the digital transformation era in full swing, we are seeing that the world is ‘smaller’ in terms of ways to reach audiences who may resonate with your mission. If you have the right data to narrow your target, you will be much more successful in acquisition – which then you have that pool to nurture and develop as lifetime supporters – no matter where they live. Donor intent, meaning that you ask the donor “where do you want your money to go?” should rule the day! Not where they happen to live.
The federated model that most international nonprofits are adopting sometimes leads to a feeling of unintentional competition for donors among the federated members. In my work in the global federated space, we have always looked for engagement opportunities where working together creates greater value for the donor and the organization, instead of working separately. Leading with data is a good way to help prove the effectiveness of this model and help smooth over internal friction – it’s not personal, it’s data!
Nonprofits need to learn to lean on their data to pinpoint the exact target based on demographics, psychographics, etc., to support the donors journey and allocation of support. Organizations willing to take a bi-lateral approach, such as a global/local test, may find success working together.
Acquisition should not be a competition within a global enterprise. All must be in the same boat and understand when the tide (brand) rises, all boats rise!
We, the international office, conducted a pilot in the U.S. based on data. The results showed us that there was a segment of the U.S. population with a proclivity to donate to international causes. The data helped us ‘target’ which donors we needed to focus on and where to find them, or ‘like-minded’ individuals who had the proclivity to donate to an international cause. The results supported our supposition that we could make the pie bigger – awareness of our global brand was increased, and the international branch was able to acquire new brand ambassadors and donors in the U.S.
Reflecting back on Question 1 about barriers to leveraging data, it’s important to listen to what’s working and what isn’t. The truth behind the numbers and data should play a vital role in deciding where to make your organization’s future investments and your overall marketing program strategy.
Charity, good work, helping others, supporting communities – those are universal human traits. They are not ‘American’ or ‘European’ or ‘Asian’…Maslow’s hierarchy of needs measure ‘human’ motivations, and I have learned from my colleagues from around the world that there is an inherent ‘goodness’ and desire or motivation to do good in the majority of people around the world. It’s a human trait, not defined by culture, language, culture, ethnicity…it is universal. Getting to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Self-actualization and eventually transcendence) is aspirational for many humans. Everyone’s journey in generosity and helping your fellow man is different, but the bottom line is that most humans are wired to help one another. And if charities can tap into those emotions and behaviors to find the one’s that resonate with their mission, that relationship can be very fruitful and long-lasting… And DATA can measure this in both the short and long-term. Data has a long memory, and we can always depend on its recall, consistency and enough information that we can create a narrative that will resonate with those who want to ‘be the change’ in the world and make it a little better place.