Common donor data mistakes to avoid

Common donor data mistakes to avoid

If you're at a point where you've tried various types of campaigns, marketing tactics, and still feel like you're not seeing success in anything you've tried, we're here to tell you that the answer is in your donor data.

We know that the word "data" might give you this reaction:


or this feeling:


keep reading...

We’re going to cover three common donor data mistakes nonprofits make, and how make it easy-peasy to understand what the data is telling you.

Donor Data Mistake #1: You’re Not Using It!

You collected the data. You spent time organizing it. Now, make sure you use it!

It doesn’t matter how much data you collect and how many pretty visualizations you make, if you don’t understand the basics, you won't be able to use the insights to make decisions. The purpose of collecting it is to help you make data driven decisions about how you can improve your campaigns and make progress toward your nonprofits goals. If you’re not making decisions, you’re not making progress.

Quick and easy, these are the basics:

  1. retention and churn - how many donors did you have when you started tracking, how many do you have now? Do you have more, or less donors? If you want to brush up on some definitions, this article is a great place to start.
  1. average revenue per donor - if you're not tracking this, now is a good time to start
  1. donor acquisition cost - (aka DAC) this is going to tell you how much you're spending to gain a new donor. This is usually where nonprofits end up in the red, when you spend more than you're making = 🚩🚩🚩

Pro tip: when you look at DAC, make sure you compare media channels and/ or platforms to better understand where it's costing you the most to acquire new donors.

By understanding the points above, you will be able to answer questions like:

  • How does donor behavior vary across donation amounts?
  • What campaigns are working the best?
  • What donation amount brings in the most recurring revenue?

Questions like these, answered with the help of your data, can help you identify your most valuable donors, how to get more of them, and how to keep improving the world through your work along the way.

Donor Data Mistake #2: Disorganized data

If your data’s too siloed off and difficult to compare, it’ll be hard to pull any insights from them.

Take some time to review data hygiene habits with your team. Just documenting best data practices isn’t enough. You have to make sure people know what they are and that they put them to use.

The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers found that one nonprofit discovered that they’d mailed materials out to more than 34,000 invalid or deceased addresses.


Cleaning your data can save your nonprofit a lot of money and you, and your staff, a whole lot of time.

Set aside some time for a data audit.

Are there any CRM integrations that you should be using that you aren’t?

If so, set those up.

Are your customers organized into segments? If so, great. If not, start dividing them up. You can segment by location, gift amount, campaign, preferred communication method, preferred donation method, and more.

Donor Data Mistake #3: Not setting yourself up for success

Just as having good data hygiene can save you time and money so can setting yourself up for success. It takes a whole lot more time to add ten thousand first names to donor contacts than it does to collect that info in the first place.

So, similar to the above, make sure the places in your organization where the data is collected is standardized and easy to integrate into your current data management system.

Another way to help keep your organized data is to use a centralized platform, like *ahem* us, with text, email, and data management tools all under one roof. That way you don’t have to spend all the time worrying about making sure everything’s integrated properly.

It simply works.

Want to learn more about how to turn donor data into a secret weapon?


Watch our workshop On-Demand, conveniently called How to Turn Donor Data into a Secret Weapon for Nonprofits.

We explore:

  • more common mistakes that nonprofits make with donor data,
  • how to find excess fundraising capacity in your donor database,
  • how to use knowledge of your current donors to find and acquire new donors,
  • and three things you can start doing TODAY to transform your fundraising data.