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Data mining by charities

In an earlier blog entry (my 5 pet hates) I listed receiving letters for further donations at inappropriate times, most typically just after I had made a donation. This has led me to ask myself whether charities actually use data they have in their possession in maximising its value and converting this into cash. No, I am not talking about sale of their client lists to other bodies (a matter where I religiously check the box against on all forms) but the possible areas as follows:

1. Firstly, under my pet hate, removing names of donors who have made one off donations in say the last three months, from a proposed general mailing, on the basis they are unlikely to do so again immediately and also get frustrated at the waste of sending such a further letter.

2. Identifying donors who have had three or four years of making a gift aid/covenant at the same level. On the basis inflation, personal improvement etc may mean they are willing to increase their standing order, a gentle chaser may be in order. In recently checking the list of my periodic bankers order payments to charities, I was amazed at how many have stayed at the same amount with little chaser or friendly reminder by the relevant charity that this was the case for 5-10 years.

3. Tracking when certain donors make additional one off payments and writing them a standard but bespoke letter around that time next year rather than bulk standard round robin letters at Xmas etc. thanking and hoping they will be able to make an additional contribution again.

4. Where a donor has been giving for a certain time ( five years, ten years?) to send them a personal “anniversary” thank you for their consistent contributions. This occurred to me when two separate charities recently wrote not only doing this but mentioning how much in total with tax relief had been given ( a pleasant personal surprise but also in my mind showing the charity involved was keeping good accounting records on donors!) and also summarizing the main achievements of the charity across that same period.

I am sure there are other options to add to this list but what they all require is I would guess quite simple usage of data the charity has and in the standard words of management books “looking after their customers” or in the case of charities, their donors. None of this is rocket science but it does show which charities come across as being smarter (and indirectly by having focus hopefully saving wasted mailings etc.)

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