We frequently speak of fundraising as being all about people and relationships, and yet we sometimes don’t afford the people inside our organizations the same level of consideration we do our donors and prospects. As data becomes increasingly important to our efforts we run an even greater risk of overlooking the human element.

Take training, for example. Consider, also, job goals, expectations, and performance measurement. As we increasingly expect everyone in fundraising, including front-line gift officers, to capture, record, analyze, and use data more and more effectively to get better and better results, we often fail to consider the fact that these fundraisers only received a minimum amount of training to use the database, and that may have been many years ago, depending on how long ago they were hired. In addition, as we ratchet up what we expect of them in terms of data management, we usually don’t clearly define those new expectations as being officially a part of the job (which is also something we should be thinking about for future new hires), nor do we take something away elsewhere in the workload in order to allow this all to fit in without simply expecting everyone to work longer hours.

On the other side of that same coin, we’d like our data management professionals to do a better job of not merely handling data for data’s sake, but also of providing customer service to fundraisers and uncovering and delivering actionable insights that gift officers can use in their cultivation efforts. But as we do that, have we thought about how this does or doesn’t fit into the high-volume transactional goals against which we measure them? Why would I, as a gift processor, be motivated to drop what I’m doing to handle your one gift (even if it’s six figures), when I have to worry about being dinged on a performance review for failing to maintain a certain average number of gifts processed per week?

Similarly, as a records specialist, I may see something in a new constituent record I’ve created that someone in prospect research might find useful, but I have a huge backlog of addresses to update from returned mail. According to my job description and my metrics, it’s more important to get the backlog cleared, even if nearly all of those returned pieces of mail were sent to people who’ve never made a gift. So even though I’m focused on data, it’s not necessarily the right data – which is to say, it’s not the most strategic use of data. To then lament that our data processors don’t see the big picture is completely unfair to them; they’re just doing what they’ve told they will be held accountable for.

Job descriptions and training are just a few of the aspects of your business that provide opportunities to become more data-driven AND people-centric. By attending to the human factors of data-driven fundraising you can empower your people to turn data into better results.


Brandon is a Salesforce Certified Administrator and brings over 20 years of experience as an advancement practitioner and consultant. Before joining Zuri Group, Brandon was a Senior Enterprise Solutions Consultant at Blackbaud, and prior to that he was a fundraiser for 12 years. This deep experience in both frontline fundraising and fundraising operations and data management strongly informs his approach to consulting, and Brandon helps his clients keep the bigger picture in mind at all times.

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