If you’ve spent much time reading the content we create or have met us in person, there’s one thing you’ve probably picked up on: we’re serious about data-informed decisions. Whether we’re determining how to pivot mid-campaign or helping you determine who to reach out to for that significant gift, we’ve found data to be critical in our intelligent fundraising approach.
Technology and data give us the tools to make informed decisions so fundraisers can work smarter, not harder.
But if we’ve learned anything with the surprising turn of the election results, it’s that data is not perfect. Poll after poll incorrectly predicted election results. And it left a country utterly surprised by the outcome.
What’s the takeaway?
In our work helping to fund the mission of organizations like yours, we have to remember that data is irreplaceable but there is a place for intuition as well. You know your constituents. You’ve seen patterns. You can probably imagine how they will respond to any variety of approaches and asks. Data will get you to a certain place; it is the science behind what we do. But we always have to understand the context within which we view data. If we were looking at the polling numbers we would ask, “Who did we interview? How do they compare with the people who normally turn out to vote? What portion of the people we polled represented the primary base of support that Trump successfully rallied to his cause?”
There is also a difference between what people say and what people do. With this election people may have felt less comfortable discussing who they would vote for or perhaps a larger portion of people changed their mind between the poll and when they actually voted than during other elections. This demonstrates the need to consider the source of the data. We must make sure that as we build out an interpretation of data we take into consideration the qualitative nature of the data.
The actual voting results, of course, say more about who will be the next president than the polling ahead of time. The same is true about our actual donation results when compared with survey results we might execute that ask people’s intent to donate. The latter is something we put into context of how we gathered it. we use it to guide and inform our decisions but we don’t fully evaluate the campaign until we have the actual behavioral data.
So do your homework. See what the data tells you. But then marry that with your intuition. Because while data is helpful, sometimes it is wrong. And that is the delicate marriage of the art and science of fundraising.