“Aaaah!” I hear you say. “It’s nearly that time of year”. Love is…well, it’s anywhere you want it to be. But I’m not here to weave you a story of unrequited love; a dalliance that never quite grew into something more substantial. Or am I?
My story starts with all the tools that we have at our disposal that we constantly overlook in our search for the one thing that will revolutionise our fundraising or our insight into supporter behaviour. It seems that somewhere along the way someone has decreed that a tool won’t help unless it cost many thousands of pounds and needs a brain the size of the sun to operate it.
In our search for the expensive, shiny new, limited edition ‘Rocket Machine’ have we stopped looking at the wealth of affordable, readily available resources that we have?
Over the last few months I’ve been hearing some very similar comments. These usually involve A Person stating (quite matter-of-factly) that they don’t have any proper segmentation, no analysis has been carried out on their data, they don’t have an attrition model and because they don’t have a, b and c their forecasting is written on the back of the organisational fag packet. “And why don’t you have any of this stuff?” I ask politely. “Well,” says A Person, “…we have limited funds and can’t purchase the expensive, shiny new, limited edition ‘Rocket Machine’. Without it we can’t do any of this stuff. “
This saddens me greatly. I know how the conversation is going to end. I know how A Person is going to look whilst he’s relaying his sorry tale – a look of longing will pass across his face as he talks about the thing he doesn’t have and is never going to get. But rather than relegating this story to the shelves of lost love literary endeavours, I’d much rather have a stab at re-writing the ending.
Here goes. Most organisations have Windows with Office that they run off a server. At the very least it will have Excel, more than likely it will also have Access. You will also have some supporter data stored on a database. With these 3 things you are able to – quite easily – build and manage a simple effective segmentation model. Regular giving attrition is also really easy with a very small sprinkling of know how. And what about some analysis. Did you know that Excel has an analysis module that can be unlocked, costs no extra and could help with things like regression and moving averages?
These things become even more powerful if you start to link your information together: the attrition figures read straight into your channel forecast. Your segmentation reads off your database which gives you counts for your appeals forecast. The bottom tier forecasts then feed into the divisional forecast.
Steady on let’s not get too carried away!
The point I’m trying to make is how we – and this is an all encompassing ‘we’ – overlook what’s around us all of the time. We miss out the basic stuff that we could be doing, and sometimes we’re even guilty of dismissing something as not being sophisticated enough, when we don’t really know what its true capabilities are; Just because you ate a microwave meal last night doesn’t mean you don’t like opera! There are so many benefits to taking a closer look at stuff we have available. For instance more people can share the responsibility of using and maintaining systems rather than the onus being on one person. If the Rocket Machine Driver wants some time away there’s usually no back up so work is put on hold and you pray that they don’t ever meet the Big Red Bus. And to top it all, everything is supported by your IT team which means that there’s no need to have to run the gauntlet of an external helpdesk system.
In a roundabout way, I suppose I’m advocating taking stock. Standing still and looking at what we want to achieve and what we have available that might help us. And we need to do this before we talk to the Rocket Machine specialists or sentence ourselves to a life of unrequited love.