Data as a Development Asset

Your alumni and donor data is your most important development asset. It helps you segment your population, keep in touch with important community members, and personalize your outreach. Each constituent attribute fulfills one of these functions. For instance, net-worth info indicates when you should contact a person, an email address indicates whether you can, and a spouse’s name indicates how to warm up your message.

The feasibility of surpassing your development goals depends on your data, but if you are like most non-profits, your data could be a lot better. Your data decays at 25% per year as people move and change jobs. It’s no wonder much of your data may be missing or incorrect. Great database managers have a hard time keeping up. Improving your data takes time and some tools may add to your budget, but there is a real ROI. A good email, mailing address, or job data point can turn into a new donation.

If your database needs a lot of work, passive data enrichment tools might be a great start. These tools help you add locations, careers, contact info and other data to your constituent records in bulk. But what you get in quantity, you may lose in quality. These tools have, at best, 90% accuracy.

A better long term strategy is to focus on constituent data updates. It’s the only way to be sure that new info is up-to-date and accurate. How do you let constituents know what info you have about them? What is the most efficient way for them to update their data? How frequently do you contact them? These are all good questions to ask when you come up with your data updates strategy.

Wavelength creates data partnerships with our schools. We work with schools across the data health spectrum, some with healthy databases missing few data points and others who are just starting out. We create data strategies with them and then give them the passive and constituent update tools that streamline all their data headaches.

Originally published at on 7/20/20 by Chris G., Founder and CEO of Wavelength