How backward thinking moves fundraising forward

There’s a growing trend in the fundraising sector (and in other sectors) towards being ‘data-driven’—and many professionals in the non-profit sector are feeling pressure to incorporate data into their work. Fundtracker is a great example, but data-driven service shows up in many other areas of fundraising and other work, beyond prospect research.

But, being ‘data-driven’ doesn’t necessarily mean being technical, or using giant spreadsheets. At its simplest, it means orienting your work around simple calculations, based on what works. A fundraising ‘pipeline’ is an excellent example of applying data-driven approaches to your work and enjoying its benefits - without learning how to code.

FundraisingPipeline sketch 1.png

Most organizations have a fundraising process, and the concept of using prospects, pipelines, and targets are already familiar. However, if you’ve been following the same strategy as always and aren’t seeing the results you need, it might be time to think backward.

We’ll show you how designing a data-driven fundraising pipeline can help your work—and it all starts with thinking backward.

We have previously discussed each of the stages in the fundraising pipeline, and how having a clearly defined set of steps can help coordinate fundraising efforts. Now, we’ll illustrate how to use those stages to design a data-driven pipeline—by approaching it backward.

This is a data-driven process that begins with the final stage of any fundraising pipeline—success. By starting here, fundraisers can use a numbers-based approach to determine how many prospects are required at each step to ensure a successful outcome.

Step one is to determine how many successful asks are needed in order to meet funding requirements.

Let’s keep things simple for now and say we need one successful asks.

The next step is to consider past experience to inform estimations about how many prospects fall out of the pipeline at each stage.

Perhaps prior knowledge suggests that for every prospect asked, 80% will engage in follow-up conversations, and of those only 25% will commit to funding. This means that to obtain that one successful asks, you’ll need follow-ups with 4 prospects, which means you need to make 5 asks.

FundraisingPipeline sketch 3.png

From here, it’s a simple process of using best estimates to continue backwards through the pipeline to reach the prospect identification step, and attach a quantifiable number required at this preliminary stage. In our example above, roughly 20 prospects must be identified at the first stage in order to land one grant.

As goals, industry knowledge, and pipeline stages are unique for each organization, these steps will differ from one fundraiser to another. However, the overall objective of this ‘working backwards’ system to the same—to determine an informed estimate of the number of prospects one must begin with in order to work forwards with confidence in reaching fundraising targets.

And for help creating a promising prospect list in the first place, Ajah is available to assist with Fundtracker—or with free advice through a free consultation. A well-designed pipeline will help to concentrate efforts where they are needed, and ensure you have the time to achieve fundraising targets.

Get in touch for a free consultation so we can help drive your fundraising forward.