Tag Archives: analytics

Measuring Affinity

With a variety of internal and external data easily available, prospect researchers and analysts are able to provide greater insight to reach their organization’s goals. In order for data to help grow the prospect pipeline and inform decisions, one must be able to turn this data into valuable measurements.

I learned this first-hand in my initial attempt to create an affinity score to assist with prospect identification. To prepare for the task, I asked myself a series of questions. Some of those questions included:

What is affinity?

How do I define affinity for my organization?

Who would I consider has a high affinity for my organization?

What data is available to me that supports the statement, “a constituent has a high affinity?”

Do all significant donors or volunteers represent their affinity in the same way?

Which data points that are common between “high affinity constituents” and new prospects are, or are not, coincidental?

Which data points have greater ‘weight’ than others?

Which data points should have a maximum capacity in the resulting total score?


All of these and more were critical in my attempt to create a score.

Please note the use of the word ‘attempt’ above. I stress this because there is quite a bit of trial and error in the path to a final product. This is a project where one must continuously validate, adapt and iterate until the results successfully inform the decisions of your team.

Do not be afraid to try this on your own. There are services that can help with the process, but Excel is a great tool to begin the data manipulation required to calculate your score. Whether or not you use Excel or a specialized application for developing a score, it does not eliminate the need to question and understand affinity for your organization.

So I ask you, what is affinity for your organization?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Case study – planned giving prospecting

Perusing the Prospect-DMM recently, I spotted an entry from Michael Pawlus of Grand Valley State University.  He generously shared his presentation slides from the APRA International conference in New Orleans.



He steps you through a scenario of how to build a segmentation score for planned giving donors if you don’t have the resources or time to invest in extensive modeling.  His method encourages us to first look to our own intuition and check to see if our assumptions are true. What a great approach!

While it’s impossible to receive the full impact of Michael’s presentation just by reading his slides, his underlying messages are clear and easy to understand.  Click on the slide image to open the deck.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Persuasion modeling – the next big thing

The next frontier of predictive modeling is not about predicting a possible outcome for each constituent (such as identifying constituents who are most likely to lapse, renew, make a planned gift, etc.).  The next frontier of predictive modeling is known as persuasion modeling.


The objective is to predict the type of contact method your organization should apply to each constituent in the data base to maximize that constituent’s chance of a successful outcome (such as renewing, or not lapsing).   I just happened to find a link to the keynote address video from the 2013 Predictive Analytics World conference where the speaker, Eric Siegel, described the method.  It is a truly informative presentation and completely easy to understand.



Here’s an article from HP’s Chris Surdak on why persuasion modeling is the next big thing.  He writes it from a for-profit point of view, but the same principles apply to our sector too.  We not only want to know which communication channel will likely have the greatest positive effect on each constituent, but we also want to know whether we should be using that communication channel at all!  Reaching out could possibly have an unintended negative effect, so we only want to employ more expensive levels of communication treatment (like call centers) to those constituents likely to be persuaded to give again.


Definitely take a look at the video, it is illuminating and will make you feel like you’ve got the inside scoop on analytics best practices.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Countdown to Summer Workshop 2015


We absolutely can’t wait and hope to see you there!


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Building a culture of data fluency

For the eleventy-hundredth time I read an article stating that organizations who base their strategic decision making on data out-perform organizations who don’t.

No longer surprising, right?

So what’s the big deal?  Why isn’t every organization taking full advantage of the data we so carefully input, record and store?

That question is also discussed a lot in these days too.  Seems that it’s pretty difficult to get people to change their behavior (eg, adopt a data driven mindset) if no one is comfortable with the concept of understanding data.


The headline above is from an article in Forbes dated October 2014 by H. O. Maycotte.  Mr. Maycotte explains that complex analysis from a business point of view involves a LOT of data.  He says most people just don’t know where to start analyzing and frankly don’t have the right tools to help them accomplish the work.


The central issue is getting people comfortable with understanding the data related to the programs they support.


Recently, TechTarget published a case study highlighting an online-lending organization who is taking their employees through a week-long data boot camp to build data fluency throughout their organization.

Their goal is to be one of the companies who out-perform their peers by taking advantage of data and they’re equipping their employees with some essential skills:

  • asking for the data they need
  • summarizing their competed analysis
  • presenting their findings.

They’ve adopted new management policies to require hard facts to support all decisions.  So if you’re trying to get your department or program to move forward, you’ve got to be able to present your case.

Click on the TechTarget logo above to read the case study and find out more.  And for more discussion on the topic, click here.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Survey results – 6th annual fundraising analytics community

The BWF consulting team just compiled results from the 6th annual nonprofit survey on the way our industry is leveraging data analytics.  The survey covers the kinds of projects we perform, the statistical methods used, tools/software used, personnel mix, how we measure value, and staff competency.

While most of us apply analytics for better prospecting, since last year’s survey, there’s been increased interest in pursuing other business challenges like financial forecasting and program performance analysis.




The report is very insightful, particularly on the discussion pertaining to analysis methods.  The BWF team appears to believe we, as an industry, could be taking better advantage of addressing some questions that are central to our core business models, vis-a-vis time series analysis.


Take a minute to read – just click on the image above.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Making the move to research analytics

The business analysis skills mandatory in successful for-profit entities are equally as important for nonprofits. The career jump from prospect research to research analytics is a natural.  That’s why I found this article from STATtr@k so illuminating – 10 tips for entering the analytics career ladder.


My favorites are #2: get experience with large real-world data sets, #7: familiarize yourself with the industry, and #10: network. Here’s my own two-cents on these 3 pointers, since the author didn’t approach the article from a nonprofit point of view.

  • Real-world data sets.  Everyone in our profession has access to data, so start exploring!  Count the number of donors last month by gift size, by giving capacity, by state, by age.  Learn more about your data.  If that exercise is too simple, then pose a business question to yourself that is more challenging and solve it!
  • Become familiar with our industry.  Read the online blogs from the top consulting firms, software vendors and services providers to understand the kinds of solutions they are implementing in other organizations.
  • Network.  The Prospect DMM list is a great way to join the conversation and involvement with APRA Greater Houston is an excellent opportunity too.

Click on the image above to read the original article from STATtr@k.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How much data do you use?

I was reading yet another article about leveraging unstructured text data, like contact reports, notes and comments in our data base.  For most of us in this profession, this is our equivalent of internally generated big data.

via sfdata.startupweekend.org


Boris Evelson, the author of this article, suggested that most organizations only utilize 35% of their available structured data to inform decision making and a mere 25% of unstructured data.


I have to wonder about that.  How can I even start to get closer to those numbers?

His article is a succinct how-to for getting started with text analytics.  And one of the first steps is to define the use cases for extracting intelligence.  What in the world is a use case?  It’s just a scenario for where to locate the data and the context of the information you’re looking to find.  For every question you have, outline where it might be and what it might look like in that location.  In a best case situation, you’d also identify what it wouldn’t look like, as in similar data that isn’t relevant to the question at hand.


For example, if you worked in a college or university setting and wanted to extract information from contact reports about constituents who participated in fraternities or sororities, that would be a description of a possible use case.  The output of the search would be your constituent ID number and the name of the fraternity/sorority.  Another possibility could be constituents that have told you that they have a second home or vacation home.  Another possibility could be constituents who have grandchildren.  When mining your text data, if your organization has a tendency to bury relevant lifestyle or affinity details in a big text blob, anything goes.


There are all kinds of use cases that get very complicated, but why not start simple, right?  To get familiar with the concepts and terminology, take a look at this article by clicking on the image above.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

10 secrets to winning with analytics from Qlik

Qlik published this handy presentation outlining 10 great ideas for making the most of analytics in your organization.

These are my favorites–

#1: Create a plan for what you want to accomplish, why it matters and how you’ll measure success

#3: Team up with a designer when building dashboards!  Trust me, this is a must!

#9: Use business intelligence to push the boundaries of the information reports deliver.  Instead of columns of dry numbers, add elements of diagnostic discovery in the content by asking “why?”

To read the article, click on the image above.



Filed under Uncategorized

4 Analytics Essentials

There are 4 functional analytics methods that the International Institute for Analytics tell us are true business imperatives.



1. Dashboards.  Clearly dashboards require thoughtful metric selection and a carefully curated design to be engaging, useful and valuable.  However, human brains are designed to detect and understand patterns. Data viz is here to stay.


2. Business analytics.  IIA includes a broad spectrum of initiatives in this category – data mining, predictive modeling, and any number of specialized inquiries to pose to your data set.


3. Lifetime value.  A key tool for evaluating outcomes, particularly when applying integrated channel communications for solicitation campaigns.


4. Rolling financial forecasts.  The next generation of annual budgeting calls for iterative models that consider relevant internal and external influencing components.


To learn more and read IIA’s white paper, click here.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized