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Podcast | Consolidating Data for Cohesive Donor Experiences


In part one of this episode, we spoke with Mary Beth McIntyre, Principal at Win-Win Giving, about recent donor retention trends from AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project. In this conversation with Mary Beth, we’re discussing how nonprofit organizations can get stymied by data and departmental silos. 

For many organizations, this divide often results in disjointed donor experiences. Fortunately, Mary Beth is a data consolidation expert, and she has some great insights into how to get your data and teams aligned.

To hear more from Mary Beth and how she recommends tackling disparate data, check out this episode of Pursuant’s Go Beyond Fundraising podcast:


Episode Transcription

Intro (Leah)

The world around us is changing rapidly. Fundraisers and nonprofit marketers, like you, have to be flexible and innovative to continue to overcome the challenges you face. 

We're Pursuant, and we are here to provide you with the tools, insights, and strategies you need to get you where you want to go. You are tuned in to the Pursuant listening experience. 


Hello everyone, and welcome to the Pursuant Go Beyond Fundraising Podcast. I'm your host, Leah Davenport, and today we are joined by Mary Beth McIntyre, Founder and Principal Consultant of Win-Win Giving for the second part of our interview with her around the metrics that matter for tracking the health of your fundraising efforts. We also have with us our Pursuant/GivingDNA General Manager, Rebecca Segovia. And, we'll be discussing, in the second part of our conversation, organizational silos and how they can get in the way of good fundraising and good communication from the different departments in your organization. 

So, let's dive right in. Mary Beth, what is an organizational silo, and why do we use this word to describe this phenomenon that tends to pop up in both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations alike? 

Mary Beth

Well, I guess it's not because we all collectively have a farming background, but, you know, that is at the heart of what we all came from. You know, I think for me, I use the term because, oftentimes, teams are measured on specific revenue goals or program goals from what they own. And subsequently, sometimes their partners or consultants are measured on the same ones. 

So to me, sometimes it's almost like those financial or organizational requirements create the silo. And we talk about them that way because many times, your constituents are connecting across those areas. So, I guess we refer to it because everyone is based on what they're measured on. And that's often in these pieces of the pie or silos, and it's around a particular channel, a particular initiative, that type of thing. 

And you know, Becca, I'm sure you'll have different views now when we talk about it. It's also, in addition to that…we're not saying that's not important, but beginning to think about how the constituent, the donor, that beneficiary, how they're impacted across these different silos. Because again, that's an additional view that can contribute to how we should communicate to them or not, what the cadence, all those types of things. 

And I know where Becca and I have connected in the past is we often approach it using data because everyone assumes they know all the pieces in their silo. And just to really engage the conversation, we refer to it as “data as the diplomat” in those types of discussions. Becca, anything you'd add? 


You said some of my favorite words: “Data is a diplomat.” We used to say, “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” So, letting the data sit at the heart of it and then help guide the discussion. And I've loved your point on donor centricity or even community centricity around an organization. Oftentimes, you know, depending on how you came in, whether it was as an event donor or a digital donor off of a Giving Tuesday, who owns that donor? Is it dependent on how much they gave for their first gift? But let's say I gave a $25 gift, but I have the capacity to give a $25,000 gift. Are you asking those kinds of questions? 

And then, how do you get annual fund, mid-level, and major and planned to play well together sometimes just inside of fundraising? And then sometimes, acquisition or events is actually owned by marketing. And so, is there a common core case for support that everybody is rooted in so that the donor experience is a holistic one? 

So, it is a challenge that I think our organizations face across the board, and I think it's not just a non-profit challenge. Sometimes it's a for-profit challenge as well. And so, being able to put the customer or the donor at the center of the conversation or the community at the center of the conversation and then organizing our work so that we can drive greater lifetime value or donor loyalty is really the point. That's where silo-busting kind of comes in and allows us to say, “Okay, here's what we're seeing. Now, how do we work together in order to drive that lifetime value or that customer centricity or that donor loyalty?”

Mary Beth

Yeah, and I think, you know, just adding to it before your next point, Leah, is again, none of those measures are unimportant…how we acquire them, all those different pieces. But when you step back and you look at how they're interacting across, there might be additional measures. And, you know, that journey — how we measure it, how we're all rewarded on it. Because if we're just rewarded on what we do in that silo, that's where sometimes the constituent of the donor we can short service them. 


Short change the experience, which isn't, I don't think, at the heart of any of us, at all.

Mary Beth

No. And no one intends to do it. 


Yeah, it's unintended. 

Mary Beth

Yeah, right. But we're just not measured on it yet, you know, so I think it's this process, and that comes to the busting…what new kind of data do we need to integrate to support that, and that's kind of the process. 


I'd like to back up just a little bit and think about this donor-centric perspective that both of you ladies both brought up. What can a donor experience look like when there are really rigid silos in organizations? You know, either one of you wanna chime in with, what's the negative experience that a donor could have when some of these things are in place? 


Something that I have experienced personally, when you come in through a couple of different channels…like, I gave through digital, and then I also went to an event and gave in a different way, the follow-up was very different. The messaging was very different. 

I have heard of organizations or people that have given to organizations where they may get 10 or 12 different emails from 10 or 12 different people at any given time. There's no rhythm to the experience on the donor side. And so, when we can solve for that — and data actually helps you do that — if we can capture the right data points and then look holistically across the donor experience, we can say, “Okay, this person came in and gave a digital gift this way. They came and gave an event or they attended an event this way, they gave through peer to peer this way.” We can then say, “Okay, this is what that whole person looks like. This is actually what their collective giving is.” And then create a narrative or a story that is reflective of how they gave, why they gave, and what motivated them to give in that particular moment. 

And then continue that conversation around the things that are important to them to, again, drive that general lifetime value and that engender loyalty. So we wanna create the good experience, not the experience of someone feeling on the other end that, “Hey, people internally aren't really talking here. They don't realize that I just gave, you know, two different gifts within, you know, whatever the period of time was or three different gifts in whatever period of time.” 

Mary Beth

Yeah. And, and then you know, sometimes there are, in addition to that, because I completely concur, yep. And especially in the past year, where we've had channels kind of slowed or be closed down for a bit, you know, that all kind of contributes to the cadence. 

But you know, one of the other things that can be an impact on the constituent is just if it's not coordinated, as Becca was saying. If you say, don't touch my donor, sometimes it leads to that sort of cornering them off, and then they just drop off of that channel. Like, who's taking care of them and communicating? So, you can be getting too much communication. And the flip side is nothing. 

I know that's what a constant reviewing of, you know, how it's all connected. And again, no one's intentionally trying to impact that experience, but it just happens because of the operational pieces. So, consistently revisiting it and thinking about it, as Becca said, with the constituent or the donor in mind. 


I actually had a client — I love that you brought that up, Mary Beth — that was on the flip side of it. Sometimes it's over-communicating, which is what I was originally talking about. But sometimes it's under-communicating, especially as you get up the pyramid. 

And there's research out there that, you know, major donors are actually really in tune with your organization. It's important to them, they're giving to you at that level. And sometimes we'll become overprotective, and we’ll not let a digital communication go out or we'll not let a direct mail communication go out that is actually potentially important to them and may lead to another gift. 

And so, I think it's important to measure the types of communications that your donors want from you at every level of the pyramid so that you're not leaving them out of communication that could actually continue that affinity to your organization and potentially create surprise and delight opportunities for dollars to come in. 

Mary Beth

Right. And I think that then leads to, you know, I think probably where you were gonna go Leah, which is, you know, what are some of the steps to breaking them down? And I think a lot of that is encouraging those conversations. So, if you have the situation where you're under-communicating, which may be because of excludes or blackouts or whatever that is, sitting down at the table and using the data to show if you treat them more consistently, you know, one plus one equals three, right? Usually, it's gonna be better. 

Could we personalize it on behalf of the gift officer or something if the communication's going on? It's just finding what are those barriers where they don't want you to touch them. And in today's times, we can make — whether it's an email, a letter — we can make them so personal based on the information, and that can help break down some of the silos or really trust, I think. But you have to have those conversations so you know what each party is trying to protect, and that can help. 


Yeah, those are some of my favorite — I don't know about you Mary Beth — those are my favorite conversations to have, to pull all the leaders in the room and sometimes people from their team. It can be a big room sometimes, but to put the customer at the center of the room and then start to actually map and talk about what we want that journey or that donor experience to be. And then see how we all play a role in it. 

So you've got people from major gifts and planned and annual and mid and marketing and events, depending on the size and type of the organization, all in a room contributing to that conversation. At Pursuant, we do a lot of either whiteboard work or mural work with that to start to collect all that data. And sometimes it's amazing to see all the different ways that we could touch a donor, but then to think about it from their point of view and place emphasis on the right communications at the right time to the right person. 

Really important. And I love watching it in a room when the light bulb moments go off, and they're like, “Oh, well, if we just did these three things, it solves these five things, and then we wanna capture these four or five data points, which will then influence how these teams start to work better together.” And so, data obviously sits at the heartbeat of that, but it's really a magical moment when you can see all the teams start to row in the same direction towards the same effort of putting the donor at the center and having the right conversation. 

Mary Beth

Well, and you know, great point because I think it's also a combination of the data supporting it. It's also understanding what each part is bringing to the table because I think sometimes you feel like you have to do it all on your own. And the situations you're describing, that for me is when people are like, “Oh I didn't know you could do that or you know, that would be great. You know what, I don't know why we said no five years ago, that they should never receive that. Yeah, that sounds perfect, then I can focus on these other five things.” 

And again, part of this concept is those types of engagements you're describing, but then it's also recognizing when there can be shared measures. So, if we do all that right and it's combined, does the retention rate go up or the reactivation rate or the revenue per donor? And recognizing there was that combination and support of each other in managing that journey, that will move that needle. 


Are you asking questions about your fundraising data but are struggling to find actionable insights? Pursuant’s GivingDNA platform is here to help. We combine your constituent data, donation data, and third-party information and tack on augmented intelligence to provide you with insights about who was giving to you, what motivates them to give, and which channels through which they prefer to engage. 

The platform also comes with baked-in opportunity segments that show you who is most likely to give a large gift, is most likely to lapse, and is most likely to give monthly. All this and much more is at the fingertips of fundraisers like you — no IT or data analyst is required. Learn more at GivingDNA.com today. 


I'd love to break in for a moment and talk practically about how data silos happen. And then, what are some practical ways that nonprofits can begin to get all of that data into one place so they can connect those dots between what's happening with the same person in one channel that is also happening in another channel. But because maybe that data is locked up in two different technology solutions or two different spreadsheets even. 

I love what you brought in, Becca, about getting all the right people in the room to come together from a strategy perspective. But Mary Beth, how do people, how do organizations who might have data all over the place start to bring it all into one place where they can start pulling those insights out of it? 

Mary Beth

Great question. You know, and I think it's probably a little bit different for every organization. I mean, the number one thing is don't try to do it all at once. And in most cases, things are positive, but getting the people in the room, agreeing that data is important because it's related to these donors and constituents. And you know, what I've seen be successful are two things. One is really — building on what you were saying, Becca — in addition to sort of mapping the journey, it might be a different group of people that are also mapping all the different kinds of data points. And I've had a few organizations who have — and again, you need top-down support that it's important to take a pause and do that. 

And then just categorizing, some things are in the red, it's gonna take us two years to get there. Some things are yellow, and some things we have now. And then, you can begin to have a plan. And the stuff that is in the green we can probably report on and use some data to inform quicker steps. The stuff in the yellow, sometimes you can take and just sort of manually connect it to inform some of the pieces. 

And the last part is just piloting, you know, starting with a couple of chapters or departments or segments of donors, and that can often get the buy-in as well. I mean, the biggest curse to moving these things forward is trying to map it all out perfectly on the wall and never moving the needle forward. You know, we're humans, we need quick wins, show me, educate, and keep reporting back. 


I mean I just wanna underscore, underline, exclamation point, what you just said. If you do have the opportunity to architect it all out, you're not gonna be able to bring that to reality immediately. And so your red, yellow, green approach — so start with the green and then the yellow and work your way through. It’s so important. And I believe that we just need to take that next step. 

So, I keep thinking about, “Okay, what's the next right thing that we could do? What can we try or pilot over the next 30, 60, 90 days and get that part done?” So green, as your example, and maybe it takes six months, I don't know. Every organization is gonna be different. But how do we create the space and the time for the innovative thinking to happen and the freedom to try whatever the thing is that we wanna try and then just try it? And then as we prove out that model you can take, you know, you can take on the next step. 

So that whole walk, jog, run approach, I think, is really important. And sometimes, we just need to take a step back and look at the big picture and then say, okay, here's how we're gonna move this forward. So, I love the approach that you shared, I just wanted to underscore that. 

Mary Beth

Well and then, you know, to your question Leah, what are some steps? I think the other learning we have are, you know, what we just discussed. And you know, it's also when we talk about who's at the table. It could be folks within the organization, but again, there are also multiple partners who are managing different parts, and I think it's really important to have them at the table. Because I’ve had folks say, “I can't believe we had all these conversations and didn't have this particular agency at the table.” Because you know, once you bring them to the table they add all this value like, “Oh, I didn't know you could do that easily.” 

And you know, things start progressing faster or there's just that awareness and understanding of how the dots are connected and — because again, no one's intentionally trying to work against the silos. It's just the way we're set up and measured. So you know, those types of moments. And I've just found making sure the partners are at the table too because so many times they can help with, “Oh, let me just hit this list against your acquisition merge.” And that will give us some other information to know about the potential…I mean, all sorts of examples. 


I love that you talked about bringing partners into the room because A) they can help bring some expertise just with organizations they work with or have done similar work with. They can bring that expertise into the room, not to mention the additional data information that they can pull in and say, “Hey, if we do exactly what you said, bump this list. So, against this list, we're gonna get some data that could help us inform another decision.” 

The other people sometimes in the room… Since we did start in the room, since we did start talking about the donor journey or donor centricity, I don't want to have this conversation without saying we should have the donors in the room too. There's probably the right time to bring them in. But as we start to formulate what that holistic point of view could look at, data can tell us part of the story, but having a swath of your donors in the room to also give you feedback on the types of communications that they receive or would like to receive or case for support could also help inform that walk, jog, run strategy that we started to unpack a few moments ago. 

Mary Beth

I think there are so many other requirements coming up for organizations and our fundraising just in general that need to look at individuals as well, which is gonna push this forward. So, some of our DEI initiatives, understanding for grants, kind of people who are participating in mission-related activities and donating…I think that's also gonna encourage some of this, “How do we work together on these things?” because it's beyond just our piece of the pie and what we're measured on. 


I wanna underscore that too. I think coming off of the pandemic — well not just the pandemic, just the year that was 2020, when so many things kind of came to light — the industry itself is in a place where silo-busting is ripe to happen because we have already had to look at so many things so differently and evolve our organization as we tried to figure out how to survive and get through 2020 and enter into what is now 2021. 

And so I think for me personally, I am excited and anxious to see how the nonprofit landscape itself starts to transition itself, as they start to think about marketing and fundraising potentially more holistically and DEI more holistically, as they think about their communities and that they're reaching out to and the donors that they are engaging with. And so I'm excited to see what evolves in 2021 just as an industry as a whole, as they think about silo busing and the donor experience in a whole new way. 


Mary Beth, before we wrap up for today, I'd love to get a story from you about how you applied this approach to a client and helped them achieve all these wonderful outcomes that we just kind of outlined. 

Mary Beth

Yeah, so I think two examples come to mind. You know, there's certainly some that are more complex, but some simple ones on that theme we talked about, of walk before we run. 

You know, I've had situations where there was a client that had a lot of volunteering as part of their mission. But you know, when you ask the question, do you collect that information, they were just like, “Oh gosh, it's in a drawer, it's somewhere, you know.” So I think again, moving ahead, all the plates spinning, but sort of taking that and latching onto it and working with them. And coming up with a pilot where we actually found a couple of the entities that had Excel spreadsheets of the volunteers and matched it up to the file and then showed the value. Then that could substantiate further investment, engagement to move it forward. And similarly, we've had a lot of situations with organizations that have big events, you know, events that have exploded and they're measured on growing that, growing that, growing that. 

But you know, as I like to say, donors are people too, and sometimes they're participating in other parts of the organization. And just, you know, showing the data to sort of get everyone to say, “Oh, let me just think about that, internalize it.” And many times what that's done to help move the process forward is just to show we shouldn't be blacking them out because they're just gonna be picked up and acquisitioned by somebody else. 

Or there are all sorts of things that come out when you bring the data forward. Or we're excluding them from our efforts, but they're being picked up by other organizations. And again, the organization ends up making the decision once they see the data. But it's hard to picture when you're, you know, you're the lead on growing something and it's exploding, and then taking that pause and saying, “But you know, how do we then grow them?” To your point, Becca, up the pyramid, you know, we have to look at them holistically. 

We've also had, again, that spirit of the pilot. Anytime we're trying to move a function that might be centralized on behalf of other entities, oftentimes chapters or affiliates — because many times you wanna free them up so they can do more with fundraising or major gift fundraising. You just have to sort of pull them off, pilot it, prove what's important for them, you know, how that one plus one will equal three — they'll benefit and you'll benefit and have them at the table as part of that review and discussion. 

So those are three very different ways…I'd say examples of…and those are all different silos as well. And we could probably talk about some between major gifts and fundraising and marketing too. And just as Becca said before, I think it's all evolving with our times, you know, so I think the conversations are positive. So, I hope that helped. 


Very much so. Thank you so much. I am with you. In 2021, one of the things I was talking about with a group of colleagues earlier today is just empowering the nonprofits themselves as well as the funders of nonprofits to give us time and space to allow us to innovate, and silo-busting is a part of that innovation process. And so I am, again, super excited to see where 2021 takes us. 

Mary Beth

Yeah. And I think with that, you know, there's also, 2021, there's a power of kind of the analytics and artificial intelligence and, to your point, I'm also working on having fundraisers feel empowered that things they know have to be brought to the table because, you know, analysts don't know everything. I mean, it's a combination of things we've learned or we're talking about, and it's that balance. And I think sometimes people think they know more, that they're smarter than me, and it's that combination of knowledge. So, just trying to say step up, fight for what you know is true or what you need, and that combination is what's gonna be the win. 


I mean that's, so you just illustrated, it's the art and the science. When those come together, that's where the magic really happens. And the art of it, right, the data and the intelligence that we now have on our donors allow us to be smarter about our fundraising practices, but there needs to be a human element. So that art, or the art of fundraising. 

We think about our GivingDNA platform as augmented intelligence instead of artificial intelligence for that reason. We want our humans, both the clients that we work with and our strategists, to play a role in informing how we should leverage that data to drive better results. And so I love what you just illustrated there. Thank you for saying it. 

Mary Beth

That's good, how simple words that can say, “We're not replacing you, we're trying to support you.” And I think that’s part of this whole process. Thank you. 


Well, Mary Beth, thank you so much for joining us today. And Becca, it's always great to have you on the podcast when we can get some time with you. So thank you both for joining us today.

Wrapping Up

The key takeaways from this episode can help you begin consolidating your nonprofit’s data to streamline donor experiences. Don’t forget to take advantage of your organization’s free 7-day trial of GivingDNA’s software to start seeing the impact of fundraising data analytics. 

If you want to learn more about this topic, reach out to Mary Beth or Rebecca Gregory Segovia. Make sure to stay up-to-date with the Go Beyond Fundraising podcast so you never miss out on our fundraising insights.