AWS Public Sector Blog

Unifying data to boost nonprofit fundraising outcomes

Data is currency, and today’s nonprofits have more data at their fingertips than ever before. From fundraising insights to beneficiary intelligence, to personalized communications, your nonprofit’s data can better support the activities that drive funding and resources toward your mission.

As the availability of data increases, managing this data at scale can be a challenge. Whether it’s data that is siloed into separate internal systems, like spreadsheets and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, or external datasets like 990s and wealth information, nonprofits face a familiar cycle of challenges. Or, perhaps your organization simply lacks the skill sets to administer data in new ways. Amazon Web Services (AWS) can help your nonprofit unify, interpret, and understand your data—regardless of your cloud experience.

Learn about three key strategies that nonprofits use today that can turn valuable data into increased dollars toward your mission and decreased administrative burden for staff.

Spotlight on Share Our Strength: Demystifying the data lake

Share Our Strength is a US-based nonprofit committed to ending childhood hunger. With over 37 years of experience operating in the fight against poverty and hunger, Share Our Strength knew they had valuable data that could be better leveraged.

However, the data was segregated with no simple way to connect the information together. Teams used different data sources with different calculations, making it hard to agree on a single source of truth. Tools were prone to crashing as immense loads of data were pushed through excel and CRMs. All of these barriers to export and manipulate data resulted in a de-prioritization of tedious data-related tasks. Additionally, teams adopted their own processes and sets of tools, making it difficult to work together to solve business problems.

Erica Best, director of direct response at Share Our Strength, said, “Although we were once able to get by with monthly reports from our vendors or ad hoc flat file pulls out of the database, the volume of data made it difficult to actually extract the information we needed…At the same time, it was really difficult to manually create and update more complicated but crucial views that show us things like retention by donor lifecycle, return on investment, and long-term donor value that inform where we’re going to spend the next donor dollars to make the mission go farther.”

As her charter is to increase the amount of funding directed to Share Our Strength’s mission, Best turned to a new collaboration with her IT team. They decided to unify their data in a data lake. “As we started to work together on this project, silos were broken down between the IT team, the donor operations team, and the direct response team. For this project to bear fruit, we had to work together in ways that we hadn’t before,” said Best. Unifying their data into a data lake was the first step in building more trust in their data for their analysts, increasing access to the data for mission and business owners, and creating data governance and security processes for the IT team, ultimately benefiting the entire organization.

Learn more about Share Our Strength’s journey in this webinar for nonprofits and get started with this step-by-step guide on building secure data lakes with AWS.

Unify data, then visualize

Once you’ve unified your data, you can utilize it to make informed decisions. Leveraging a data lake solution to generate real-time business intelligence and visualizations helps nonprofits understand specific giving trends, donor behavior, how recent the last donation was, and how can they share the impact of their various mission programs with the right donors.

For example, Girls Who Code (GWC) is a nonprofit organization seeking to close the gender gap in technology and computer science. GWC stores most of its data about donors, students, and instructors in Salesforce, a CRM platform. This included information about programs for teachers and students and shows how students are progressing.

To gain better data insights, GWC needed to find a more efficient way of creating analytical reports and sought to centralize data from disparate sources. GWC worked with AWS and Salesforce to create a data hub. Using the new data hub, GWC end users, such as the research and alumni engagement teams, can access and visualize dashboards in Tableau that show updated information on current students and programs. The alumni team then uses the data hub to analyze alumni engagement data and identify potential program ambassadors. GWC’s program leadership team uses the solution to gauge how well current programs are performing.

The benefits are clear to Feargus Leggett, chief financial officer at GWC: “Using the data hub on AWS gives our program leadership team a 360-degree view of how our programs are performing, which helps them debrief quickly after each program cycle.”

Communicate efficiently and effectively

Finally, leverage your unified data to streamline communication with donors. This is where machine learning (ML) tools can come in and layer on actionable insights, such as identifying and communicating with individuals who are most likely to engage with and donate to your cause.

AWS provides several tools that simplify using ML, no matter your experience level. For example, you can leverage Amazon Personalize to build a recommendation engine based on your own donation data. After a quick set-up, you could use the model created through Amazon Personalize via APIs and integrate it into your website, newsletter, digital content, or other member outreach.

Public Broadcasting Service
(PBS) leverages Amazon Personalize to drive content engagement for their viewers. As the largest provider of educational programming for public television stations in the US, PBS needed to surface the most relevant content to its viewers—who are also its funders. 63% of members see personalization as a standard level of service. By making sure members receive the most value from their content, this provides a direct value, which converts into sustaining and growing their member base.

Additionally, communicating with your donors across multiple channels is increasingly important. Amazon Pinpoint helps you engage with your donors and volunteers where they already are—on their mobile devices. Using Amazon Pinpoint, you can send push notifications, emails, SMS text messages, and voice messages to your donors and volunteers. Advanced users can also use custom channels in Amazon Pinpoint to send messages through any service that has an API, including third-party services. Adding these capabilities empowers your fundraising leadership to be data-driven and efficient, allowing the cloud to do some of the heavy lifting.

Check out more tips like these in the webinar, “AWS for Data: Unifying data to boost fundraising outcomes.” Listen to an interview with Mike George on streamlining fundraising, on the AWS Fix This podcast.

Learn more about how AWS supports nonprofits in the AWS for Nonprofits and NGOs hub. Do you have questions about how you can use AWS to help power your nonprofit’s mission? Reach out to the AWS Public Sector Team today.

Read more stories about AWS for nonprofits:

Subscribe to the AWS Public Sector Blog newsletter to get the latest in AWS tools, solutions, and innovations from the public sector delivered to your inbox, or contact us.

Please take a few minutes to share insights regarding your experience with the AWS Public Sector Blog in this survey, and we’ll use feedback from the survey to create more content aligned with the preferences of our readers.