Fundraise Smarter

Bookmark These Tools to Make Sense of Your Fundraising Data

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on May 11, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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Math is a lot like singing.

It’s one of those things that we all used to do, but not really anymore. And if you ever ask us to do it we apologize and belittle ourselves and say things like “Oh gosh, I’m so bad at it, don’t judge me.”

It’s exactly this attitude and lack of confidence that scares people off about being a data-driven fundraiser.

Data? Testing? Stats? Oh no, that’s not for me.

But just like a good karaoke DJ can make anyone sound good with some reverb and fancy lighting, all you really need are the right tools to make you look like a data-crunching all-star.

Being a data-driven fundraiser means testing your methods and implementing new strategies, all in the effort to gain a few percentage points on your conversion rates. There’s no shame in seeing some technological help with that task.

Here are my go-to tools for crunching numbers (along with some real world fundraising examples of how to use them):


1. A/B Significance Test

Alright, let’s do a quick statistics review: you run an experiment and see that your experimental group performed better. But, you don’t know for sure if the cause of that difference is your experiment. Maybe it was random chance?

Significance tests will let you know if it was random chance or caused by your experiment. With some fancy formulas, a significance test will tell you “There’s only a 40% chance your results were caused by your experiment. It’s very likely to be a random occurrence,” or “There’s a 99% chance your results were caused by your experiment. It worked, yay!”

If it’s likely your experiment caused the changes, your results are said to be significant.

Make sense? Great!

There’s just one problem: all those formulas are currently buried deep in a binder on a crumpled piece of paper in my parent’s basement.

That’s why I use this handy tool called the A/B Significance Test. All I have to do is fill in some numbers, and this tool will tell me whether or not my results are random chance.

Note that this tools uses the words “page view” and “conversion data,” but it really could be used for any number of fundraising related tests. Substitute “page view” for “email sent” or “mailers delivered,” etc.

Real-World Fundraising Application: You send out 2 emails to your donors: One with the subject line “We need your help!” and one with the subject line “What are we going to do about this?” and you want to see which one got more opens. Plug in the total number of emails sent of each type and the number of opens for each. Voila!


2. Calculator Soup

Calculator soup features dozens of handy online calculators, but the one I find myself using the most is their percentages calculator.

For whatever reason, finding out what X is P% of what is always a formula that confuses me. I can never figure it out.

So just use the tools available to you!

Real-World Fundraising Application: You have a goal of securing 57 donations at a fundraising event. You know you typically convert donors at a rate of 7%. The percentages calculator will let you know that you will need 814 visitors to meet that goal.



I use this one whenever I want to communicate to my boss how awesome I am at my job and how they’d be totally sunk without me.

How awesome, you ask? Why I’m 17.6% more awesome this month than last! quickly spits out the percent change of two values. I’m a big fan of expressing improvements using a percent change as they provide much more context.

Real-World Fundraising Application: Last year’s annual appeal raised $35,435. This year’s appeal raise $53,456. That’s a 51% improvement.

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4. Google Sheets

No good data-crunching toolkit is complete without a good spreadsheet tool. Google Sheets is my go-to.

I like Google Sheets more than Excel. There may be some functions Excel has that Sheets doesn’t, but I haven’t found them yet.

The best part about Sheets is the sharing capabilities. I can instantly share the spreadsheet with collaborators, give them access to edit it or just view it, and I can see all the changes they make in real time! Plus, your spreadsheets live on the cloud, so you can view/edit them later on your iPad, smartphone, another computer, wherever!

Oh, it’s also FREE.

Real-World Fundraising Application: Export all your donors from your latest campaign, sort by traffic source, and see which traffic source provided the most value. 

5. Vassar Stats

For those feeling a bit more confident in their statistical abilities, offers robust calculation tools with a lot less handholding. It’s much more in-depth than the A/B Significance Test, but it will also allow you to use a variety of different statistical models to use on your data.

Real-World Fundraising Application: Find out if changing the suggested donation amount raised your average donation by a significant amount using a one-way ANOVA test.

The Data-Driven Journey Starts With a Single Step

So maybe your data skills aren’t so sharp.

Big deal! You’ve got to start somewhere. Tools like these help you take mini-steps towards being data-driven.

Trust me, once you start tracking a couple metrics, you’ll get hooked.

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Image credit: flickr user photosteve101

Topics: online fundraising, Fundraising Data,, Data-Driven Fundraising,

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