In recent blog posts, Can You Identify the Core Supporters in Your Database? (Part 1), and Part 2, we explained how demographic and inclination indicators can play a very important role in defining who your core supporters are in your database.
Now, let's go into the next chapter about how to include persona models in your organisation’s strategy to create a more complete picture of your supporters.
To develop the strongest personas that will create meaningful results for your organisation, you have to move beyond assumptions and build truly data-driven persona models that show both capacity and inclination. This kind of work with statistical modeling generally goes beyond the work of a prospect researcher, but in-house data scientists or partners with data expertise can assist in creating strong models.
As you begin thinking about how your organisation might benefit from personas derived from statistical modeling, consider these database fundamentals that will be key to your success:
1. Start with a clean database.
You need accurate demographic data on your prospects to build valid models. Clean up your addresses, remove deceased records, and identify the main address for each constituent.
2. Don’t assume you know what will turn out to be predictive.
This is where data-driven models rise above personas created based on assumptions. Let your data speak for itself for more accurate personas.
3. Beware of different types of variables.
“Endogenous” variables are variables that are in some way the cause or the result of the thing you’re trying to predict. These variables always have a strong correlation to your dependent variable, but they are not necessarily predictive. For example, the majority of donors to a women’s college will likely be female.
Modeling based on this constituent file could lead someone to determine that gender is highly predictive of giving. Similarly, you might find that knowing someone’s email address is correlated with giving. Is it possible instead that people who give are more likely to share their email with you?
4. Correlation is not always causation.
If you find that most of your major donors were born before 1965, that might be valuable insight, but not if most of your constituent population is of the same age. Personas shouldn’t just show what your best donors have in common; they should show what makes donor segments different from each other.
5. Modeling requires a strong historical record.
If you only have one year of giving data, it will be difficult to predict who is likely to give next year. What separates the one-and-done donor from the truly committed supporter? The more data you have, the more accurately you can pinpoint the indicators affecting your performance. This will not only enhance your ability to model later on, but also provide a record of your donor personas for future staff.
6. Append data to your file that comes from outside your organisation.
While your database may already have some degree of demographic and wealth data, you can work with partners to append additional data on topics like demographics, wealth, overall philanthropic activity, consumer marketing, and more. Layering this data on top of your own may reveal correlations and predictive variables that make your models even stronger.
Ultimately, modeling can create greater certainty about your personas and the outcomes fundraising efforts can have on various constituent programs. Partnering with data experts to develop tailored personas can take your personas to the next level and show truly meaningful fundraising and stewardship results.
What are the next steps in identifying your key personas?
The above post covers one key indicator, but there's more to discover. The free ebook from the Blackbaud Institute, Supporters In Sight: An Introduction to Personas, can help you understand how to incorporate the power of data-driven personas into everything your organisation does for more effective supporter engagement.
Find out more about the value of building relationships with donors based on data-driven personas, factors that indicate a donor’s inclination to give, and how to develop persona-driven messaging
that benefits your entire organisation.