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A Data-Led, Common Sense Approach to Online Fundraising

MFG Archive

In our latest news roundup, we take a look at how Stanford computer scientists are using data to identify repeat givers, and how this can streamline fundraising processes.


Stanford computer scientists Jure Leskovec and Tim Althoff have analysed 14-years worth of online donations to help organisations systematise behaviours that can greatly boost the cash value of donations. Their analysis of anonymous data reveals insights into ways to increase donor retention, from the kinds of requests that perform well, to the timings of “thank you” messages and project reports. Their findings also suggest that increasing the number of repeat givers by 10 percent could yield over 60 percent more dollars donated over time.


Although a lot of this might seem like common sense, these findings can help other crowdfunding sites and fundraising organisations offline, too. According to Leskovec, analyzing this data provided “the unprecedented opportunity to learn about human behavior by observing things on a large scale. In this case we had excellent data that enabled us to discover new tools and techniques for the fundraising community.”


Computer scientists analyzing the data were able to reveal trends that could result in making occasional donors into repeat supporters. Some findings included smaller projects being more likely to succeed, and donors more likely to give again if their first donation contributed to success. Retention was also higher when the gift was acknowledged during the first few hours after funding was received. Using these findings, Stanford researchers have built a predictive model which can help fundraisers understand and better target these prospects.


Ultimately, the goal is to help fundraisers streamline efficiency. “All fundraisers have to focus their efforts,” Althoff said. “What we are doing with this study is figuring out what data you should collect and how to start using that data to identify your most likely return givers. This is where your scarce campaign dollars are best spent.”


To find out in more detail about the work of these researchers, be sure to read the original article written by Tom Abate here, or follow him on Twitter at @tomabate.


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