My Dad could whip your Dad… last year!

It’s no secret that our sector is slow or even resistant to practices that are common to the business world. Examples include accountability measurements for staff, outcome based compensation, focusing on net revenue rather than gross revenue, market share monitoring, public monthly reporting and measuring of results, and intensive use of data for planning and decision making.
Lately, I have marveled at the traditional attachment of the nonprofit world to information that has little or no utility. Many anticipate a June release of annual giving estimates… for the calendar year that ended more than six months earlier. The attraction is voyeuristic, not utilitarian. Did we do better than our sector average? Is our mix of contribution sources different from the norm? It’s kind of like a grade school playground discussion of whose dad could whip who’s… last year. It really doesn’t matter.

The Atlas of Giving brings three utilitarian elements that have never existed before.

  1. The ability to accurately measure giving as it occurs in real time.
  2. The ability to reliably forecast giving for up to a year (updated monthly).
  3. The ability to create custom forecast models for individual organizations or groups of organizations.

This timely data and forecasting has been standard practice in business and finance for decades. Retail sales, housing starts, consumer confidence, unemployment, and inflation are examples of current and forecasted data that is essential to business planning and evaluation. All are estimated using methods that are similar to those used in the Atlas of Giving. None are perfect but all serve a utilitarian function because of the consistency used in their calculations. All are established benchmarks.

The Atlas provides for the first time a way to establish budgets that are based on data rather than a wet finger in the air. Never before has data been available that allows a fundraising practitioner to schedule campaigns and promotions for times when they have the best chance for success. And, now a monthly benchmark is available to be used in evaluating the performance of fundraising events and fundraising staff.

It’s been said that in life, timing is everything. If that is true (and I believe that it is) the Atlas of Giving has a lot to offer today’s nonprofit and fundraising manager.