March Madness and Predicting the Future

March Madness and Predicting the Future

For all of us who are “March Madness” fans, this is a great article. https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracketiq/2018-04-03/ncaa-bracket-was-better-all-rest-2018 Given all the upsets in the first round of the tournament last year, some lucky ESPN entrant, “Che 3”, accurately guessed 80% of the games, including the finals matchup and the eventual winner, Villanova. That’s impressive. Until you realize that there were 17.3 million entries into the ESPN contest. And the very best one was only 80% right. Predicting the future is a tricky business. Joshua Ramos wrote a fascinating novel on the topic titled “The Age of the Unthinkable.” Basically, it’s a bunch of case studies on how bad we humans are at predicting the future. Even the super-smart humans. https://www.amazon.com/Unthinkable-First-Joshua-Cooper-Ramo/dp/1408700581/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522851729&sr=1-2&keywords=the+age+of+the+unthinkable&dpID=415KoqBr8kL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch One of the activities we do most often is to forecast how a client’s annual mail plan will perform. It’s a time-consuming process carefully discerning all the variables that impact a plan. And though our plans aren’t perfect, we are far closer than 80% accuracy– even without 17.3 million...
Analyst Heaven

Analyst Heaven

I was imagining what heaven might look like for us fundraising analysts. By and large, fundraising analysts lead good lives here on planet earth. We help causes that really matter. We get to work indoors. Often, we can even work from home. We get to use our brains a lot, and fun tools like laptop computers and cool software like SPSS. However, the absolute bane of our existence is the abundance of really crappy data. The unglamorous fact of life for a fundraising analyst is that we spend most of our time trying to figure out whether the data we are working with is fit to analyze. The Great Lie is that a new CRM system or data warehouse will fix your crappy data problems. Short of a transcendent visit from the Data Angels, the only thing on this side of heaven that can fix crappy data are smart people who are willing to dive into messy databases and make sense of it all. My hope is that if and when I get to heaven, all the donor data will be spotless, and the channel coding will be standardized. What sweet hope this sentence...
The Bi-Polar Future of Fundraising

The Bi-Polar Future of Fundraising

There are two fundraising models that are heading in opposite directions. The traditional model is that you invest in new donor acquisition and then work to build a long-term relationship with those donors who, in turn, will faithfully support your cause. The emerging paradigm is a point-of-sale model, where an organization realizes all of its LTV with the donor’s first gift and no possibility of an ongoing relationship. One model is relational. One model is transactional. I see the industry struggling to “convert” transactional donors into the relational model. My sense is that this could be an expensive and futile effort. Rather, I believe the better approach may be to create distinct strategies optimizing each of these two very different fundraising...
A Walk Into the Sunset or a Walk Off a Cliff

A Walk Into the Sunset or a Walk Off a Cliff

Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 Charitable Giving Report was recently released, and though giving was up 1% (due to large donors), the most disappointing metric for 2018 is that online giving remains stuck below 10% of total giving. Ten years ago, most of us (including myself) predicted that more money would be coming in online than offline by 2019. But donors have been stubbornly resisting the digital transition. This pesky fact has been the subject of much discussion around the watering holes at fundraising conferences. Digital has disrupted nearly every facet of the economy since its arrival a generation ago. Remember travel agents, mail catalogs and Blockbuster Videos? Yet, by and large, the old ways of fundraising remain unchanged. I think most of us would agree that digital fundraising will replace direct mail at some point. The question on my mind is whether direct mail will have a slow, steady walk into the sunset, or will it walk off a cliff because of some new Silicon Valley...