3 External Data Strategies to Improve Your Outreach

By Gabrielle Perham, Accudata

Over the years, your nonprofit has accumulated supporter data and diligently stored this information in your constituent relationship management (CRM) database. You’ve kept tabs on all types of individuals, from your major and monthly donors to your infrequent givers and even your volunteers. 

This information has assisted your outreach efforts by providing you with a built-in audience to market your organization. However, you’ve decided it’s time to start growing your audience and scaling up your fundraising efforts. Maybe you’ve seen similar organizations take major steps or noted a major untapped audience you’d like to reach out to.

This is where external data can make a major difference for your nonprofit. External data is information gathered from third-party marketing firms that can support your organization’s internal database. With this data, you can grow your audience and ensure the accuracy of your outreach. 

Here are three strategies to make the most of external data in your organization’s outreach strategy: 


1. Enhance your existing nonprofit supporter database.

Data enhancement, or data enrichment, is the process of improving your nonprofit’s supporter database using information from external sources to fill in any gaps. 

As stated in AccuData’s guide to data enhancement, when you work with a data marketing specialist, the enhancement process looks like this: 

  1. Your team outlines its outreach goals.

  2. You partner with a third-party data firm.

  3. The data marketing partner compares your internal database with external datasets. 

  4. The specialist pulls data from third-party sources to supplement any missing information in your database. 

Many organizations use data enhancement to supplement their organic audience-building activities. There are plenty of benefits to this strategy, including that it: 

  • Saves time. With data enhancement, you can immediately capture information about your target audience, even those who don’t have an established relationship with your nonprofit yet. This allows you to build your audience much faster and supplement your organic outreach efforts. 

  • Increases access to accurate information. If you have missing information that wasn’t gathered during the organic marketing process, you can augment these sections with accurate data points. You’ll be able to connect with prospects that you might not have reached in the past. 

  • Illuminates growth potential. Data enhancement can provide you with information on audience demographics, geographic location, and contact information. You can use this to immediately expand your outreach efforts into new markets. 

As you add new information to your database through data enhancement, it’s important to also implement proper data hygiene measures. Be sure to standardize the data entry process, determine steps for correcting errors, and create measures to prevent data build-up. These steps ensure your team has clear instructions for maintaining your enriched database long-term.

2. Purchase custom marketing lists.

Marketing lists are often used in the for-profit world to help businesses access a new audience of potential customers. The same idea applies to nonprofits — but instead of accessing new customers, nonprofits are seeking to get in touch with potential supporters. 

These lists can help accomplish certain goals, whether it’s acquiring new email subscribers or connecting with new supporters in a certain geographic area. 

Here’s what the process looks like for purchasing custom marketing lists:

  1. Clearly define your target audience: Who are the audience members that are most likely to get involved with your fundraising initiative, event, or organization’s general activities? This could be those within your local community, those with a preexisting relationship with your nonprofit, or those who’ve given to similar causes in the past.

  2. Work with a marketing list provider to create a custom list. Ensure your marketing partner offers rigorous data vetting and approval procedures. This ensures regulatory compliance under the laws that govern the purchasing of marketing lists. 

  3. Use your list to start reaching out to prospective supporters. You’ll likely see much higher response rates compared to mass media outreach because you’re connecting directly with individuals within your target audience. 

Similar to data enhancement services, marketing lists can help nonprofits build their supporter audience faster and reach new markets. 

3. Partner with a nonprofit-specific marketing service. 

Your organization can pursue strategies such as data enrichment and purchasing marketing lists on an in-house basis using a variety of online tools and resources. However, partnering with a database marketing provider that specializes in nonprofit work allows you to optimize your external data strategies with the help of experienced professionals. 

Along with data enrichment and marketing list management, nonprofit data marketing service providers offer a full suite of services, including:

  • Database management: Data marketing professionals can help your organization establish effective data hygiene strategies and update your records. 

  • Audience building: Database specialists help identify your nonprofit’s ideal audience using third-party data, propensity data, and other key marketing facets. 

  • Targeted digital marketing: In addition to supplementing your nonprofit’s database, marketing professionals can help with specialized digital marketing campaigns such as IP targeting/addressable geofencing or social media advertising. 

  • Email marketing: A database marketing service provider can augment your supporter database with newly acquired email addresses and help you determine the best email sequences and strategies to pursue. 

If you choose to partner with a data marketing agency, be sure to look for a provider with experience in your nonprofit’s cause area or organization type and one that is aligned with your priorities and approach. This will ensure that the partnership will go smoothly and that the marketing provider will fit your organization’s culture. 

External data can be the perfect resource to supplement your organization’s organic audience-building and outreach strategies. With the help of third-party data sources, you’ll ensure you’re reaching out to the right audience members who are most receptive to your message, helping you see a better marketing ROI. 

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