The last month in the fundraising world has made me think about the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. (Even if you don’t know the reference, I urge you to keep reading.) In particular, there is one character type in those books – the Menta . These were highly trained individuals “who could take all stimulus, statistics, etc. and see the flow of what was to come.” They had an incredible ability to process numbers, much like a human with a computer brain.
What does this have to do with fundraising? If Mentas were fundraisers, they would collect data, analyze it, and put it to use. That’s what I’m talking about: what we do with data in the nonprofit sector. That huge amount of data collected by nonprofit organizations from their donors that accumulates in massive amounts.
And we don’t do much with it. It’s much easier to chat about creative things and copywriting. Don’t get me wrong. I get that. I’ve written over a 1,000 direct mail packages and multi-channel appeals. Heck, I’ve even written movies scripts! BUT we are just not paying enough attention to the sea of data we are floating in and it’s time to change that.
I spent a lovely day or two with Chuck Longfield, the Chief Scientist at Blackbaud, who is basically a charming, complex Mentat. Conversations with him reminded me that we need a deeper, longer term relationship with not just the data – but the donor. We’ve begun to explore what a Customer Lifecycle Management set of business rules look like. It’s that kind of deep engagement with data that we need to do.
We’ve got the creative part down pat. There are so many passionate, smart, capable storytellers out there. Now we need more Mentats…