Decision Science

The past 10 years have seen an incredible advancement in analytics to support fundraising and engagement. Organizations of every mission and scale have created greater insight into who may give and how. Most analytics strategies, however, are constituent-focused and nearly entirely attentive to a single moment or outcome. This makes sense—it is a strong position to develop new approaches, validate results, create accountability, as well as integrate with larger systems and processes. One crucial perspective that is often lost is that our constituents don’t view our organizations as singular touch points or outcomes. For my alma mater, I don’t view them as:

  • Annual Giving
  • Events and Stewardship
  • Alumni Relations
  • Athletics
  • Volunteering
  • Marketing and Communication

I simply view them holistically, as my alma mater. I would contend an overwhelming majority of your constituents view your organization this way too.

We now face the following dilemma; most of our analytics is singular, but our constituents’ experience is holistic. How can we integrate, align, and create influential moments for our constituents to maximize the relationship of support? This gap presents an exciting opportunity to explore the new frontier for leveraging data: combining understanding and insight at specific moments, into a comprehensive view of a constituent’s relationship that can be understood, predicted, and ultimately influenced. Technically this approach is described through the practice of prescriptive analytics; but practically we will describe this approach as journey analytics.

Become Your Organization’s Cartographer

Conversations around journey analytics have become one of the most recurring topics with my clients over the past year—this future is a lot closer than it appears. While the vision of any frontier is expansive, it is important to start with one simple path forward. Identify one core journey to understand, a “scout” party to help explore, and be patient with understanding and then applying influence. This will create the foundation of the next pathway to “insight at scale.”

Begin Your Journey

It is important to understand journey analytics as the next frontier of leveraging data because it represents a combination and integration of the singular analytics functions—and understanding their relative impact—to better guide a donor’s “acquisition-to-legacy” lifetime of support. Most organizations already have the information and components of analysis to map even a simple journey (defined as a short path). The next steps towards realization are a combination of cultural and technical.


Many organizations have a variety of departments and units where engagement with constituents is core to their unit or departmental mission. The larger the nonprofit, the more departments and units, and the more parallel and yet unaligned engagement efforts. The single great foundational barrier to cross for any nonprofit to develop a successful journey roadmap to analyze or influence is developing a culture of shared outcomes and accountability for inputs. Alignment across units can be a complicated journey, with competing goals and performance metrics, variance in speed of business, resource disparities, talent gaps, and even separate database and technology ecosystems.

The most successful solution to this seemingly daunting puzzle: start simple, within one group or unit, and focus solely on one core journey. I won’t mislead anyone—the process to a successful journey understanding, let alone influencing program, can take anywhere between 6 to 18 months. Focus on one core area—with a small group that can align and demonstrate success internally. An internally driven case study to this day remains the single most impactful way to align other elements for a larger initiative.


The analysis and integration from the perspective of data and information is far less mystical than it often sounds. It really only requires aligning the foundational approaches of identifying drivers (odds ratios), predicting outcomes (modeling), and applying resource constraints (budget available, FTE’s)—many of the analytics your organization may produce now—to uncover impact and outcomes.

The common mistake is to start from where donors are today and map a journey for the future. A successful effort will require intensive diagnostic analytics, including if/then probability scenarios to generate alternative outcomes to what may have actually happened. The initial work to move forward will be a methodical and patient analysis of a sequential, connected, donor-perspective past.


I share with clients regularly a simple definition of analytics: “analytics is simply insight, at scale.” Journey analytics provides us the opportunity to combine our singular insights and create insight at scale to not only match the size of our constituency but the depth and length of their relationships with us. For more information on how we can help your organization with journey analytics, please contact Alex Oftelie.