Read time: 3 minutes
Jonny Benton here — I head up M+R’s Analytics and Optimization team, which organizes our data co-op, Scout Quest. If you participate, I’m likely the person you’ll end up talking to. But don’t let that stop you! (ba dum tssss).
I want to start by sharing a story about how it all got started — and why I think it’s such a good thing for so many organizations, including yours. (I know it’s my job to say this, but it’s still, simply, true!)
Back in 2020, I was working with a few different organizations that were each grappling with a similar problem:
You can’t keep sending email to people who never open or click on it — it hurts your reputation and can land you in spam folders. At some point, many of these organizations felt that sting and put into place strict standards to begin suppressing inactive people who hadn’t engaged with email in a while.
Over time, we’d look at those inactive files. They’d grow and grow. We’d say… Certainly there MUST be some people in there that we’re cutting off too soon. People who would donate or take action, if only we knew it was safe to email them.
But the truth was, it wasn’t safe to email them. Arbitrarily mailing big chunks of inactive names is a red flag to email providers.
Then we had an idea! We paired up two organizations (just two!) — and they agreed to swap information on the individuals who were in the overlap of both group’s email lists. We found audiences who were inactive for one group, but clicking on emails for the other — and vice versa. Both organizations were then able to SAFELY identify large parts of their inactive file who were actually okay to email again.
Three years later, we’ve turned solving a tough problem into a whole big thing with a name: Scout Quest, our data co-op. It’s not just two nonprofits these days — we’re looking at the overlap of supporter data across dozens of nonprofits. And it’s grown to answer questions well beyond “Does this person open emails?” In addition to email engagement metrics, we’re using the data to build advertising audiences. We’re helping organizations aggregate donor histories for their supporters that include donations from other groups as well. We’re identifying monthly donors. We’re finding higher dollar donors, action-takers, and more.
The results have been really amazing. See this post for a bit about LCV’s experience with the co-op.
What’s really special is, you can get all this without sharing your donor lists with other organizations. Typically, participating in a co-op means exposing your supporters to being marketed to by other groups — you can mail my donors if I can mail yours. What makes Scout Quest different is our focus on enhancing the data on the supporters you have. No one is buying lists here.
Sound like something you’d want to take part in? We’re currently accepting participants, so just reach out on our sign-up form on the Scout Quest website.
And if you just want to know a bit more, bug me. I love to talk about this stuff, and I hope I’ll hear from you!
Jonathan is a Senior Vice President at M+R. He helps lead the development of our data co-op (hey, that’s Scout Quest! The thing you’re reading about right now!) — as well as our reporting platforms (Scout Reports!), and our annual Benchmarks study. Jonathan also works closely on fundraising strategy for some of M+R’s longest-running clients. You can reach Jonathan at email@example.com.