Predictive analytics — the science of identifying and cultivating new donors by analyzing characteristics of existing donors — has become indispensable to many nonprofits according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

Most fund-raisers say the technology works. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has data collected on 425,000 donors, ranging from their age and hobbies to whether they own a CD player.

By correlating the data with giving patterns, says Steve Froehlich, vice president of direct response for the ASPCA, he has learned which donors respond to a straightforward email, who requires a heartfelt phone appeal and who might remember the ASPCA in her will. He even knows on which night of the week a given donor is most likely to answer the phone.

The data have helped Mr. Froehlich fine-tune his fund raising — and donations have quadrupled over the past five years, to more than $80 million.

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