The American Heart Association is a large and complex nonprofit organization with millions of constituents. The organization interacts with their constituents in many different ways, including email newsletters, websites, direct mail, and charitable events such as the Kids Heart Challenge and fundraising galas. Each of these areas of the organization were supported by different departments and databases, which made it difficult to understand a number of important things about their constituents.

To guide the organization’s strategy, their executive leadership wanted to know how donors behaved across multiple giving channels. They needed to see how constituents move from program to program—for example, if a person attended a gala event and also donated on the organization’s website. They also wanted to know how constituents of different programs differed from one another, which involved having a clearer view of data, such as demographic information, on their constituents. These kinds of insights would help the organization drive more donations, revenue, and retention.

Getting there meant being able to ingest data from numerous disparate databases and stitch it all together to create a single view of the organization’s donors.


transactions processed for identity resolution

enabled single view of constituents

The approach

Since bringing together data was a critical part of the organization’s strategy, they collaborated with Merkle to accomplish their goal. Merkle’s technology—such as Rapid Audience Layer for data ingestion and Merkury for identity resolution—enabled the organization to achieve this.

Merkle helped the organization connect multiple disparate donor databases across giving programs with millions of historical transaction records, creating the organization’s very first unified data set. The team linked donor identities across various sources gaining insights into how donors differed from a demographic standpoint across the various programs such as age, income, interests, education levels, and geographic location.

Data was also fed into Merkury to develop additional insights into the organization’s most valuable donors across each program. Merkle evaluated donor retention within each program, crossover between programs, demographic data, and overall retention to the organization.

The outcome

This effort provided a number of insights that were strategically valuable to the organization. For example, it was revealed that there was not much crossover between programs because constituents were generally only donating to one giving channel. This created an opportunity for cross-promotion to encourage giving to multiple programs. In addition, donors would often give to a particular program only one time. So it was less of a concern that one program would be taking donations away from another if they shared constituents’ information.

The AHA now has:

  • Enabled a single view of constituents across all programs that allowed the organization to understand how they are engaging, retaining, and creating opportunities for greater loyalty
  • Enhanced the constituent experience across the organization to increase engagement, build connected lifelong relationships, create greater loyalty, grow donor life-time value, and sustain long-term revenue growth.

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