The Good Steward blog says there's One Trick to Fundraising:
Know your donors.
And that's true. When you know your donors, you can be relevant to them. You can aim your messaging at them, not yourself. You can spend less cultivating donors not likely to respond, and more on those who can make it worth it.
Knowing what your donors say is good.
But it's much, much better to know what they do.
In fact, compared to what you learn from observing their behavior -- when and how they respond to your fundraising and other messages -- what they say about those things can lead you badly astray. What they say is very often totally unlike what they do. Because they don't know their own minds on the subject of charitable giving.
(There's nothing wrong with them; nobody knows their own mind very well on almost any subject. That includes you and me.)
So go ahead and use surveys, focus groups, and other ways of hearing donors talk. But much more important -- be a fanatical sifter of fundraising campaign response data. That's how you really know your donors.