Key Components of Organizing Your Donor Data: A How-To Guide

Attracting and retaining donors all comes down to one important thing: data.

Donor data lays the foundation for everything your nonprofit does. Data is what should drive your fundraising campaigns, events, and more.

While there are several tech-savvy ways to attract and retain donors, we’re going to focus this article on how your donor database can help you gather and maintain your data for later use. 

In order to best organize your donor data, you should be sure you know how to:

  1. Conduct research to find the best donor database. 
  2. Enter data into your database. 
  3. Effectively use your data. 
  4. Report and analyze evolving data. 

Let’s dive in to learn more about how your donor database can help you succeed!

1. How To… Conduct research to find the Best Donor Database.

The first step to ensuring your donor data is well-organized, effective, and useful is to be sure you’re storing it in a trustworthy location. Researching CRMs and donor databases can be stressful. How do you know which one is best?

When you begin the research process, be sure to follow a few first steps:

    1. Ask around. Ask other nonprofits you trust and similar organizations to your own for referrals about which database they use. You may also ask your nonprofit’s board members or other major stakeholders. However, don’t make a purchase solely based on a recommendation. This is simply a starting point in your research.
    2. Check out reviews. Start scouring the internet for referrals and reviews of the top CRM platforms. Beware of review sites that don’t have any negative reviews for a solution. This may indicate review tampering or fabrication of the review information. 
    3. Narrow down your list. From simply asking for recommendations and searching for a good solution, you’ll likely have a sizable list of products to consider. Use the research you’ve conducted so far to narrow the list to those top choices. After you’ve narrowed the list, you can start contacting the vendors. 
    4. Participate in product demos. Make sure you have a list of questions ready to ask during the demo, such as the customers who the vendor caters to, the support team, and how much of the vendor’s business comes from the nonprofit software. These questions will help indicate who will be the best partner for your organization rather than just another vendor. 

Even with these steps, many nonprofits run into the same two issues. While conducting research, be extra careful to keep your priorities straight and don’t be afraid to ask about the price. 

Keep your priorities straight. 

Too many nonprofits jump into the demos of new software and get swept away by the shiny bells and whistles it offers. When this happens, they may forget about a key feature they need or want from their software provider. 

Before you start, write down the problem you’re trying to solve with the software solution you’ll purchase. Then, make a list of the required features you’ll need from that solution. Refer to this list whenever you encounter a new solution. 

Don’t be afraid to ask about the price. 

Asking about price can sometimes be difficult or feel awkward, but it’s an important step to take to be sure you’re working within your nonprofit’s budget. During demos be sure to ask about the price of the software itself as well as any associated implementation or training costs. 

Don’t be afraid to ask about price, but don’t obsess over finding the lowest cost solution either. Beware of free donor databases or solutions that seem to be too good to be true. While the prospect may be tempting, in Bloomerang’s article about free fundraising software we learn that free solutions often cost a lot to implement.

2. How To… Enter Data into Your Database

Now that you have your nonprofit’s donor database, it’s time to start creating donor profiles and adding information to it. There are a couple of ways a nonprofit can do this:

    • Add information manually. Manually inputting information into your donor database is a practice that you probably won’t want to do too frequently, but one that should not be difficult. Usually, this involves simply creating a new profile or filling in new or missing information in an existing profile. Be sure this process is clear and quick for easy future additions. Having a documented policy for data input will keep your database clean and useable.
    • Streamline data from other solutions. When you buy fundraising software be sure it integrates with other solutions for easy updates of information into your database. For instance, when your donation software integrates with your database, the engagement update for an existing supporter who donates to your most recent campaign will be automatically added to your CRM. 

Integrations between software solutions help nonprofits speed up the processes for storing important information into individual donor profiles, making it easier to keep tabs on the engagement of your various supporters. 

Plus, integrations give your nonprofit all of the benefits of a specialized solution while easing the transfer of data. Click here for more information about donation software and how it can be used to engage your donors. All of that engagement information can be stored for later use. 

When you consider the types of fundraisers you host and how those impact your data collection, think about the part social media plays in all of this. 

When used effectively, especially when your donor database has functionality related to social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great resources to get the word out about your various campaigns. However, be careful that you are using your software’s social media functionality rather than Facebook fundraising. Often, the data collected from these fundraisers is not streamlined into any database and ends up lost. 

3. How To… Effectively Use Your Data

Why do we collect donor data? So that we can use it, of course! 

Take, for example, the data you collect from a crowdfunding campaign. The data about donor giving and interaction history can provide insight as to the habits and preferences of your donors. You can then leverage this data to use your strengths and market more effectively during your next campaign. 

The most common use of your donor data is communicating more effectively with your supporters. 

Segment your supporters by common data variables in your database. Then, you can use these segments to craft messages that will best target each segment. 

Craft messages that will best appeal to the demographics of supporters in terms of:

  • Reasons for giving
  • Preferred platform
  • Event involvement
  • Historic campaign support
  • Successful communication techniques
  • And more!

Let’s just say your nonprofit has an annual charity auction. Last year’s auction provided data indicating that your emails were the most successful method of acquiring new attendees. However, more millennials were brought in using social media. 

In this situation, you may choose to refine your social media techniques to specifically target that age group. Meanwhile, you may strengthen your email campaign by further segmenting messages to appeal to the greatest number of people. Don’t forget to send a reminder to those who attended last year reminding them how much fun they had!

4. How To… Report and Analyze Evolving Data

With access to so much data, it’s important to have an effective way to extract and track the important metrics. You likely pull comprehensive reports weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually depending on when you work and rework your nonprofit’s overall strategy. 

Comprehensive reports are designed to help your nonprofit drill down into the statistics to help you understand the biggest successes and room for improvement in large-scale strategies. 

Donor data is a great indicator as to which strategies are most effective among your supporters and how donors tend to react to various strategic changes. Therefore, using custom reports to track the engagement metrics most important to your organization is key for nonprofit planning. 

All of these reports should come straight from your CRM. It’s a hassle to import and export data from multiple solutions just to pull together information that is ideally stored in a single location. 

Reports that you should check often might include:

  • New donors
  • LYBUNT and SYBUNT donors
  • Out of town donors
  • Donors who have upgraded or downgraded
  • Monthly donors who give a 13th gift
  • Overdue pledges

You should also look for a solution that offers quick engagement metrics to track more frequently. An interactive dashboard gives your nonprofit real-time numbers that help provide context as to the current state of your nonprofit’s campaigns and decisions. 

 

Investing in new software is exciting! Your nonprofit should feel good about your investment and zealously start exploring your new solution. Upon exploration, your software partner should provide “how-to” guides and explanations specifically for the solution to help you better understand the technology’s ins-and-outs.
For example, the excellent customer service at Bloomerang will help you with any questions you have about how to use the donor database for storage and communication. Plus, their multiple features like smart reports, interactive dashboard, and giving summaries make it easy to use the donor data you’ve collected for future strategies and success.

Author

Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang, which helps nonprofit organizations to reach, engage and retain the advocates they depend on to achieve their vision for a better world.