Making Order Out of Chaos Part II: How Databases Can Help You Grow
When your old clothes have been given to the thrift store and your closet is really under control, you can move on to other things. When your database is running smoothly and efficiently, you are in a position to focus on executing a better fundraising program – getting more donors and raising more money. You can move on to diversify the ways you ask for money and increase how frequently you ask.Here are ways your programs can improve:Direct Response/Annual Fund programs often improve when the information in your donor base comes into focus. For example, when you know who gives and who doesn’t, you can stop sending to a segment of donors who never give to mailings or to a segment that doesn’t respond to online email requests; you can work to upgrade donors who give the same amount to the annual fund every year; you can determine how many more mailings or online asks to do each year.Acquisition technically loses money, but is a great way to increase your number of donors (thereby making money later). Once you understand the demographics of your donor base, you can choose what kinds of new lists to look for. Your database can help you do this by sorting current donors by zip codes, professions, or other information you might be able to feed in.Donor Surveys can yield a lot of information from your donors. The more you know, the better decisions you can make about reaching them with mail or online appeals, acquisitions, special events, planned giving, and major donor programs. A good time to conduct a donor survey is when you are increasing your efforts or making a change.For example, do you know the average age of your donor base? Knowing how many of your donors are 50 or older can be helpful with planned giving campaigns. This and other important information that you gather on your donors can be fed into your database for later use.Major Donor/Capital Campaign/Planned Giving/Endowment Efforts are all upgrading efforts. As you saw in the “reports” section, if you include in your database information about who knows each donor (either on your board or staff or in the larger community), you can print out a potential major donor report to inform you of potential solicitors.In addition, you can be more specific in your appeals. For example, for a direct mail appeal or special event focused on capital improvements, you’d want to select donors you’ve identified as most likely to give additional money for that kind of project. For a planned giving campaign, in addition to targeting older donors, you’d want to know who has been giving for a long time or has in other ways shown significant loyalty to your group.Special Events are a way for donors to come closer to the organization by bringing your group and the donor face-to-face. As a result, special events help build the relationship. Your special event program can be enhanced once you understand the giving tendencies of your donors; you may even ask what events they prefer in your donor survey and include the results in your database.Phone Banking/Telemarketing work well with some donors. Your database can print a report with phone numbers of lapsed donors or those who have responded to phone appeals in the past.Finding Board Members can be easier when you use your database to tell you which donors show commitment to the organization by moving up in their level of giving or giving frequently. These people may be good prospects for your board of directors.Tracking How You Treat Your Donors. It is vitally important in a more sophisticated fundraising program to track all actions with every donor. For example, if a donor calls to follow up on a conversation about housing for homeless gay youth that she had with a board member she met recently, you could look up the notes about the conversation that were entered in the database when the board member told you about it and work with the donor right then and there. In addition, you would want to see how many appeals a donor has received before calling them if you have a need.Source: This article was originally published in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal.About the author: Maria Petulla specializes in database management, direct mail, Special events, and major donor campaigns for New York City nonprofits. Reach her at [email protected] or (917) 698-9209.