Managing Donor Information: What Your Organization Needs to Know
Donor management is one of those dry corporate-speak phrases that brings to mind images of spreadsheets, databases, and analytics. In reality, managing donor information is an exciting combination of art and science that can expand reach, improve donor relationships, and lead to a significant increase in donations made to your cause.
In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of donor management so you can build effective relationships with your donors with the help of software.
- What is Donor Management?
- How Does Managing Donor Information Benefit Nonprofits?
- Tips for Effective Donor Management
- Donor Management Software: How Can it Help?
- Final Thoughts
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What is Donor Management?
Donor management is a deceptively simple concept that lies at the center of all successful fundraising. Its main practices consist of relationship building with your financial supporters, maintaining connections, and keeping track of all your donor data - including all of their interactions with your nonprofit.
Most organizations use donor management software to streamline and simplify the process. We will go into detail about these fundraising tools later, but for now, let’s take a closer look at how donor and fundraising data management can positively impact a nonprofit.
How Does Managing Donor Information Benefit Nonprofits?
Fundraising is at the heart and soul of any nonprofit’s mission. To forward your vision, you need a network of supporters that regularly give money to your cause. It is the responsibility of your team to keep the lines of communication open, to build connections, and enlarge your network of donors. There are multiple ways that effective donor management can help you do so.
It Boosts Donor Engagement
The term "donor engagement" wears many faces, but perhaps it can be most easily defined as your donors’ current level of interest in your work. It certainly involves the process of keeping them interested and inclined to participate - as exemplified by their donation frequency, the recency in which they have donated, as well as their involvement in volunteering.
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Despite your organization’s best efforts, sometimes your donor engagement slips - and every nonprofit has been there. When a few long-time donors suddenly decrease their giving, or worse yet stop giving altogether, it may be time for a new strategy.
Using a donor database is a great way to track who is giving, what they are giving, and if they stop giving. With a full record of your donor interactions, you can figure out with whom you may need to engage more to keep them invested and their contributions steady. This is just the beginning of ensuring you do not let valuable supporters fall through the cracks!
It Helps Define Your Target Donor Base
You really need to understand your target audience before you launch any fundraising campaign. If your event is not designed to appeal to your donor demographic, it will not perform as well as it could. Here are some questions you should ask:
What age group does your donor base fall into?
What ties does your donor base have to other members of/groups in society?
Does your donor base sometimes bring in new donors?
How often do your donors make contributions? How much do they tend to donate?
Do they attend your fundraising events?
If you have the right software, managing donor information like this is easy. You can create any number of categories to help segment different donor types and use this to target the right group with the right campaign.
It Improves Retention
While some churn is sadly a normal part of any donor base, you can head some of it off by keeping strong records and analyzing the data. If retention rates start to fall, you should become privy to it immediately. Maybe your last event was not exactly a win; maybe your supporters did not enjoy or resonate with it. Perhaps they do not feel appreciated. Or it could be that they are not feeling as connected with your mission.
The thing is, you will never be able to identify and address potential problems if you are not paying attention to the numbers. By understanding donor behavior through metrics and analytics, you can be on top of donor retention and reach out to people before you lose them altogether. Find out if there is anything they are missing, that they are no longer feeling connected to, and adjust to meet their donor preferences.
Pro Tip: Data-centric thinking can be quite challenging at first - it takes a while to get used to when you have no prior experience. To make things easier, start by tracking only a few metrics at a time, then slowly add on to that. The more manageable you make this learning process for yourself, the more intuitive data analysis will become.
It Increases Efficiency
You need an automated system for managing donor information to get the best results. Take a hard look at how your organization currently handles donor information - is your system streamlined and integrated? Or is it chaotic, disjointed, inefficient and confusing? Can you even access donor data so that you yourself can identify trends that are meaningful to you? If your current system is putting stress on your ability to properly engage with your donor base, it may be time to alter your methodology. Having an easy-to-use system is crucial to setting your organization up for success - it will not only help you devise the best donor management strategy, it will allow your staff more time to focus on execution rather than data-gathering.
Tips for Effective Donor Management
Offering the best donor interaction experience possible will keep donation frequency high. Here are some best practices to follow for effective donor management.
#1. Strong Communication With Donors is Key
Keep your donors in the know. This is a simple concept that is often overlooked, at least to some degree. The only way your fundraising appeals will be effective is if people know about them! And especially if they know where their contributions are going, and who they are benefitting. Find out what method of communication your donors prefer - newsletters and emails are a good way to give your supporters a heads-up on upcoming events. They also can serve as updates - how has your vision come to fruition in recent months? Maintaining active social media accounts can also be key, depending on your base.
There is one thing to note, however, when it comes to communicating the ins and outs of your organization’s current happenings and accomplishments. While transparency is a great way to make your supporters feel a part of your mission, you do not want to be too overzealous, too communicative. You have to communicate the right message, to the right people, at the right time. If you send too many messages, you risk being classified as spam. So always aim to strike a healthy balance between communicating too much and communicating too little.
#2. Personalize Your Appeals
The best way to keep your supporters involved in your organization is to make them feel like they are an important partner in the mission. This is where strong communication skills and personalized appeals come into play.
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Keep detailed profiles on your supporters. Are they interested in volunteering, or do they only want to make monetary donations? Do they have a specific area of interest within your nonprofit, and are they interested in certain events? This way you know which communications to send their way, and which ones not to. You can even create different email lists to target these specific interests.
Pro Tip: Always address your supporters by name in every communication, and if applicable, use any information you have gathered on them (like the last time they donated, to what project, and in what amount) to help your mass communications feel extra personalized.
#3. Get Your Supporters Involved in Fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising events are an excellent opportunity to involve donors in your cause, to increase awareness of it, and to potentially widen your network of one-time and long-term donors. Peer-to-peer campaigns ask your supporters to solicit funds for your nonprofit.
Using a donation software platform, you create a donation page for your event. Next, encourage members, volunteers, and other stakeholders to create their own online donation pages using a template from your main page. They then can share this page with their own social network, getting the message out to a larger group of people than your organization ever could with a simple social media or crowdfunding campaign.
An example of a peer-to-peer campaign is the well-known Susan G Komen 3-Day. This 60-mile walk raises funds for breast cancer research and is perhaps one of the biggest peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns out there. It is popular for a myriad of reasons, one of which being that there is a huge community of walkers - and their supporters, who pledge them - surrounding it. This campaign shows that the network of supporters that can arise out of a peer-to-peer fundraising event truly knows no bounds.
#4. Perform Data Analysis
What drives your donors? Do they have a friend or family member that has been impacted by your mission? Do they work in your field? How do they like to give - in the form of one large annual donation, or through multiple smaller ones? By gathering the most data possible, it is so much easier to analyze the wants and needs of your donor base.
The best way to collect donations online is to ensure that each donation campaign that you run involves data analysis from the start, so that you can decide what is performing well and what is not, and then change direction accordingly.
#5. Say "Thank You", and Put Your Donors in The Spotlight
Your donors want to feel both appreciated and recognized. Create a system in which you find ways to show gratitude to your supporters. Each and every person who gives should at least receive a personalized thank-you email. Some higher donor levels can include special perks at events, or maybe branded merchandise. Another way to highlight your givers is to create a donor spotlight page for your newsletter, or social media page.
Donor Management Software: How Can it Help?
Managing donor information can be done through any means - paper files, spreadsheets, or other systems. However, the most efficient and effective way of managing donor information is by using the tools available through donor management software. Here are just some of the ways that this software can optimize your operations.
Create a Donor Database With Detailed Profiles
As we mentioned earlier, the more information you have on your donors, the better you can engage with them. A database allows you to collect (and use) a variety of information on each individual such as event attendance, giving history, past volunteer work, and all previous communications.
Sam is checking out some donor management software!
You will also have the opportunity to implement donor segmentation. That is, you can create reports that pull from specific donor groups according to whatever parameter you choose. For example, you can run through a filter the donors that volunteered for your last fundraising event. These people will be more likely to respond to a personal invitation to work your upcoming campaign.
Utilize Management Tools
A good donor management software will offer task management tools to help keep your team synchronized. These tools allow team members to be responsible for certain tasks - although many manual tasks are automated, which ensures that minimal effort is required to achieve cohesive and thorough donor data.
Implement An All-in-One Software
The goal for any management system should be to keep things as simple as possible for users. You want as many features in one platform as possible so you do not have to adopt other programs. Your CRM software, online fundraising software, and payment processor should all be able to work together so that you can access everything you need to in one place.
Assistance With Launching Email Campaigns
There is hardly a nonprofit in existence that does not use email as a tool for fundraising. Besides the annual fundraising drive, frequent emails can keep donors engaged with emotional appeals and storytelling. Email management software allows you to create segmented lists which you can use to target specific donor groups: by location, interest, or donation amount. Find a donor management system that either offers email management tools like Salsa, or one that integrates with an email management system.
When it comes to managing donor information, the bottom line is you need to streamline and simplify as much as possible. You will get the best results for the least amount of effort by delegating all of these tasks to a solid donor management software.
Look at it this way: you are only bestowed a certain amount of time and energy to get everything done for your organization. Why waste them both by allocating busywork to people that could better serve your mission by planning creative endeavors and putting them into action? Automate the minutia as much as possible - free up your staff so that they can accomplish tasks that require human creativity, enthusiasm, and interaction.
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💡 How do you maintain a donor relationship?
Maintaining a donor relationship is accomplished through a series of interactions that are frequent, personal, and relevant. Your donors want to feel like they are appreciated and a part of something—in short, like a partner in the mission. Close and personalized information help create this relationship with your donors. Find out more.
🔑 How do I clean my donor database?
There are several ways to clean the donor database. First, define and remove inactive contacts. Next, merge any duplicates. Finally, update all donor information, including donor preferences. Find out more.
📝 What is donor management?
Donor management is a series of systems that allow your nonprofit to optimize its donor relationships through better information and communication. By keeping track of what your donors want and need, you can improve donor retention and increase revenue for your organization. Find out more.