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10 tips for managing and utilizing your donor data

The pandemic has forced fundraisers to shift from in-person focused fundraising to creative and engaging virtual events and activities. Can you relate?

When you switch up how you engage your supporters, it’s easy to have donors slip through the cracks. 

Now is the time to invest in a clean donor data system. That means not just storing basic contact information, but using numerous kinds of data to create meaningful and personal relationships with your donors. 

In this post, we share our top best practices on managing and getting the most out of your donor data. You’ll take away our best tips ranging from CRM solutions, automations, surveys, and getting everyone on board to keep your data in tip-top shape. 

Tip 1: Invest in a Solid CRM Solution

Time to bid your excel sheets goodbye — there are much smarter systems out there to manage your donor data. 

If you don’t already, you should invest in a CRM solution, which stands for Customer Relationship Management. This is a software, typically cloud-based, where you can keep track of all your donor information. Not only that, these systems allow you to use this data to optimize how you engage with each and every donor.

A CRM tracks everything from how donors learned about your organization, how they donated (think online versus at an event auction), donation amounts, and how frequently they give. Sophisticated and more integrated software will even be able to inform you of how your donors are engaging with your social media and email marketing. 

Must-Have CRM Features

There are several donor CRM tools out there with many capabilities. We recommend these features as a must.

  • It’s easy to use. If you have to call the CRM company every time you want to make a report, then you should pass. No matter how cutting-edge a CRM is, it should be user-friendly for you and your team. Be sure to check out a demo or use trial periods to see if you can easily use all a CRM has to offer. 
  • It keeps everything together. Your CRM should integrate seamlessly with your other fundraising tools, especially your website and fundraising software. Better yet, if your budget allows, look into a CRM that has many of these functions already in their system to cut down on tools and sites that you use.
  • It lets you get personal. Your supporters expect and deserve a personal experience with your organization. A good CRM will allow you to segment donors on many factors, including past giving, age, and even interests. That way, you can create messages that are tailored to each donor.  
  • It can be used on-the-go. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to wait until you get to your desk to add an important note to one of your donor profiles? Make sure you choose a CRM that has a mobile app or version so you can update your account from just about anywhere and at any time. 

We put together even more guidance on choosing a database in this article, so do check it out. 

Five Nonprofit CRM Solutions To Consider

There are many CRM solutions to choose from based on your needs and price point. Head over to the review site Capterra.com to wade through your options. Here are five of the most popular ones that check the must-have feature boxes. 

1. Blackbaud

Blackbaud is one of the most well-known nonprofit CRM solutions. It boasts powerful data intelligence and analytics to help move constituents from passive to active supporters. Their solutions cover multiple nonprofit management needs, from fundraising and marketing to advocacy and program management, to financial management and payment services. 

2. DonorPerfect

DonorPerfect is used by organizations big and small. In addition to typical CRM features, it also has an auction management feature and integrates many other donor management tools like QuickBooks and Constant Contact. You can also customize fields that are most applicable to your organization.

3. Salesforce – Nonprofit Cloud

Salesforce started as one of the top business CRM solutions that expanded into the nonprofit world. Its function exceeds fundraising, and can also be used for program management, marketing, and grant management. Another key feature that sets Salesforce apart is its own payment processor through the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP)

4. Salsa

Salsa is a one-stop-shop for organizations looking to streamline fundraising and marketing activities. It can handle email marketing and direct mail appeals and integrate with social media, thus creating rich donor profiles. It allows users to manage donors, members, volunteers, grants, and events — all within its site. 

5. Wild Apricot 

Wild Apricot specializes in small associations and membership-based nonprofits. The CRM is a complete membership management system built to help its organizations grow. The system is designed to manage your contacts, process payments, send out emails, register event attendees, create a website, and more. 

Want to learn more about CRMs? We have The Ultimate Guide To Picking a Nonprofit CRM

Tip 2: Use Automation Tools

While you don’t want to automate all aspects of nonprofit activities, automatic processes and messages will dramatically improve your communications workflow. Automation tools will help you plan by scheduling social media, sending automated emails based on supporter’s actions, and personalizing messages. 

Using automated tools will enable you to:

  • Communicate with supporters quickly.
  • Take advantage of data to reach social media and email audiences at the most optimal time.
  • Keep your supporters engaged and nurtured.
  • Free up time for other important nonprofit efforts.

Read more: here are The 10 Best Social Media Tools for Nonprofits.

Tip 3: Take Advantage of Donation Forms

The moment that a person donates to your organization is crucial, so make sure you are getting the right information. Capturing things like date of the gift, amount, designation, reason for giving, and communication preferences will help you create long-lasting relationships with your supporters. This is the kind of information that builds rich donor profiles in your CRM systems.

The tricky part is finding a balance between getting valuable donor information and asking for so much information that donors abandon their donation. Consider requiring essential information (name, amount, contact info), and allowing donors to fill in other fields at their discretion. 

Tip 4: Get To Know Donors Through Surveys

If you didn’t capture data from your donors in your donation form, it’s not too late. Send regular surveys to track information like what they’re most interested in, what they like about your organization, and what they want to see more of.

It’s not a bad idea to put aside a small budget for this. Think about incentivizing survey taking with a small e-gift card to a coffee shop, online store, or somewhere relevant to your organization.

Tip 5: Take Good Notes

Get in the habit of keeping tabs on your donors. Every time you have an interaction with a donor, make notes about something you learn about them. 

You may learn something they’re interested in, why they support your organization, or someone in their network who is worth connecting to. Again, the more information you have on your donors, the easier it is to build meaningful relationships with them.

Tip 6: Segment Emails and Direct Mail Campaigns

You don’t want to send out just one blanket email and letter to all of your supporters. The best way to personalize messaging is to segment your lists.

Break down supporter lists by areas like age, location, monthly donors, one-time donors, volunteers, alumni, board members, and staff. When you segment lists, you can customize messaging based on if those on the list are current or lapsed donors, their demographics, and what parts of your mission they are most drawn to. 

Learn more email marketing best practices from this Essential Guide to Nonprofit Email Marketing.

Tip 7: Use Data to Personalize Communications 

Some donors prefer to be addressed by their first name and some by their last. Some donors love to get just the facts, while others want to read the whole story. Some donors gave three months ago and should be updated on what that money has achieved, while others gave a week ago, so they’d be more interested in what your future plans are.

If you track these preferences correctly, you can make every donor feel like your communications were written exclusively for them. 

Tip 8: Use Data to Steward Donors

Just like each donor has different communication preferences, they have a different giving history. Take advantage of donation information in your messaging. Here are a few ways you can do so:

  • Send a digital welcome package to new donors.
  • Send a special anniversary card to long-time donors at year milestones.
  • Remind a lapsed donor who hasn’t given in a few years why they gave in the first place.

Tip 9: Use Data Maintenance as an Excuse for Outreach

Make sure you’re regularly staying in touch with your donors. They will appreciate the one-on-one connection.

One reason to get on a call is to say, “Hey, we don’t seem to have your email address, and we’d love to send you info on the impact of your donations.” 

Keep the conversation going to establish a personal relationship and learn more about your donors. Don’t forget tip 5: take good notes!

Tip 10: Clean Data is Everyone’s Responsibility 

It’s not just one person’s responsibility to make sure your organization’s data is clean. Make a cultural shift across all staff so that everyone gets into the habit of tracking everything they can possibly think of, entering new information regularly, and correcting mistakes as soon as they notice them. 

Try having a bi-annual meeting with staff as a mini donor data training. Not sure how to get them there? Donuts and coffee usually do the trick. 

Maintaining and taking advantage of your donor’s data is key to be a successful and modern fundraiser. Fortunately, there are sophisticated tools to help you do just that. Remember that the more relevant and personal your interactions are with donors, the more likely they will stay subscribed, interested, and ready to act.

About the Author

Sayana Izmailova is the Content Marketing Specialist at Wild Apricot, a membership management software. She has worked at a number of nonprofits and uses her experience to help small organizations advance their missions.