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By DonorSearch

Quick and Dirty Guide to Finding New Donors

This post was written by Jeri Alcock, CFRE, West Coast Sales Manager at DonorSearch

We get it. Although fundraising is worthwhile work and a deeply satisfying endeavor, it’s not the easiest job in the world. When looking for donors, it sometimes feels like you’re losing a game of hide and seek. You know the donors are out there, but you can’t find them.

This guide is going to equip you with the tools to yell “olly olly oxen free” and reveal all the donors you’ve been looking for who have been right under your nose.

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By DonorSearch

[Guest Post] The Top 3 Biggest Donor Management Mistakes

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Timi Paccioretti of Little Green Light and please enjoy her post on donor management.

The Top 3 Biggest Donor Management Mistakes

Small shop development offices are notoriously short-handed and over-worked. When you’re tasked with everything from writing copy for your newsletter to organizing a $10M capital campaign, it’s not surprising that finding time to manage your donor database is hard to come by. However, a well-maintained and utilized donor database is at the heart of every successful development operation. So, finding the time to invest in its upkeep can reap huge rewards in the advancement of your organization’s mission. By tackling these three donor management mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to having a strong, strategic development program at your nonprofit.

#1: Underestimating the key role a donor management system plays in the advancement of your organization’s mission

A recent report from Software Advice, a company that hosts reviews of fundraising software, found that 52% of nonprofit organizations are using Excel or Google Docs rather than a dedicated donor management system to run their development efforts. Unfortunately, these methods not only make it difficult to uncover trends in giving patterns, which are instrumental in developing strategic, more successful fundraising appeals, but they can also be extremely time-consuming in terms of manually entering and maintaining data. According to the same report, the adoption of a donor management system has excellent benefits for small nonprofits, especially those with limited staff, where automating even one task—such as sending acknowledgment letters to donors—can free up hours of time to focus on crucial projects and more strategic processes. An overwhelming 99% of those surveyed said their use of fundraising software has positively impacted the number of donations their organizations collect—and 98% said it has had a positive impact on their overall record keeping, reporting, and workflow efficiency.

#2: Expecting your accounting system to be an effective donor management system

When a donor management system is chosen based primarily for its ability to reconcile donations with an accounting system, nonprofits are neglecting one very important development need: cultivating relationships with their organization’s supporters. If the focus of your data management processes is keeping track of donations for tax purposes, you’re missing out on capturing information you need to build strong, lasting relationships with your donors. And strong relationships are the key to retaining donors! Nonprofit finance expert, Carolyn Sechler, CPA, encourages streamlining your organization’s accounting system and keeping it free from the transactional details stored in your donor management system. Some of the reasons include avoiding a slowdown in the performance of your accounting system, reducing redundancy and workload, and eliminating possible data entry errors or conflicts. Sechler also recommends clearly distinguishing your accounting tasks from your CRM tasks and creating a simple workflow to easily manage information between your donor management system and your accounting software.

#3: Maintaining your data on a one-time or occasional basis

Relegating database maintenance to the bottom of your to-do pile is one of the biggest mistakes a nonprofit can make for one simple reason: nonprofits are dependent on good data in order to be successful. Without good data, it’s much more difficult to develop and maintain strong relationships with your supporters. Gary Carr’s article, If Your Donor Data Isn’t Getting Better, It’s Getting Worse, shares some recommendations to help you tackle this challenge:
  • Develop a plan! Be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to your data. Don’t wait until your direct mail pieces are returned or you’re ready to segment your data for your upcoming campaign.
  • Regularly enrich your database by adding information to your existing donor records (e.g., their communication preferences, personal interests, what inspires them, etc.)
  • Build data maintenance tasks into your overall development plan. When creating your annual calendar of communications and solicitations, be sure to figure in data needs. Planning a phonathon following the mailing of your solicitation letter? Add a task in your plan to review and acquire phone numbers.

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By DonorSearch

5 Steps to A+ Private & Independent School Fundraising

If we’re going to dedicate an entire guide to private and independent school fundraising, we should probably begin by defining the two types of schools. Let’s do that now! Although the difference between the two is minor, it still exists and needs to be pointed out.
  • Private School: A private school is operated by a non-governmental agency. Private schools receive no funding from public officials or governmental entities.
  • Independent School: An independent school is nonpublic and also not associated with a church or third party entity.
The biggest semantic difference here is that independent schools cannot be classified as such if they’re governed by another agency, like a church, whereas a private school can be. Both, however, are nonpublic, and therefore have to rely heavily on fundraising. That’s where this guide will come in handy! The independent and private schools being discussed here are K-12. If you’d like some information on fundraising for universities and colleges, click here. Otherwise, your independent or private school likely relies heavily on its ability to raise funds from its community. Follow this 5-step guide and make the grade in your fundraising class this school year.
  1. Set New Goals for the School Year and Hone Your Story
  2. Document Your Fundraising Strategy
  3. Put a Team Together
  4. Follow Independent and Private School Fundraising Best Practices
  5. Host a Fundraising Event
It can sometimes be difficult to think of new and creative school fundraising ideas that will keep your whole community engaged, but following some best practices for school fundraising will go a long way to boosting your overall success. Keep reading to learn more!

1) Set New Goals for the School Year and Hone Your Story

All private and independent schools have their own needs and missions that have to be individually strategized for. Now is the start of the school year, and therefore, the perfect time to sit down and do some goal setting. Ask yourself and your team:
  • What is special about your school?
  • What is your school’s mission?
  • Has your mission shifted since the last time you had a goal-setting session?
  • How can your fundraising efforts make the biggest positive difference in the education of your students?
  • Where do you see the donations you gather being spent?
Your answers to these questions are going to help you craft your strategy, a point we’ll get to in step two, but, more broadly speaking, they’ll also help you hone your story. In order to be successful, you’ll want an overarching fundraising story, one informed by your past accomplishments and driven towards specific future experiences. Each story should be as unique as your school is. You need an impetus for people to donate. That impetus starts with your story. Learn more about the uniqueness of the fundraising process at K-12 schools.

2) Document Your Fundraising Strategy

You have your goals set, and you know your story. It is time to move from the abstract to the tangible. That means reworking your goals into a thought-out and realistic strategy. As you map out your strategy, you’re going to have to return to the questioning board. Use this checklist to make sure you hit all the most important points. Next, ask your team a few essential questions:

What goal do you need to accomplish?

This is the most general of your strategizing questions. You have to be able to answer this before you can move on to any of the others. Your goal setting was all leading up to this question.

How much money do you need to reach your goal?

You’re in the realm of fundraising. Trying to accomplish your goal without a specific dollar amount in mind is like trying drive to a new restaurant without the street address. You reach the general region, but it is highly unlikely that you’ll get to where you need to be.

When do you need to reach your goal?

Almost as important as setting that dollar amount, you also need to determine a deadline. That date will have a massive impact on the speed in which you’ll have to work and the depth at which you’ll be able to address various tasks.

Which donors and prospects are you looking to for funds?

Contacting all prospects and donors will turn up some donations. However, you have limited time and resources that would be better spent reaching out to specific people who have a higher likelihood of donating. It’s a far better return on your investment (ROI). Using tools like wealth screenings to help you identify your most likely prospects can help you distribute your resources effectively.

What is the giving capacity of your donor and prospect pool?

How you target your donors and prospects will change depending on their giving capacities. If you’re soliciting a major gifts candidate, that process will differ from the manner in which you’d solicit a donation from a monthly giving prospect. Each is worthy of your attention, but they simply require specific acquisition strategies.

How are you going to solicit donations?

Building from the two previous questions, your communication methodology will be based on the prospects you’re targeting. That’s why conducting prospect research is so valuable to your organization. By getting to know your supporters and alumni better, you’ll be able to create an outreach strategy that is the most effective at reaching your goals. Some will respond to direct mail; others will need a visit. Maybe you’ll have the room in your budget for travel. Maybe you won’t. Plan smartly and budget accordingly, always keeping ROI in your thoughts. Consider, too, trying some school fundraising ideas that don’t require you to ask for financial donations. In-kind donation drives are a reliable staple for schools of all sizes.

What additional support will you need?

This question is essentially asking – what exactly is needed to accomplish this? That could be answered in many ways. You might need to put together a parent fundraising team, bring on a development consultant, or hold a training day for staff. Additional resources often come at a certain expense, so deciding what you’ll need throughout the process, and deciding early, is the best step you can take to handle the onslaught of tasks that come along with a fundraising initiative. The highly detailed strategy that you’ll generate while working through these questions is designed to be your school’s guidepost throughout the campaign. With this plan in place, everyone will know what their part in the process is and have ample time to figure out how best to accomplish their tasks. Learn about the tools you can use to research and answer questions like these

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By DonorSearch

6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy

In an effort to bring our readers the best information available on prospect research and its surrounding topics, we like to sometimes highlight posts from outsides blogs that provide valuable insights and information regarding the nonprofit sector. Today we’re featuring one of those posts. 6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy initially appeared on Andar/360’s blog.  This article was written by Real Bedard, President of Helix Ltd

6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy

1: Collect Information

Names, addresses, employer, cell numbers, email addresses, communication preferences, gifts, pledges, payments, formal/nicknames, relationships between accounts, demographics, competitive giving,… the list goes on and on. Information is everywhere and it can all be extremely valuable when getting to know your constituents. To be useful, information needs to be organized and categorized, and put in the right place. Most CRM systems are flexible and can store a variety of information. Get to know where things go. Your organization should have some data standards so everyone stores information in the same place. If you enter it in yourself, it will help you know how to get it out. Information management is NOT something to be delegated.

2: Log Communications

Every single interaction with every constituent should be logged. This includes e-mails, telephone, text messages, face-to-face visits, and all other communication methods. If a conversation mentions or involves a third person, then that third person should also be linked in the communication log. This is by far the simplest and most difficult task in any CRM strategy. It is simple to do but unfortunately, it requires very strong self-discipline. There are many benefits to logging communications. It documents the state of the relationship. It also greatly reduces the risks involved with staff turnover. Anyone on staff will be able to pickup the relationship where it left off. Considering the staff turnover levels in nonprofits, this process delivers benefits far beyond just a CRM strategy, it’s often critical to the survival of the organization.

3: Summarize into Notes

Although communication logs are critical to track what was said and any required follow up, they may be challenging to get a quick overview of a constituent. That’s why professional fundraisers will regularly review their constituent information, including communication logs, interests, social media, and other sources, and write a summary of the constituent into a single concise note. In some cases separate notes can be used to summarize a biography of the constituent, the relationship status, and the strategy going forward.

4: Use your Information

Collecting information is great but the benefits really kick in when the information is actually used. So, before any interaction with a constituent, it is critical to review your notes in order to understand your current relationship with the constituent. That knowledge will assist you to move the relationship forward instead starting at square one every time. Information can also be used to personalize your automated communications. If you know your constituent’s interests, you can add messages of interest in your newsletter, thank you letter, tax receipt, etc. Your marketing team can analyze your information to maximize returns from your messages.

5: Use Plans, Tasks and Move Management

CRM consists of three pillars: People, Process, and Technology. This is where process comes in. Henry Ford discovered almost exactly 100 years ago that a well defined process (assembly line) can dramatically increase productivity. Much of what an organization does is systematic, highly repetitive and can be documented. But documentation by itself is not very useful. These process steps should be entered into your CRM system so your staff can be guided along the process without missing a step or worse, missing some constituents. Your CRM system can also perform some tasks automatically, on schedule, without human intervention. Move Management is a little more “fuzzy.” This process guides you as you “move” your constituent along the path from non-donor to donor. This process is usually not very well defined and varies greatly from one constituent to another. Prospect codes can track your constituent’s progress along this relationship building continuum.

6: Measure and Improve

Once the above steps are implemented, you can begin to measure your performance. How many constituents are engaged? What communication methods yield the best results? Which donors are increasing their gifts? Which ones are not? What tasks should be improved? What fundraising strategies work best? What donor segments raise the most money? The truth is in the numbers. This is where your organization can strategically plan for the future and have the data to prove it works.