It’s not an understatement to say that your donor data is the lifeblood of your fundraising efforts – it helps you keep track of who’s supporting you, their demographics, their giving patterns, and so much more. Successful fundraising in the digital age relies on managing your data to help you track donors and donations, perform analysis, and communicate efficiently. If you want to grow your nonprofit year over year, you should be looking at your methods for storing – and reading – your donor data.
However, if you’re working with outdated software or obsolete systems, you could be missing out on all the analysis and stats that good donor management software can provide. That’s why it’s important to not only invest in an up-to-date CRM, but also know how to utilize it to its full ability.
We’ve got a few tips to help you manage your data better so it can perform more efficiently and help you raise more money!
Assign different roles to different team members
Maintaining and managing a great CRM can involve a lot of effort, and it can be tough to put it all on one person. Understandably, not all nonprofits have enough overhead to hire a specific person for the role, so instead they split up the job between multiple team members. If good communication isn’t kept up, it can be a case of broken telephone – and that definitely impacts the efficiency of your donor management.
When the work is divided, make sure that the various tasks are specifically assigned to different individuals, with no confusion or overlap. This will help reduce duplication of data and can allow you to make sure that everyone working with your database is properly trained for the tasks they need to complete.
Some CRMs let you assign these roles directly. By doing so, you can be sure that the person or people you want to perform certain tasks, such as adding donations or sending communications, are the only ones able to do so. It doesn’t hurt to break up the donor management among a number of team members – just make sure that everyone’s on the same page about what their responsibilities are.
Schedule periodic data clean-ups
Donor management is handy, but it isn’t infallible – there are still errors that can happen within your database, even with top-of-the-line software. And if these errors are left unchecked, they can develop into huge problems that skew how your donor data is read. The last thing you want is for any analysis to be off when you’re making fundraising projections or determining demographic marketing!
Luckily, some CRM tools can help you identify common problems, like duplicate donor listings or inaccurate addresses. The former can be a huge issue, especially when an individual has been entered in the database multiple times. A good CRM will be able to identify this error and merge the profiles together quickly and easily.
In other cases, basic reports can identify donors or donations that are missing information like ZIP codes or phone numbers, while simply taking a scan through small groups of data can help you find common errors like misspelled names and incomplete profiles. All this can give you a better, more accurate picture of your donors!
Perform regular security tests
A nonprofit’s worst nightmare would be to have its donor data breached by a hacker. Any old, outdated CRM might be vulnerable to attacks that allow criminals to get ahold of financial or personal information – a disaster when it comes to sensitive data that nonprofits keep records of. That’s why it’s so important to have a software vendor that performs penetration tests to see how well the CRM reacts – or if there are any weak spots that need patching.
Schedule regular tests – think monthly – with your software vendor to ensure that any vulnerabilities are patched up and any required updates are applied. Making sure your donor’s data is absolutely secure is a huge part of your donor management software, so you ought to put data security front and center. It’s key to managing your data – and it helps you sleep better at night, too.
At the end of the day, your donor data is incredibly valuable when it comes to understanding your supporters – which is why you need to read it correctly, protect it, and make sure it’s working as it should at all times. Take care of your donor data and it’ll take care of you!
Caitlin Hotchkiss is the content and social media manager for FrontStream, covering all the best and latest news and tips for fundraising success. With many years as an online influencer, she works to stay ahead of the trends by keeping one eye on upcoming online tools and the other on established favorites, spreading the good word of charities and nonprofits across the digital landscape.
Every year nonprofits present their accomplishments and projects to their supporters and the general public in an annual report. An annual report details an organization’s mission, growth over the course of the year, projects that helped serve the community, statistics related to the organization’s cause, and much more.
Ultimately, your organization’s annual report can be used to cultivate new partnerships with major donors and sponsors as well as recognize those who have helped you reach your goals thus far.
A successful, captivating annual report can make the difference between reaching your goals for the upcoming year or falling short. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that organizations take the creation of their annual report so seriously.
From in-depth brochures to interactive web pages, the annual report has changed drastically over the years. While the design and content of your report will vary depending on the type of organization, there are essential annual report best practices that every nonprofit can use:
With these tips and our annual report templates, you’ll be prepared to create a report that recognizes your donors and inspires others to help you succeed.
In addition to our best practices, we’ll delve deeper into the benefits of annual reports. Our bonus section will explain how the information in annual reports can help feed charitable giving databases (like DonorSearch’s), which can boost your prospect research.
Let’s get started!
1. Create a plan for your nonprofit annual report.
When your organization starts a new fundraising campaign, creating a strategy is the first step — and the same goes for your annual report. You’ll need the help of multiple departments to assemble all the information as well as compile and design the document. First, every successful nonprofit annual report has a clear purpose and audience that your organization needs to determine.
It’s likely that your audience will be your supporters as well as prospective major donors, corporate sponsors, and foundations. At its core, your annual report should persuade your audience to support your cause, but you might have smaller objectives (i.e., highlighting a new project or attracting more local sponsors) specific to your nonprofit’s goals.
Now that you’ve established your audience and goals, you can schedule your plan of action. Your annual report strategy might include:
Delegating responsibilities and timelines to team members.
Interviewing supporters for their feedback.
Compiling financial statements.
Collecting key metrics from fundraising campaigns.
Depending on your organization’s fundraising campaigns and programs, you might not be able to cover everything you’ve accomplished. That’s why you should try to boil down all your activities to a few major achievements.
By centralizing your accomplishments around 3-5 core themes, you will help keep your annual report focused, leading supporters to your core objective.
When your nonprofit has a clear plan, not only will the process of creating your report run smoothly but the end result will also have more direction and purpose.
2. Include all the nonprofit annual report requirements.
If you look at a nonprofit annual report, you’ll see that most include similar elements no matter what type of cause they support. While it’s fine to get creative with your additional sections so that your report stands out, you also need to make sure that all the essential information is present.
Moreover, your accomplishments might change from year to year but the underlying points should stay the same. Including these elements will keep your annual reports consistent and create the foundation for what you want to include.
When you look at a noteworthy annual report, you’ll find that the organization has covered the following key points:
A clear mission and focus. If you could boil down your organization’s values and purpose into a single sentence you would have your mission statement. Since supporters won’t be the only people reading your report, your mission statement needs to be at the very beginning. Readers should know about your organization’s mission and what change you hope to make before jumping into the data.
A list of projects you initiated. From fundraising events to volunteer efforts to community programs, let readers know what your organization accomplished over the course of the year. The majority of your report should focus on these projects, breaking down your achievements into metrics your readers can understand.
A financial statement. Let’s face it: supporters want to know how their money is being used. Being honest about your organization’s expenses helps to establish trust among your supporters. Plus, it shows potential donors that your nonprofit can manage funds responsibly and effectively.
An account of major contributions. In addition to showcasing your organization’s success, your annual report is also about thanking those who helped you achieve your goals. Listing out and thanking your major contributors, influential staff, and board members should be a necessary part of our report.
Throughout this article, we’ll expand on how your organization can make these elements exceptional, but for now, look at this example of how a hospital can explain their mission in a moving way:
In our example, Inner City Hospital has displayed their mission statement predominantly and included their history to give readers context.
3. Focus your annual report on your donors’ accomplishments.
As we’ve mentioned before, your annual report is a chance to present all the good your nonprofit was able to accomplish. That being said, it’s easy for nonprofits to get stuck in the mindset of congratulating their accomplishments without focusing on their donors’ support.
Instead of centering your report on your achievements, make it about your donors. This goes beyond switching the language of your report to address your donors. A nonprofit annual report that puts donors first focuses on how projects and programs were realized because of your supporters’ donations and time.
For example, your annual report can focus on the many volunteers that donate their time to your organization like in the image below:
In the volunteer section of this report, the hospital focuses on recording statements from volunteers and displays images of them helping patients.
Alternatively, when you talk about the various projects your organization has implemented, make sure to mention the campaign that funded the project. Let readers know that your supporters helped you reach (or even exceed) your fundraising goal and how their funds and support impacted your cause.
By showing readers that your accomplishments were achieved because of supporters, donors and volunteers know that you’re aware of all they do. Not to mention, it shows potential donors that your nonprofit is built on the support of passionate people.
Therefore, your team should take every opportunity to direct attention to your supporters accomplishments.
4. Use visuals in your annual report to keep readers engaged.
When your team creates your nonprofit annual report, they will compile all your efforts and data from the past year and condense it into a 10-page document. That’s a lot of information you want supporters and prospective donors to read!
With so much information to convey, using visuals is a great way to turn information into an image that readers can easily understand. Plus, the more visuals, the more engaged your readers will be.
Think about it: if you were asked to read a report full of paragraphs of text, you’re likely to skim the information or give up after reading the first page.
Once your team spends all their time and effort creating an annual report, you want people to read what you’ve put together.
Visuals have many benefits, such as:
Breaking up blocks of text so the reader has a more enjoyable experience.
Transforming complex data into easy-to-understand information.
Conveying your cause in a way that puts your readers in the shoes of those you support.