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By Ryan Ponzurick

Your Nonprofit CRM: A Q&A Guide to Improve Data Management

Your nonprofit’s CRM is a goldmine for important information regarding your nonprofit’s constituents. Without this important software solution, it would be incredibly difficult to keep up with fundraising outreach or to establish an effective engagement strategy for supporters. Despite having access to this important tech solution, have you ever looked at your nonprofit annual report and seen holes in your own fundraising strategies? =&0=& The best way to improve your data management for more strategic fundraising efforts is making the best use of your donor database measurements. You’ll need to know what measurements to keep track of, how to best track them, and how to read this important data. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions regarding data management, all of which can be answered by making better use of your CRM.  

How do I streamline data collection?

Too many nonprofits manually transfer data from one software solution to another. Doing this takes time and energy that could be better spent on efforts more related to that nonprofit’s mission. Throughout this process, they have to choose which pieces of data are important to transfer and which are irrelevant for future efforts. =&1=& Look at the functionality of your CRM to see if you also have access to fundraising and data collection software such as donation pages, surveys, and other tools. Don’t forget that even the best CRM software might not offer these functions, but may integrate with other software solutions that do. Some of the important information you can collect from your CRM or integrated software includes:
  • Online giving information. Your CRM should store details about the gift information when someone donates to your nonprofit. Your CRM should automatically pull and store information from your donation page software about each donor’s gift amount. Then, you’ll have access to the average amounts plus a historical timeline of giving for each of your donors.
  • Matching gift eligibility. Ask donors about their employment on donation or survey forms. When this information is added to your CRM, it’s easy to check matching gift eligibility from a matching gift database.
  • Donor communication metrics. When you can connect to your donors through an email service within your CRM, it’s easy to streamline the flow of important metrics such as open and click-through rate. Plus, you can auto-populate the names and contact information of donors into templates with this feature.
For more features and integrations to look for in your donor database, check out Bloomerang’s guide to find the best nonprofit CRM.

How do I track multiple methods of engagement?

There are so many opportunities for engagement offered to your donors through your nonprofit. They can come to events, donate, post to social media, read your newsletters, visit your website, and more. While you could go through and check each of these metrics individually in your CRM, wouldn’t it be easier if there was a single engagement score that measures all of these things? That’s exactly what Dr. Adrian Sargeant asked himself and why he came up with an algorithm to measure overarching donor engagement for individual donors. =&5=&In Bloomerang’s CRM profiles, this engagement level presents itself as a meter measuring an individual’s level of engagement as “cold,” “warm,” “hot,” and “on fire!” When you have access to the engagement metrics for individual donors, you can more easily: =&6=&major giving=&8=& The donors who are heavily engaged (or “on fire!”) and also have good wealth indicators are likely to be good candidates for major giving in the future. =&9=&=&10=&

By donorsearch

Nonprofit Data Management: 5 Technology Tips to Know

Nonprofits collect all kinds of data on a daily basis. Every time a supporter makes an online donation, signs up to volunteer, or fills out an event registration form, you receive valuable information about who these individuals are and how they like to engage with your organization. To make sure that information doesn’t go to waste, you need a donor data management strategy that supports your goals. So how do you design such a strategy? Here’s a hint: technology can help! As nonprofit technology consultants, we at DNL OmniMedia know a thing or two about how technology can fit into almost every part of your organization. When it comes to managing your nonprofit data, your technology setup plays an integral role. To help you use technology to manage data in the most effective way, we’ll talk through 5 must-know tips:
  1. Build an integrated CRM system.
  2. Give donors control over their data.
  3. Create targeted donor segments.
  4. Devote time to database maintenance.
  5. Develop processes around data entry.
Before diving into our advice, make sure your organization has the right software on-hand to carry out these strategies. Check out DNL OmniMedia’s top 8 nonprofit technology solutions to see if any of our favorite tools might complement your data management plan. Now let’s get into the first tip.

1. Build an integrated CRM system.

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By donorsearch

3 Tips for Successfully Managing Your Donor Data

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!

Author Bio

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.

By donorsearch

Nonprofit Annual Reports: 7 Best Practices [Templates]

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:
  1. Create a plan for your nonprofit annual report.
  2. Include all the nonprofit annual report requirements.
  3. Focus your annual report on your donors’ accomplishments.
  4. Use visuals in your annual report to keep readers engaged.
  5. Be honest about your nonprofit’s progress.
  6. Highlight major contributors in your nonprofit annual report.
  7. Inspire supporters to take action.
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.
After all, you’ve been tracking key fundraising metrics

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By donorsearch

Prospect Generators: 4 Essential Tips to Find New Donors

As you begin the prospect research and development process, you might find yourself becoming overwhelmed both with the possibilities and the magnitude of the task at hand. Although it’s never easy work, there are a number of effective prospect development strategies you can follow to ensure the success of your major campaigns. One core strategy is to use a prospect generator when building your initial prospect list.  Prospect generators can be invaluable tools for your nonprofit’s donor prospecting process. By both saving you time and streamlining prospect identification, a generator tool can help drive your campaigns to unprecedented levels of success. If you think that a prospect generator tool might be a good idea for your organization, check out these 4 essential tips for choosing and using one:
  1. Identify a prospect generator tool that suits your needs.
  2. Set specific goals for your prospect generator.
  3. Recognize your most valuable data.
  4. Craft a solicitation plan.
Prospect generators are often the most important element of a successful development strategy. Read on for some crucial insights on how these tools can benefit your organization’s next major campaign!  

1. Identify a prospect generator tool that suits your needs.

To find new prospective donors, nonprofit organizations will typically look toward charitable giving databases to identify prospects with proven potential and interest in supporting their cause. A number of useful databases exist to serve this need, some providing more comprehensive information than others. DonorSearch’s databases cover a full range of philanthropic, wealth, political contribution, and professional statistics that can give you a full view of each prospect as an individual, for instance. However, all this prospect data can easily become overwhelming without the proper tools to for sorting and ordering it. That’s where a prospect generator tool can help. Any good prospect generator tool features the ability to search the donor lists of other nonprofits, helping you to identify proven high-value prospects that already support your issues or causes. Check out DonorSearch’s prospect generator tool for an example of what this kind of information might look like: A great prospect generator tool will contain any number of additional features, like:
  • Search functions to find proven donors by distance or zip code
  • Research capabilities on the complete fundraising strategies of other organizations
  • Detailed information on individual donations and nonprofits
  • Export tools to complement your full research process
Imagine how you could streamline your prospect research and development process with access to this kind of information. Best of all, with a prospect generator tool all this data will be organized and searchable, maximizing the efficiency of your entire prospect identification process. When choosing a generator tool for your prospect research and development process, always look for the functions listed above. Depending on the exact scope of your capital campaign or other major project, you might find yourself needing access to more data and functionality than you initially assumed. When it comes to prospect research, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Find a prospect generator that can cover all your potential needs.  

2. Set specific goals for your prospect generator.

While the purpose of a prospect generator tool is to help you identify and organize tons of prospect data, it’s rarely a good idea to jump into prospect research without any preliminary guidelines or targets. It’s crucial that for every major campaign, you use your prospect generator tool to create a specific and strategic game-plan. The unique goals of your campaign should shape both your overall campaign strategy and the more specific ways that you target and refine your prospect list. A fundraising feasibility study can provide your organization with a clear and realistic vision of your campaign’s parameters, budget, goals, and ideal techniques. All of this information will be important to the ways that you’ll use your prospect generator tool to develop a prospect list. Next, use the results of your feasibility study to answer some crucial questions about your prospect development:
  • How many current major donors can I count on for this project?
  • How many new major donors will I need to attract?
  • What range of giving will help me most efficiently reach my funding goal?
  • What kind of time constraints are there on my donor prospecting process?
  • Which of my donors or prospects will be interested in this specific campaign?
Now, let the answers to these questions guide the ways that you use your prospect generator tool to build and refine your prospect list. As with any significant challenge, setting specific goals for your prospect research and development is key to starting off on the right foot. A great prospect list can become an invaluable road map for your campaign by clearly designating your most important targets and key back-ups. By fully understanding both what kind of prospects you’ll need and also what you’ll need from those prospects, you can ensure that you’ll make the most effective use of your prospect generator tool and hit your targets quickly.  

3. Recognize your most valuable data.

Knowing exactly what you’re looking for is pretty much essential to ever finding it, right? The same applies to your prospect research and how you’ll need to use your prospect generator. The nuances of your goals and the unique elements of your campaign will completely determine which specific data points will be the most useful to your prospect development process. Check out our ultimate guide to prospect research if you need some direction about how exactly you can better refine your targets and goals to make the smartest prospecting decisions. Remember that a great prospect generator and access to comprehensive prospect databases will provide you with a wealth of data points, including:
  • Prospect location and property records
  • Complete giving history
  • Details about the organizations the prospect has supported
  • Political contribution history and details
Fully understanding your own campaign goals will help you to better understand the exact kinds of prospects you need to target, which in turn will guide your entire research process. Since a prospect generator will grant you access to plenty of data, it’s essential that your organization take full advantage of the opportunities this presents without becoming overwhelmed with possibilities. Do this by using your generator tools to identify prospects whose demonstrated interests align with your own campaign and fundraising histories. The alignment of prospect interest and your own nonprofit’s history will be reflected in a specific data point or two. Identify these most valuable metrics, use them to filter your results in your prospect generator and search tools, then quickly build an effective prospect list.  

4. Craft a solicitation plan.

Once you’ve used your prospect generator to identify and filter your prospects, it’s crucial that you develop some effective solicitation strategies. You already used your data to find learn more about your prospects as individuals, so your solicitation plans should be equally individualized, too. There are a number of donor and prospect communication tools out there, which, in combination with your strong prospect data resources, can pinpoint your solicitation efforts like never before. By using your prospect data and knowledge of other organizations your prospect has supported, you can make some inferences about the most convenient ways to communicate with them. Always try to tailor your solicitation plan to the individual prospect. There are a number of ways that a prospect would likely prefer to be contacted, like:
  • Through email
  • Through a personal appeal letter
  • In-person at an event
  • In a private meeting
It’s important that you never take a one-size-fits-all approach to your solicitation strategies. For instance, you might know that one of your core prospects is a corporate executive who supports another organization that regularly hosts large fundraising auctions. A busy executive might be unlikely to respond to every email or voicemail, but you might be able to contact them in-person at the next charity auction and set up a meeting in the future. Alternately, a retiree philanthropist might love the opportunity to share a dialogue on email or over the phone prior to discussing specifics, while the director of a grant-giving foundation prefers to be contacted through official application channels. Initiating a donation conversation with a new prospect for the first time can be difficult, but with the wealth of information provided by a prospect generator and other databases, you can craft the most effective solicitation plan possible. A prospect generator tool is perhaps the smartest investment you can make in your organization’s fundraising abilities.  Targeting your research and building refined prospect lists early in the process allows you to save invaluable time and resources throughout your entire campaign. Prospect databases and generators are an essential component of streamlining your donor prospecting process and reaching new levels of success in your fundraising! Check out these additional resources for more information on capital campaigns and the value of effective prospect research: Our top 5 Steps to Building a Prospect List for Your Next Capital Campaign. With or without a prospect generator, it’s essential that you build an effective prospect list for every campaign. The Top 3 Political Contributions Search Tools from Double the Donation.

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By donorsearch

How to Engage Alumni Effectively | 4 Key Best Practices

If there’s one golden rule of university fundraising, it’s that the key to effectively engaging alumni supporters is making meaningful connections with them year after year. No matter how long it’s been since graduation, your school always wants to remain a part of your alumni’s lives (and be first on their list when making a charitable gift). What’s one way to forge a long-lasting relationship with members of your alumni community? Prospect research is the practice of collecting and analyzing alumni data to better know your community of prospective donors. =&0=& If your school can learn more about trends in your alumni community, there’s nothing stopping your team from translating that information into a more effective alumni engagement strategy! Discover some of our favorite prospect research best practices that your school should start using:
  1. Maintain meaningful prospect profiles for your alumni.
  2. Clean your alumni prospect profiles regularly.
  3. Leverage your alumni engagement survey to improve prospect research.
  4. Use alumni prospect research to plan more impactful fundraising events.
Are you ready to revamp how your college connects with key alumni prospects? Let’s dive into these data-driven engagement strategies to get started!

1. Maintain meaningful prospect profiles for your alumni.

When an organization conducts prospect research, they gather all kinds of data in order to better understand their constituency. Whether you’re leveraging it to the fullest or not, it’s likely that your school already keeps alumni data in a CRM. =&1=& There are three core kinds of prospect data your university should collect for each of your alumni: =&2=&
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