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By julia lindenmon

As a nonprofit leader, you know your organization relies on the continued support of generous donors to be able to carry out your mission. To effectively manage donors, you need access to all pertinent supporter information in one place to detect trends and follow up with constituents after their initial donations. If your organization is growing and you’re struggling to keep track of all of your donor information, it’s time to invest in donor management software.

Donor management software is a system for filing and tracking donor information from a single, central location. Donor management software is often referred to as a constituent relationship management, or CRM system. Your donor management software keeps your fundraising efforts organized and improves your fundraising strategies by uncovering potential new donors to bring on board with your cause.

At GivingMail, we position nonprofits for success through our direct mail fundraising platform and CRM, and are invested in helping organizations expand their donor networks to maximize their fundraising potential. We’ve identified four strategies nonprofits should use to make the most of their donor management software:

  1. Look for affordable, yet powerful solutions
  2. Incorporate and track prospect research
  3. Build long-term relationships with major donors
  4. Make data-driven fundraising decisions

These strategies are ultimately designed to strengthen your organization’s fundraising efforts to provide a solid foundation for years to come. Let’s jump in!

1. Look for affordable, yet powerful solutions

Donor management software is a valuable investment that can help you craft better, more specific fundraising appeals and therefore raise a lot of money for your cause. But as the leader of an organization that relies on managing funds wisely to continue operating, you don’t want to spend too much money on overhead costs associated with your software purchase. Therefore, it’s important to find a happy, budget-friendly medium: a software option that effectively performs your desired functions while still coming at an affordable price.

Before you start your search, identify the top characteristics your organization would benefit from in a CRM solution and note any specific considerations of your organization’s donor pool. You want to choose a solution that can handle your organization’s specific needs, so be sure to verify your chosen solution has these characteristics before you invest.

There are plenty of quality CRM choices that won’t overwhelm your budget—this software guide offers top solutions to consider. Take the time to examine the options and settle on the best solution for your organization.

2. Incorporate and track prospect research

Once you settle on a donor management software option, you’ll uncover the multitude of tasks your CRM can do for your organization. Not only can you create and update donor profiles in your nonprofit database, but you can also create prospect profiles using information pulled from your prospect research.

Use the information in your CRM to identify the markers of a top prospective major donor. These characteristics include the individual’s:

  • Affinity to give: These donors might have a personal connection with your cause or been involved in similar organizations in the past in a top leadership role. This indicates a willingness to continue involvement with your mission.
  • Previous giving history: Top prospects have probably given large donations to similar organizations in the past.
  • Ownership of real estate holdings: Possession of major real estate assets indicates a greater capacity to give.
  • Prosperous career path/hefty salary: Major donor prospects likely come from a wealthy background with ample disposable income to donate to worthy causes.

Your nonprofit database software can assist with identifying each of these characteristics. For example, GivingMail’s CRM includes an integration with DonorSearch that allows users to seamlessly conduct wealth screening and prospect research using information pulled directly from their nonprofit database. Tools like this allow nonprofits to identify prospective major donors and focus communication efforts on converting these prospects into actual major donors.

3. Build long-term relationships with major donors

Once your prospective donors have made their first gift, continue to use your donor management software to begin building long-term relationships with them. Your major donors likely provide the bulk of the funding for your organization, so prioritizing these relationships is a key element of your overall fundraising strategy.

One thing to keep in mind when carrying out your donor stewardship efforts is offering something to donors beyond just donation opportunities. For example, implement major donor retention efforts such as:

  • Personalized thank-you messages: Every time your major donors make a gift to your organization, send a personalized appreciation message that explains how their donations assist your nonprofit in working toward its mission, and your organization’s massive gratitude for their generosity. For your major donors, consider giving this message in a one-on-one video call or a handwritten letter. These personal touches ensure donors feel valued by your organization and that their gifts are actually making a difference for your cause, making them more likely to give in future.
  • Donor appreciation events: Take your acknowledgment efforts a step further by hosting an appreciation event to recognize your major donors. Even though in-person events are on pause, you can still host a virtual event using a video conferencing platform. This OneCause guide to live streaming for nonprofits outlines some of the top tools for hosting virtual events such as Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube. Shout out each of your major donors by name and use the information in your CRM to reference their history of involvement with your organization.
  • Providing multiple ways to get involved: Don’t just reach out to donors when you’re requesting a gift. Keep donors involved in all aspects of your organization by sending regular updates on what your organization is working on, or informational materials so supporters can learn more about your cause. Additionally, if you’re hosting any virtual volunteer opportunities, send out invites to your donors with additional opportunities for deeper engagement with your organization.

These donor stewardship strategies show donors that you’re just as invested in getting to know them and build a relationship with them as they are in helping your organization. After all, you don’t want to risk any supporters—but major donors especially—feeling like they’re just an ATM at your organization’s disposal.

4. Make data-driven fundraising decisions

Use your donor management software to track important fundraising metrics and identify the most effective strategies for your organization and see where there’s room for improvement. This guide from DonorSearch describes the most important data metrics to track using your CRM, including:

  • Donation volume, or the number of donations you see in a specific time period. You might analyze donations coming in after you’ve implemented a marketing campaign to gauge its effectiveness, and use the results to adjust your marketing strategies going forward.
  • Donation size, or the dollar amount of donations. This will help you create communication segments for different levels of donors and send messages that are most relevant to each group.
  • Donor retention rate, or how many donors continue to give to your organization after the first gift. Your retention rate can give you a sense of the effectiveness of your donor stewardship strategies.
  • Virtual event attendance, to get a benchmark of how many people are involved in your virtual opportunities and see if there’s room for improvement to boost attendance numbers or keep attendees better engaged.
  • Digital marketing analytics, such as social media engagement, website traffic, and click-through rates. These metrics help measure your level of engagement with your digital marketing campaigns to adjust or expand your current efforts.

These metrics will help paint a clear picture not only of areas with room for improvement, but also where your organization is already excelling. For example, if you see that your direct mailings are 10x more likely to result in a donation, you might want to spend more of your marketing dollars on direct mail fundraising.

By illuminating the most effective fundraising opportunities, donor management software allows your organization to take a more deliberate approach to marketing and fundraising. You might even save money on marketing by investing in the most profitable marketing avenues.

Your donor management software is a powerful tool that can perform multiple functions for your organization, from managing major donors to conducting prospect research and providing marketing insights. Be sure to explore your options and adopt the right donor management system for your organization to see improved fundraising and management success.


Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.

Donor Management Software: 4 Strategies for Success