- Build an integrated CRM system.
- Give donors control over their data.
- Create targeted donor segments.
- Devote time to database maintenance.
- Develop processes around data entry.
1. Build an integrated CRM system.The first step to keeping up with your donor data is to develop a strategic storage system for it. Between all of the different tasks vying for your team’s attention every day, you don’t want to waste too much time manually importing spreadsheets or attempting to transfer data between disconnected platforms. Instead, build out an integrated CRM system that centralizes all of your nonprofit data and provides robust tools for easier data management. For instance, most CRM software comes equipped with features to help you:
- Build donor profiles that give you insight into your supporters.
- Segment your database into lists (more on that in the section #3).
- Create donor personas based on data trends.
- Communicate with supporters through built-in outreach tools.
- Pull reports to determine the success of a specific campaign or program.
2. Give donors control over their data.One of the easiest ways to lift the burden of data maintenance from your staff’s shoulders is to put the power in your supporters’ hands. Use a technology solution that allows your constituents to update their donor profiles themselves. That way, your supporters can have full control over their preferences and information at any time, without having to go through any members of your team. Using a custom solution (such as DNL’s Luminate Online member center), give your supporters the option to update their donor profiles themselves, including their:
- Contact information, such as email address, mailing address, and phone number.
- Recurring gift amount, schedule, and billing information.
- Email newsletter preferences.
- Personal and team peer-to-peer fundraising page(s).
3. Create targeted donor lists.Now that you know how to give donors the choice to update their own profiles, let’s talk about how you can use that data on an everyday basis. To ensure that you’re reaching out to donors in a way that reflects their preferences, lifestyles, and engagement habits, you can create targeted segments of your database based around any number of factors, such as:
- Preferred communication channel.
- Preferred communication frequency.
- Program or campaign interests.
- Typical gift amount.
- Preferred giving channel.
- Membership status.
- How much to ask for in your next fundraising appeal to get this donor to slightly upgrade their last gift.
- Which fundraising events or programs to personally invite this supporter to attend or sponsor.
- Which giving channel to promote when sending solicitations.
4. Devote time to database maintenance.No matter how diligent you are with sticking to your data entry practices and keeping donors’ profiles clean, there’s no getting around a little routine maintenance in your CRM. Just think of your nonprofit database as a house. Sure, you do your weekly chores and try to stay on top of noticeable messes, but if you don’t take the time to do a thorough “spring cleaning” a few times a year, you’re inevitably going to miss some lingering dust on the fan or a box of leftovers in the fridge. It just happens! When it comes to your software, failing to schedule a regular cleanup can result in outdated donor profiles and data discrepancies. You can avoid that by dedicating time at least once a year to reviewing your CRM for:
- Duplicate profiles.
- Inaccurate data or mistakes within donor profiles.
- Duplicate fields (such as multiple addresses or phone numbers per profile).
- Lapsed or deceased donor profiles.
- Un-standardized data.
5. Develop processes around data entry.Standardized data entry policies make it easier to keep your data consistent across the board. Depending on the specifics of your data and the scale of your nonprofit, you might need to develop policies around:
- Formatting numbers (such as dates or phone numbers).
- Formatting titles (such as “Mr.” vs. “Mr”).
- Creating new fields vs. adding notes.
- Leaving empty fields blank.
- Who will update profiles and on what timeline.
Nonprofit data management practices will vary from one organization to the next, but more than likely, we all have the same goal — to get to know our donors in the most meaningful, profitable way. When in doubt, keep your donors in mind and make sure your efforts always align with your supporters’ goals as well as your own. After all, you’re all in the fundraising game together!