Can a database really help you raise more money? Absolutely! Your database is not just a collection of information for accounting and reporting purposes. It is a donor relations tool, and once you begin to treat it that way, you will see drastic improvements in fundraising!
Think of it this way: your database holds all the critical information about your donors – their interests, how long they have given, how much, how they like to be addressed, and so on. With a good database, this information will be at your fingertips, ready at any time to help you identify key donors, plan for campaigns, craft targeted appeals, and send personalized thank you letters – all while avoiding critical errors that annoy donors.
That’s right folks, your database is the key to good donors relations. Here are some examples to get you thinking about just how valuable it can be:
Avoid critical errors that annoy potential and current donors
Have you ever spoken to a donor on the phone, only to find out they already had the same conversation with someone else at your organization? How about a donor calling in angry because your organization has once again got their name wrong on a solicitation letter, or worse, sent a solicitation letter to their deceased spouse?
Mistakes like this happen because information is poorly organized and managed. If they are common, donors will notice. In most cases they won’t even bother calling in to tell you they’re annoyed. Instead, they just stop giving.
With a good database, however, all activity is tracked and donor information is neatly stored away. You get donors names and preferences right, thank you letters are send out on time, and communications are tracked – all contributing to better donor relations. So three cheers for your database for keeping you organized, helping you avoid critical errors, and keeping donors happy!
Identify and cultivate key donors
Do you know that in most organizations approximately 90% of donations come from 10% of donors. It’s true, and it’s probably true for your organization as well. So, if you have limited resources to spend on development, you’re probably going to want to focus on this group. After all, they’re the ones sustaining your organization. This strategic approach to development is at the core of The Not For Profit Group’s pointed development training and it’s very smart!
In reality, however, many organizations don’t use this strategy. Instead, they treat all donors the same because it’s just too difficult to separate them or they aren’t using their database to it’s fullest potential. In the end, this blanket approach has severe consequences: top donors drop off because they don’t get enough attention or recognition, and resources are wasted on people who don’t have the means or interest to give to the organization.
If you are one of the lucky ones with a powerful database, however, you know that adopting a smart, strategic approach is easy. You can identify different groups likely to have the biggest impact on your organization and segment you database accordingly. You can then develop and follow through on a strategy for each. This approach not only allows you to spend development resources more wisely, but helps you raise a lot more money!
Create a targeted, personalized approach
Your database will also help you be strategic when soliciting prospects. Let’s say your annual fund is coming up and you need to raise a lot of money. You want to target those most likely to give – maybe people who have given $500 or more in the last two years, and those who attended an event or donated recently, but not too recently because you don’t want to pester them.
If information is poorly organized or managed, it might take hours, even days to pull this list together. With a good database, however, you are able to create this list in a few seconds. And you can segment this list further to deliver communications that are focused on the interests of your donors. A $5000 donor, after all, may be interested in different content than a $50 donor.
Once you’ve targeted your appeals, your database can then automatically personalize letters with details about your donors (proper name, address , and suggested donation amounts). In the end, these targeted, personalized appeals are well-received by donors. They get a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that the letter was intended for them specifically, and you see better response rates!
So have another look at your database. It is indeed a powerful donor relations tool that will help you avoid critical errors, focus on key donors and be strategic in solicitation. If used correctly, donors are happier, resources are spent more wisely and response rates are improved!
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