Digging Deep to Make the Most of Your Donor Data
If your organization uses a legacy donor database, “digging deep” might conjure up an image of sifting through unused zombie fields in various silos of data from different channels. Or maybe it spurs thoughts of spending hours trying to combine your lists of event attendees and campaign donors in a way that is meaningful to you.
You're not alone if the effort to sift through the data takes all the time you'd planned to gain insights from your data. Many nonprofit organizations keep their data in a variety of locations — from Excel spreadsheets and handwritten notes to databases that are only accessible through a single user or computer. This makes it challenging for your organization to understand its supporters and all the ways they connect with your nonprofit. And while you are trying to review donor interests and interactions, and recognize actionable patterns, your donors may be growing frustrated with your sporadic communications, inconsistent messaging or even at times inappropriate asks.
"Digging deep" can mean something else entirely to those with a next-generation donor database — a constituent relationship management (CRM) solution. It’s about seeing the multiple ways your organization has engaged with all its contacts and understanding your relationships with them, as well as their relationships with each other. With a holistic view of constituents’ activities, you can easily examine valuable data to learn more about what your donors want to accomplish by partnering with you. This can translate into regular, meaningful communications that are consistent with your brand and messaging, and that speak to the impact your donors can make jointly with you.
Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect from a CRM solution when you dig deep to make the most of your data. A CRM:
1. Makes every workday easier. Gone are the days when you had to open multiple applications to get a big-picture view of your supporter’s touchpoints. By consolidating your donor data into a single solution, your efficiency skyrockets. You can assign tasks to individual staff members, board members and volunteers; track their progress; and create step-by-step action plans that experienced and new staff can follow.
For example, when your organization receives a major donation, you can receive an e-mail notification as soon as the gift has been captured. Next, your CRM can prompt your development director to print and sign an acknowledgment letter your staff has customized for this expected gift. Finally, your president can get an e-mail with a phone script and a link to the donor’s phone number.
2. Automates accountability. A CRM also enables you to report on information in a way that makes sense to you and have reports sent to any decision maker automatically on a schedule that meets your needs.
“I think that we’re able to report better, and to figure out where we’re going to spot trends in ways that we were not able to do before,” says Jefferson Parker, vice president of operations at The V Foundation for Cancer Research, about his organization's CRM. “We have been able to do a lot more in working with our constituents rather than working on data about our constituents.”
3. Connects the dots between supporters. According to Jim Westfall, senior CRM consultant at Idealist Consulting, “Unless you have complete and accurate data in your database, you’re not going to be able to effectively reach and build relationships with constituents … and you’re not going to have the data to tell you how well you’re doing.”
Your CRM enables you to dig in to this critical relationship data to understand household relationships, as well as employer to employee, board member to community foundation, journalist to public official and volunteer to major donor relationships. This new visibility into how individuals and organizations are connected with each other helps you understand the big picture and what you need to do to leverage these relationships effectively.
4. Empowers your passionate employees. If your organization’s previous donor management system was not accessible via the Internet, or if it was not user-friendly, then you likely had to limit the number of staff who used it. Or perhaps there were privacy concerns about who could view what data, because your system had “all or nothing” access. Fortunately, the next-generation donor database takes minutes instead of days to learn and allows you to control permissions. Since more people in your organization can access the donor data they need, you can expect more collaboration between departments. Knowledge is power!
5. Works where you do. Whether you are on the road, at home or in the office, as long as you have Internet access, you can view, add or edit data in your CRM. You no longer have to wait until you are back at the office to update information about a constituent. Having detailed donor information at your fingertips can take your face-to-face engagements to an entirely new level.
Picture a scenario where you bump into a major donor while mingling before a dinner. Gone are the days when you scrambled to find Jane in development to find out whether the major-gift proposal has been presented yet. Now, by the time you sit down for your meal, you can review the proposal’s status, verify volunteering history, double-check spouse's name and discover a mutual acquaintance. You will have plenty of relevant information to talk about during the dinner and can easily show how much you value the donor's relationship with your organization.
6. Speaks your language. For many years, fundraisers have been forced to settle for a donor database that was designed with a “one size fits some” mentality. The next-generation donor database eliminates such constraints and gives you the flexibility to tailor your CRM in a way that meets your needs and business processes. Fields can be modified to reflect the language that you use in your organization. New fields can be added to incorporate information that is important to people in different departments (e.g., donors’ musical instruments played or locations of marathons finished). These changes can be made using clicks, which means that you no longer have to engage your IT department or a third-party techie to write code. The open and extensible nature of such a CRM also gives you the ability to move data in and out of the system — because your data should work for you and not the other way around.
With a modern constituent relationship management solution, your organization can take “digging deep” to a whole new level. Your next-generation database increases efficiency, improves coordination among your staff and — most importantly — enables you to strengthen your relationships with your donors, the lifeblood of your organization.