Clear Communication Key to Get the Information You're Looking For
However, this advice comes with a warning: There is a vital communication step in this process that many organizations and vendors miss. That is to make sure the vendor gets a clear, unambiguous understanding of what you mean, even when you use familiar fundraising jargon. You may think you have been clear, but unfortunately the terms are not yet universally understood or applied in the fundraising world. And there is a danger that you and the vendor will have different assumptions of the meaning of the same concept — which could result in misleading information, leading to bad decisions.
For example, I have heard the term lifetime value to mean either the total sum of a donor’s contributions from the time she first connected with the organization, or the sum of the expected value of a donor’s gifts in the next five years, discounted year on year by the anticipated attrition rate and the effect of inflation. These are not the same things! We see this with other widely used terms in fundraising, such as ROI and retention.
It may seem obvious to you, but if you want good information, you should be explicit about your requirements. Then they can be written into the reports your system produces. The reward is that from that point forward you will get exactly the information you meant to get, which isn’t always the same as what the vendor first understood you to mean!
Robin Fisk is a senior charity technology specialist at Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit software provider Advanced Solutions International (ASI).