Focus On: Software: Are You Plugged In?
M.J. Dunion knew she had a mess to clean up six years ago when she was hired as director of development operations at Boston Medical Center, formed when a private academic medical institution and a city hospital merged. Her main task was to combine several departments that had been using different databases in fundraising efforts. She knew this largely was a matter of using the right technology as efficiently as possible.
In Dunion’s case, the choice was software made by Campagne Associates, the New Hampshire-based company that some BMC departments already were using prior to the merger. Integration of the various departments took nine months and involved eliminating pockets of redundant data. Campagne Associates found programmers to work on the conversion process and ultimately helped put in place a reliable database from which Dunion and BMC could analyze information about donors.
In the years since development operations were consolidated, annual donations have risen from $500,000 to $12 million at BMC, which provides a safety net for thousands of patients whose incomes fall below the poverty line. Several factors were involved — more development hires as well as establishment of comprehensive foundation, major gifts and events programs — but Dunion says there’s no doubt that technology played a major role in jump-starting fundraising efforts.
“With the right software you can be far more strategic and coordinated in the appeals you send out, the information you’re capturing, and in compiling information about donors and the goals you have set,” Dunion says.
The popularity of new fundraising tools begins to make sense when you think of the large numbers of people who have to be communicated with at a nonprofit hospital, homeless shelter, prep school, museum or environmental organization, etc. The donor database at a typical nonprofit is likely to be much more diverse than it was 30 years ago, when development professionals often “turned to a few rich people” for funding, says Craig Ahlquist, vice president and cofounder of Campagne Associates.