Almost any nonprofit can explain the importance of donor data or fundraising database. It tells you who your donors are, how to reach them, and approximately how much they can give.
While all of this is true, your donor data is more than just information. It’s the foundation of your fundraising strategy and the ultimate success of your mission.
It’s important that you not only prepare your data for success in advance, but that you can make sense of the data you gather.
Following these 5 comprehensive strategies can help you collect, interpret, and capitalize on your donor data:
- Standardize your data.
- Record personal interactions.
- Craft a data-driven marketing strategy.
- Segment your donors.
- Leverage your connections.
Let’s discuss each strategy in more detail.
1. Standardize your data.
One of the most important considerations for keeping your data orderly is standardizing the process for data entry.
Your nonprofit may be entering data manually, or your fundraising software may be integrating online donations into your CRM automatically. Either way, it’s important that you have a process in place for data entry or review so that your data is consistent across the board.Keeping your data clean is vital to the long-term success of your fundraising efforts. After all, duplicate profiles, out-of-date and inaccurate information, and incomplete profiles will slow down the fundraising process and burden your team.
Their primary focus should be on building relationships with your donors. Streamline the process by managing donor data on the frontend.
Every organization will have different preferences for standardizing data, but here are just a few considerations to keep in mind:
- Will you use abbreviations in addresses (i.e. Street vs. St.)?
- Will you record vendors as individuals or as corporate entities?
- How will you indicate inactive or deceased donors?
- How will you enter hyphenated, suffixed, or prefixed names into your database?
Though all of these factors can seem minor, they can cause unnecessary challenges when little differentiations add up.
If you haven’t already done so, determine your standards and create a document or checklist with simple instructions on the data entry process. Your data will likely change hands more than once; a well-documented entry process can save your organization a headache down the road.In summary: Standardizing your data will set your organization up for long-term success by keeping everything accurate, relevant, and up-to-date.
2. Record personal interactions.
When it comes to filling out donor profiles, most organizations have the basics down. Just in case you need a refresher, your donor profiles should include:
- Personal information.
- Affinity for giving.
- Ability to give.
- Linkage to your organization.
All of this information can be used to assist individual fundraisers when meeting with prospects (in fact, 97% of prospect researchers in this WeDid.It survey claimed that building these prospect profiles was a fundamental apsect of their job).
If individual fundraisers are using this information to interact with donors, then it stands that these profiles need to be updated and corroborated based upon the outcome of their conversations with donors.
After all, reaching out to donors is about building relationships. As a relationship grows, an individual fundraiser will learn more about who the donor is and how to reach them. Recording this information can help your nonprofit stay connected to a donor, even if the individual fundraiser in question leaves your organization.
Personal interaction history can include:
- Records of email exchanges.
- Details from personal phone calls and in-person meetings.
- Copies of personalized thank you letters.
- Cultivation history.
- Notes of a donor’s general preferences and personal interests.
Capitalizing on your donor data means taking this non-standard data into consideration.
After all, your donors are complex, whole individuals who can’t be broken down into a typical profile. Recording this information can help ensure that each new interaction is built off of the last but is still unique enough that it feels personal.
To record personal interactions, your nonprofit should make use of fields for comments or additional notes.
Though this involved process will likely be reserved for your high-level donors, such as major donors and planned gift donors, you can still record interactions with your donors as a whole.
To do so, you can:
- Send out surveys asking for donors’ thoughts on events and your general fundraising campaigns.
- Collect and respond to comments via your social media pages.
- Provide donors with contact information so that they can send feedback if they feel compelled to.
- Pay attention to how your donors communicate about your cause with each other.
Understanding your donors’ preferences and how they feel about your cause on the whole can help you tailor your fundraising efforts.
In summary: Recording personal interactions with donors allows your fundraisers to build deeper relationships. Doing so shows that your organization considers your donors as people, not just as ATMs for your cause.
3. Craft a data-driven marketing strategy.
Once you have access to complete, clean data, it’s important that you put it to good use. Looking at statistics from your nonprofit’s past fundraising campaigns can help you craft a strategy that your donors will respond to.
The most fundamental piece of data for your marketing strategy should be your donors’ preferred communication channels. This is how your donors want your organization to communicate with them.
You may, for example, find that your organization boasts high email open rates, which suggests that email is an effective tool for engagement. Or, you may have several high-level donors who respond particularly well to phone calls.
Knowing how your donors want to interact with your nonprofit can help you reach them where they already are.
However, you don’t want to oversimplify preferred communications. Preferences can change depending on the fundraising platform your organization is using.
According to this Fundly resource, 17% of crowdfunding donations are made on a mobile device. Likewise, 16% of peer-to-peer donations are referred directly from Facebook, according to this Qgiv guide. There are plenty of outside sources like these that can inform your marketing strategy.If you’re planning on starting a new fundraising campaign on an untested platform, then you can use these general statistics to gain a sense for how to best launch the campaign. Alternatively, if you have access to data within your nonprofit, then you can reference that information to craft your outreach strategy.
The point is that knowing which channels work for each campaign structure can help you reach donors more organically.
Apart from the communication channels in question, your organization will need to isolate the factors that can contribute to higher response rates. Some of these factors include:
- Email subject lines.
- The style of envelopes for mailed materials.
- The language used in the communication.
- The call to action.
- Photos or videos.
- The time at which the communication was received.
Study your past campaigns and responses if you haven’t done so already. This data is a valuable goldmine that can help you pinpoint which factors will lead to the greatest possible response.
In summary: Use your nonprofit’s data, as well as outside sources, to determine how donors want to be engaged during specific types of campaigns. Doing so can ensure that your communications are effective, increasing the positive response that you receive.
4. Segment your donors.
When it comes to communicating with donors, data-driven marketing is the first step. What follows is personalizing your communications so that donors feel valued at your organization.
Segmenting your donors can help you identify key characteristics in certain groups. Additionally, you can send these groups more relevant appeals and communications.
In fact, not segmenting your donors can cost your organization money. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to determine what kind of segmentation will work best for your campaign.
You can, for example, segment by:
- Average gift size.
- Giving frequency.
- Demographics, such as age and location.
- Preferred giving channel.
- Event attendance.
In any of these cases, you can target your donor groups with materials that matter to them. Frequent donors will likely appreciate updates from your organization on the progress of your campaign, while newer donors would need to be welcomed into your organization first. Likewise, major donors would likely enjoy regular thank you letters, while mid-level donors could benefit from communications that focus on increasing their engagement.
Segmenting donors can help you identify which donors you can transition into higher giving levels.
Narrowing down your donors into different groups can ease the process of prospect research, so that you can dedicate your time, money, and resources toward your most likely donors.
For example, you may decide to perform a prospect screening on donors who are already engaged with your organization. To make this example more specific, you may decide to segment the attendees of your latest auction to perform a prospect screening. Since these donors have demonstrated their interest and support toward your nonprofit by attending your event, they have the potential to become high-level supporters. As such, a screening can reveal more comprehensive information that will allow you to pinpoint attendees with the most potential.In summary: Segmenting your donors can allow you to reach them more effectively and target specific donor groups.
5. Leverage your connections.
Your supporters can offer more than donations to your nonprofit. They can also provide your organization with networking opportunities to promote the long term success of your cause.
Your donors, board members, volunteers, and staff can all have valuable connections that you can tap into.
After all, the most valuable source for donor acquisition is referrals from current donors. If this doesn’t demonstrate the importance of networking, we don’t know what does.
The most revealing data that can help your organization identify relevant connections can be:
- Business affiliations.
- Alma maters.
- Institutional ties.
- Spousal or familial relationships.
Any of this data can reveal a connection that your nonprofit can leverage. Not all valuable connections are based on donor acquisition either.
For example, knowing your donors’ employers can help you identify matching gifts opportunities. Matching gifts occur when a donor’s employer matches the employee’s donation, usually on a 1:1 ratio (though the ratios can go higher).
Plus, matching gifts are great for employees and employers. Matching gifts allow employees and employers to build a stronger relationship and stay engaged. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 71%.
Knowing where your donors work can help you guide them toward the steps to applying for matching gifts. Or, you can identify potential corporate partnerships for fundraising events, cause marketing, in-kind donations, and more.
The same sentiment can be applied to the other kinds of connections that donors have. The key is to know what resources are available, so that your nonprofit can capitalize on them.
Once you’ve identified connections that you want to pursue, you can initiate contact by:
- Working with an individual donor, board member, or volunteer who can introduce you to the connection.
- Partnering with an enthusiastic individual who will lead the charge in soliciting the resources that your organization needs.
- Sending an email blast to supporters with valuable connections, with instructions on how they can use those connections to further your cause.
- Launching a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign so that your donors are empowered to seek these connections for themselves.
No matter what strategy you use, knowing which donors can leverage which connections can help you initiate the most natural contact.
In summary: Networking with your donor database can help you gain valuable connections and resources.Bonus: For comprehensive information on matching gifts, you can check out this DonorSearch resource!
Your donor data is some of the most valuable information that your nonprofit has.
Capitalizing on your data is important not just for fundraising, but for building stronger donor relationships and furthering your cause. Approaching your donor data with these strategies in mind can help you use your resources to their full advantage.