What type of donor database do you have, or do you even have one at all? If you’re using Excel instead of a database because it’s free, stop doing that. A spreadsheet is not a database.
A good database won’t be free, but there are affordable options for small organizations.
You don’t want to limit yourself by having a database that can only hold a certain number of records or can only be used on one computer because you don’t want to pay for additional licenses.
I’m not an expert on databases, but I do know how important it is to invest in a good one.
A good database can help you raise more money
Although you’ll have to spend a little upfront, a good database will help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by the amount they give and politely ask them to give a little more in your next appeal – $35 or $50 instead of $25.
A good database can help you with retention, which will save you money since it costs less to keep donors than to acquire new ones. You can segment your mailing lists by current donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc. Donors like it when you recognize them for who they are. A personalized appeal letter will make a huge difference.
An organization that I support recently sent an appeal for a special initiative. Instead of sending a generic appeal, they specifically thanked me for being a generous donor and for my most recent gift before asking me to consider an additional gift this year. They couldn’t have done that without using a database that can segment donors.
Segmenting your donors is so important. You can welcome new donors and thank donors for their previous support. You can also send targeted mailings to lapsed donors to try to woo them back. You may be able to raise a little more money by reaching out to your lapsed donors.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to your donor database. You can’t afford to do that.
Take good care of your donor data
Having a good database is the first step. The best database in the world won’t do you much good if you don’t take good care of your donor data.
Many nonprofits don’t pay enough attention to their donor data and leave data entry as a last minute to-do item for volunteers.
Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. I know it’s tedious, but have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.
You can have volunteers do your data entry, but they need to be meticulous. No donor wants to see her name misspelled, be addressed as Mrs. when she prefers Ms., or receive three mailings because you have duplicate records. It will also save you money if you’re not sending unnecessary mail.
It may not seem like a big deal, but you don’t want to annoy your donors. Paying more attention to your data entry shows your donors you care.
Take care of any address changes as soon as you get them. You can also run your donor list through the National Change of Address database. It may cost some money to do this, but it’s worth it if you come out with pristine data.
Your donor database is an important tool. You need a good one and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors. It’s well worth the investment.