How Nonprofit CRM Management Can Improve Donor Stewardship

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By John Killoran

If your organization is looking for ways to amp up your donor stewardship and build better relationships with supporters, look no further than your nonprofit Customer Relationship Management (CRM). That’s right! Your CRM is full of useful management tools that can aid you in cultivating donors.

Unfortunately, many of these features go unnoticed by nonprofits or aren’t used to their full potential. That’s why we’ve created a list of ways your CRM can help take your donor stewardship to the next level.

With the help of your nonprofit CRM, you can improve donor stewardship by:

  1. Tracking important donor data.
  2. Segmenting donors to personalize your outreach.
  3. Hosting more engaging fundraising events.
  4. Managing your membership program.
  5. Forming an effective follow-up strategy.

We’ll dive deeper into each topic to teach you how to use the wonderful CRM tools at your organization’s disposal. Let’s jump right in with the first tip!

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1. Tracking Important Donor Data

At the core of any CRM is the ability to track and record important information about your donors. CRM software can pull together information from all your integrated fundraising tools and record the information into detailed donor profiles.

With information on every constituent in a centralized location, you’ll have a full picture of your supporters along with information on their passions, contact information, involvement in your organization, and much more.

This information can be valuable at every stage of the stewardship process, including when you’re:

  • Welcoming new donors to your nonprofit family. If you already have information about your new donors, use that to your advantage to suggest other ways for them to get involved in your organization.
  • Encouraging supporters to join your membership program. Using what you know about your supporters, you can promote the membership perks that will appeal to them the most.
  • Asking donors to volunteer. Your donor profiles have useful information on your supporters’ geographic location and history with your organization that can be used to motivate them to volunteer at an upcoming event.

In addition to basic information—names, contact information, giving history, etc.—most CRMs allow nonprofits to create custom fields where they can record information that’s specific to their nonprofit’s needs.

For example, if you run a local animal shelter, knowing whether your donors are pet owners may be a valuable piece of information to have, whereas, for a cancer research organization, it will be important to know whether your supporters are cancer survivors or know a loved one battling cancer.

Moreover, if you’re missing crucial constituent data, you can use prospect research to fill in some of the gaps in your donor profiles like occupation, other philanthropic involvement, and much more.  

Keeping a record of your donors’ details will come in handy as we discuss the other ways CRMs can improve donor stewardship. Therefore, it’s crucial that your data is up-to-date and accurate.

Nonprofits can achieve this by “spring cleaning” their donor database annually to catch and correct any mistakes in your data.

Final thought: Have a record of all the information you collect in the form of donor profiles so that you can use that information to build connections with supporters.  

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2. Segmenting Donors To Personalize Your Outreach

Developing genuine relationships with donors is the best way to retain their support. Communicating with supporters is about more than just updating them on various fundraising events or asking for donations; it’s about appealing to your donors’ interests as well.

Think about it this way: by targeting your donors’ interests and passions, you’ll have a better chance of getting a response and engaging your supporters.

With so many donors to track, how do you create more personalized communications?

The simple answer is through your donor management system. If your nonprofit CRM doesn’t have a built-in donor database, Double the Donation has a list of donor management software your organization can use.

Use donor management software to segment your donors into groups based on their:

  • Geographic location.
  • Giving history.
  • Preferred donation method.
  • Hobbies and interests.
  • Donor status (i.e. first-time, recurring, or major gift donor).
  • And so much more!

Dividing your donors into specific categories will help you tailor your communications to a particular group of individuals.

For instance, if you’re hosting a fundraising event, you may only want to promote it to donors who can realistically attend. As such, you might segment your donors by location and only send out information about your event to those who live nearby.

Alternatively, if you’re hosting a peer-to-peer fundraising event, you might want to reach out to your recurring donors first to ask if they want to participate. Since they give to your nonprofit on a regular basis, they may be looking for other ways to get involved in your mission.

When you provide donors with content that is valuable—whether it be based on their interests or location—donors are more likely to read and respond to what you have to say.

Final thought: Segmenting your donors is a great way to tailor your communications to provide content that they will appreciate the most.

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3. Hosting More Engaging Fundraising Events

A huge step in the stewardship process is showing donors that you value their support — not just their donations.

The only way to develop genuine relationships, after all, is by engaging with donors and not always asking for money.

Events, especially ones that require supporter involvement, offer organizations the perfect opportunity to celebrate their donors and get to know them a little better.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the perfect fundraising event to retain your donors’ support. Plus, many nonprofit CRMs come with additional modules that can assist in the planning and running of your fundraising event.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is when your supporters fundraise on your behalf by asking their friends and family to contribute to your cause. Not only does it give your loyal donors a way to advocate for your cause, but it’s the perfect event to gain new followers.

If you’re searching for a thorough look at peer-to-peer fundraising, BidPal has a complete guide that covers the ins and outs of this online fundraiser.

When donors campaign for your nonprofit and share their reasons for supporting your mission with loved ones, the process can revitalize your supporters passion for your cause.

Additionally, it gives them a way to support your cause that doesn’t require any monetary donations: all you need from your supporters is their time and motivation!

With the help of your CRM software, you can create an engaging peer-to-peer fundraiser with features like:

  • Leaderboards and badges. Add a little friendly competition into the mix with leaderboards and badges. This will motivate your supporters and keep them engaged throughout your event.
  • Fundraising thermometers. Let participants know how far they’ve come with thermometers that update to display the amount of funds each participant has raised.
  • Enhanced communications. Send out additional resources to your participants so that they’re well equipped to ask for donations. Keeping your supporters up-to-date is also a great way to interact with them and answer questions.

Final thought: With the help of your nonprofit CRM, you can create fundraising events that will engage your donors and help them develop closer bonds with your organization.

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4. Managing Your Membership Program

We mentioned membership programs earlier in this post —  and with good reason. Membership programs are an effective way to raise more money, but most importantly, they can be used to help retain supporters.

Membership programs can enhance involvement within a nonprofit organization by offering special perks. These perks might include things like free tickets to fundraising events, updates on projects before anyone else, and much more.

To become a member, donors will contribute a monthly or annual donation in the form of membership fees.

Many nonprofit CRMs come with built-in tools to help your organization manage a membership program by:

  • Building a website for your membership program.
  • Tracking membership fee collection.
  • Creating and automating program communication.
  • Managing perks and benefits.

These factors will help you create a membership program that donors want to participate in. Tasks like renewing memberships will be easy for donors to complete and you’ll be able to stay on top of membership outreach.  

Final thought: Membership programs can be a great asset to your organization, especially if you’re trying to boost your donor stewardship. Use the tools available in your nonprofit CRM to help you manage your program.

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5. Forming An Effective Follow-Up Strategy

Following up with donors is crucial to your stewardship strategy because it allows you to thank donors after they’ve contributed to your cause and provide them with additional ways to stay engaged with your nonprofit.

Many nonprofit CRMs come with tools like email automation, reminders, and tracking metrics to help you craft the perfect follow-up communications. On the other hand, there is plenty of free nonprofit software that may integrate with your CRM.

Let’s go back to segmenting your donors for a second. Knowing which donors contributed to your organization for the first time will be valuable information to know when creating a follow-up strategy.

If a donor is contributing for the first time, you might send additional information along with your acknowledgment letter to welcome them to your organization’s family. For instance, you could send them:

  • A welcome packet with more information on your organization’s history and mission.
  • Links to your social media accounts so that donors can interact with your organization on different channels.
  • Details about any upcoming fundraising events.

This information will have much more value to a first-time donor than to someone who has been contributing to your organization for years.

Alternatively, a donor that has given to your organization multiple times might find more value in learning about your recurring gift options or joining your membership program.

With your CRM, you should be able to set reminders to notify staff when they should send out follow-up emails or letters. Additionally, you can set up automated emails that will go out after a donor completes a specific action like donating on your mobile giving form.

As you may know, following up with donors is the first step in the stewardship process and first impressions matter! Put your best foot forward and engage with donors in a timely and effective manner.

Final thought: Software can help you perfect your follow-up communications. Use features like email automation and segmenting donors to create a great first impression.

With so many ways to boost your donor stewardship, CRMs are more than just data tracking tools. Use your nonprofit CRM to its full advantage to reap the benefits of long-lasting donor relationships!

John Killoran

John Killoran is CEO of @Pay, an exciting new fundraising technology that makes it easy for people to donate in two clicks from text, email, web and social media sites.  John pioneered SMTP payments and has been a major innovator in the mobile payments space for the past 5 years. When he is not running a company, he is cooking food for his family and telling his dogs to stop barking.

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Make a Smart Investment

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Many nonprofits, especially small ones, are working with limited resources (money, staff, time). I know how hard that is and your default mode may be to say we can’t afford to do this.  

Be careful. What are you saying you can’t afford to do? It may be something you should be doing.

Here are a couple of areas you may be neglecting that I believe you can’t afford not to invest in. You’ll need to spend some money up front, but it will pay off in the long run.

Invest in a good database

If you’re using Excel instead of a database because it’s free, stop doing that. A spreadsheet is not a database. Your Worst Fundraising Enemy

A good database won’t be free, but there are affordable options for small organizations. Compare Non-Profit Software  You don’t want to limit yourself by choosing 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.

A good database can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by amount 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 personalize your letters and email messages. No more Dear Friend. You can welcome new donors and thank donors for their previous support. You can send targeted mailings to lapsed donors to try to woo them back. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to your donor data. You can’t afford to do that.

Invest in direct mail

If you never or rarely use direct mail, you’re missing out on an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Think of the immense amount of email and social media posts you receive as opposed to postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.

If money is tight, you don’t have to mail that often. Quality is more important than quantity but aim for at least four times a year.

Put some thought into what you send. Some ideas, besides appeal letters, include thank you cards; Thanksgiving, holiday, or Valentine’s Day cards; infographic postcards; and two to four-page newsletters and annual/progress reports. Make everything donor-centered like the examples in this post. Your Donors Are Your Partners  You could put a donation envelope in your newsletter to raise some additional revenue, but don’t put one in a thank you or holiday card.

Shorter is better. Lengthy communication will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it.

A few ways you can use direct mail without breaking your budget are to clean up your mailing lists to avoid costly duplicate mailings, spread thank you mailings throughout the year – perhaps to a small number of donors each month, and look into special nonprofit mailing rates. You may also be able to get print materials done pro bono or do them in-house, as long as they look professional.

Of course, you can use email and social media, but your primary reason for communicating that way shouldn’t be because it’s cheaper. It should be because that’s what your donors use. If your donors prefer to communicate by mail, then you should too.

Invest in donor communications

Here’s some great wisdom from Tom Ahern If you do better donor-communications, you’ll have more money  This means thanking your donors and keeping in touch with them throughout the year.

Communication budgets often get the short shrift but creating thank you cards and infographic postcards are a smart investment. Perhaps you need to reallocate your budget to cover some of these expenses. You could also look into additional sources of unrestricted funding.

If you think you don’t have enough time or staff to send thank you cards, then call up your thank you army, which can include board members, volunteers, and all staff.

Don’t limit yourself by saying you can’t afford to do something important. If you invest in a good database, direct mail, and donor communications, you should be able to raise more money.

 

Time For Some Spring Cleaning

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If the idea of doing any type of cleaning makes you want to scream, just think of how much better you feel when it’s done. Your house sparkles and it can be cathartic to get rid of old clothes and shred paperwork you’ve had since the Clinton Administration. Often getting started is the hardest part.

The same is true for your nonprofit organization.Yes, you have a bunch of so-called cumbersome tasks you should do. But they’re important, and you’ll benefit a lot if you take care of them.

Here are a few spring cleaning projects you should tackle.

Clean up your mailing lists and database

Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? Now is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.

Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and database to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.

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.

Your donor database is an important tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.

How are you doing?

We’re three months into 2016. This is a good time to look at your fundraising and marketing plans to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and if you’re on target with your goals. If you never created these plans, then one of your first priorities is to do that. Don’t go through the year without having any plans in place.

It may be too early to do much of an assessment, but if something clearly isn’t working or needs to be improved, you still have time to fix it.

Is your website driving people crazy?

Has it been awhile since you updated your website?  Is it cumbersome to use? Even with the popularity of social media, people will go to your website for information, whether they’re first-time visitors or long-time supporters.

Your website must be up-to-date and user-friendly. Use the checklist in this post to help you create an awesome website. Is Your Website in Good Shape?

Freshen up your appeal letters and thank you letters

Take a good look at your appeal letters, thank you letters, and other content. Have you been using the same templates for years?  Are your letters all about how great your organization is and filled with jargon? Freshen them up with some donor-centered content. Is Your Organization Donor-Centered? Find Out by Taking This Quiz

Let it go

Your organization may have held an event for years, but it takes a lot of staff time and doesn’t bring in that much money. Just like your favorite sweater that’s looking pretty ratty now, it may be time to let go of this event and find a different way to raise money. How to Calculate A Fundraising Event’s Opportunity Cost

Think better rather than new

It’s tempting to try something new, but don’t just jump into the latest craze. Focus on what you can do better. Your brand new shiny object can be creating donor-centered content and building relationships.

One “new” thing you should be doing better is to be mobile friendly. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone?  If people can’t easily view your website and email messages on their mobile devices, you’re missing out.

Take time this spring to make the updates and changes you need.

We Can’t Afford This

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How often do you say that? I understand. Many nonprofits are stretched thin, But what are you saying you can’t afford to do? It may be something you should be doing.

Here are a couple of areas that you may be neglecting that I believe you can’t afford not to invest in.

You need a good database

If you’re using Excel instead of a database because it’s free, stop doing that. A spreadsheet is not a database. Your Worst Fundraising Enemy

A good database won’t be free, but there are affordable options for small organizations. Compare Non-Profit Software  You don’t want to limit yourself by choosing a database that can only hold a certain amount of records or can only be used on one computer because you don’t want to pay for additional licences.

A good database can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by amount 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 personalize your letters and email messages. No more Dear Friend. You can welcome new donors and thank donors for their previous support. You can send targeted mailings to lapsed donors to try to woo them back. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to your donor data. You can’t afford to do that.

You need to use direct mail more often

If you never or rarely use direct mail, you’re missing out on an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Think of the mammoth amount of email and social media posts you receive as opposed to postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.

If money is tight, you don’t have to mail that often. Quality trumps quantity but aim for at least four times a year.

Put some thought into what you send. Some ideas, besides appeal letters, include thank you cards; Thanksgiving, holiday, or Valentine’s Day cards (I received a very nice Valentine’s Day card from an organization); infographic postcards; and two to four-page newsletters and annual/progress reports. You could put a donation envelope in your newsletter to raise some additional revenue, but don’t put one in a thank you or holiday card  Shorter is better. Lengthy communication will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it.

A few ways you can use direct mail without breaking your budget are to clean up your mailing lists to avoid costly duplicate mailings, spread thank you mailings throughout the year – perhaps to a small number of donors each month, and look into special nonprofit mailing rates. You may also be able to get print materials done pro bono or do them in-house, as long as they look professional.

Of course, you can use email and social media, but your primary reason for communicating that way shouldn’t be because it’s cheaper. It should be because that’s what your donors use. If your donors prefer to communicate by mail, then you should too.

Make a smart investment

You often need to spend money to raise money. Perhaps you need to reallocate your budget to cover some of these expenses. You could also look into additional sources of unrestricted funding.

Don’t limit yourself by saying you can’t afford to do something important. Making smart investments should pay off in the long run.

Photo via Pictures of Money

 

Make an Investment in Your Donors

This post was included in the November Nonprofit Blog Carnival: A Call to Abundance

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I know many nonprofits have limited resources.  These can include budget, time, and staff.  I also know it’s hard when you feel you’re barely scraping by.  But there are some areas where you can’t skimp.  Think of it as making an investment in your donors.

Invest in a good database and email service provider

The best ones aren’t free.  Fundraising consultant Pamela Grow gives an example of being told to weed out donor data because the database the organization had was only free if it held less than 500 donor records.

This is crazy.  A better database and email service provider can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by amount and politely ask them to give a little more in your next appeal – $35 or $50 instead of $25.

A better database can help you with retention. You can personalize your letters and email messages.  No more Dear Friend.  You can welcome new donors and thank donors for their previous support. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to your donor data. Here’s more information to help you find a database and email service provider that’s right for you.

Finding the Right Donor Database for Your Nonprofit

Compare Non-Profit Software

The 4 Best Email Marketing Software for Nonprofits

MailChimp vs Constant Contact: Which Email Marketing Software Reigns Supreme for Small Businesses?

Invest in direct mail

Direct mail is an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Every day we’re barraged with email and social media posts, but receive just a few pieces of postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.

You don’t have to mail that often but aim for at least three or four times a year.  I know it can be expensive, so be smart about what you send. Two to four-page newsletters and annual reports are fine. Lengthy communication will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it.  Remember to also make everything  you send donor-centered.

Plan ahead.  If you have a small staff, you may need to start working on a special Valentine’s mailing right after New Year’s.

Cleaning up your mailing lists will help you avoid costly duplicate mailings. Look into using discounted mailing options, too. Special Prices for Nonprofit Mailers

Invest in thanking your donors

This is so important! Nonprofit organizations tend to do a poor job of thanking their donors.

Ideally, your donors should get a handwritten thank you card or a phone call.  Even though these take more time, it’s time well spent. At many of the small nonprofits I’ve worked at, it was all hands on deck to get out our fundraising appeals.  Staff and volunteers would stuff envelopes and write handwritten notes on the letters.

Do the same when you thank your donors.  Get your board involved in making phone calls or writing cards.  Recruit volunteers to help, too.

Take time each day you get a donation to make phone calls, write cards, or send letters.  Don’t let board members put off making calls or let a stack of letters sit on your ED’s desk.

Create a thank you plan to help you and don’t treat thanking your donors as an afterthought.

Make it work

If you can’t increase your budget, find additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover these costs. You may also be able to find a sponsor or get a print shop to print your thank you cards or annual report pro bono.

Do something. You must make an investment in your donors.

Photo by ota_photos  www.tradingacademy.com   

 

 

Nonprofit Spring Cleaning Part One – Tackling Your Donor Data

8016192302_0e9c4b7170_zSpring is finally here, and after the winter we’ve had in Boston, it’s about time.  Spring is a time for new beginnings. It’s a time to clean up, throw stuff out, and make room for improvements.

Many of you may take on spring cleaning projects in your home. Here are a few spring cleaning projects you can do that will benefit your nonprofit organization.

Clean up your mailing lists
Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? Now is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.

Update and improve your donor database
Your donor database is an important tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.

Your database isn’t just a place to keep addresses and gift amounts.  Use it to its full potential.  Segment your donors, and record any personal information such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest. 6 Quick Tips to Clean Up Your Donor Database and Keep It Humming

Don’t cut corners when it comes to data entry and managing your data. 8 Tips to Strengthen Your Database to Help Build a Strong Donor Base 

Invest in a good database, if you don’t already have one.  Here’s more information to help you find a database that’s right for you. Finding the Right Donor Database for Your Nonprofit 

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

As you go through your database, you may notice some donors who didn’t donate in 2014. Reach out to them.  Maybe they were too busy to donate at the end of the year.

Send these donors a personalized letter or email. Let them know you miss them and want them back.  Go back at least a couple of years, although at some point you may want to purge certain donors from your database. The elusive lapsed donor: devise a plan to get them back

Be ready for your next mailing

Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and database to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.

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.

Getting your mailing list and database in order is crucial if you’re planning a spring appeal or event.

Make spring relationship building season

Even if you aren’t planning a spring fundraising drive, this is a good time to continue to build relationships.  Plan to mail a thank you post card or short update.  Mail is generally better than email, because your donors are more likely to see your message, but if your budget doesn’t allow it, send something by email.  Either way you want all your donor info in tip-top shape.

Take advantage of your time between campaigns and tackle your donor data.

Photo by Justin Grimes