Last week we participated in a webinar on donor databases titled “Data Data Everywhere. Mining for Gold in your Donor Database.” This hour-long discussion was conducted by Fundraising Success magazine and featured three presenters: Amanda Mallinger Reinartz, Manager Product Development, Metafile; Jodi Scheib, Vice President, Fundraising, DMW Direct; and Joe Hamilton, Director of Development, Franciscan Friars. We often counsel our clients on the importance of having a well organized, updated database in order to manage their donors. One of our first questions when meeting with a client to discuss plans for a campaign is what type of database do you use, how far back does it go, and what do you do to keep it current? The Fundraising Success webinar echoed our counsel when it stressed the necessity of “clean data.”
No matter how strategic your fundraising plan may be, without updated data (contact information, giving history, relationship to the organization, etc), you will not be able to communicate effectively with your donors. By using the NCOA (National Change of Address) feature that many database providers offer, and by routinely asking your constituents to provide updated contact information, you can help ensure your data is current. Make it a priority to review, de-duplicate, and update your database on an annual basis.
Furthermore, everyone on staff in your organization should be made aware of the importance of capturing accurate, current information about your various constituents from board members to volunteers to event attendees. Whenever an external interaction occurs, it should be recorded for future outreach. Anyone taking calls from donors or interacting with them at events should understand what data is collected and why. This best practice helps ensure personalized, segmented communication to your various constituents. Donors like to feel unique and know that you care about them. The more information you capture on each person, the easier it is to customize your outreach and remain effective in your solicitations.
Remember, data is critical to a strategic fundraising plan. Hundreds and thousands of records may be intimidating at times, but think through what you want to get out of your data; then it will be much easier to organize and manipulate the information. As Joe Hamilton, one of the webinar’s presenters, stated: you must know how to query your data. If you don’t know how to pull the information you want, the data isn’t worth anything. We ask our clients if they can navigate and manipulate the information they capture, and can they query the data to determine patterns and trends among various constituencies. This information can help inform future solicitations. Finally, once you make the investment in a database, be sure at least one, if not more, staff are trained on how to use it!