By Anne LeMesurier, MA – Managing Director, The Fundraising Lab
A well configured donor management system (DMS) is the most important asset of any fundraising program. Your DMS should be able to give you clear insights about your donors, capture their giving interests, and chart the evolution of their relationship to your organization.
If it is given the attention it deserves, your DMS will help you strengthen your connections with your donors and help you raise more money now and well into the future. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t realize that in order to access the insights needed to strengthen their relationships with donors, a DMS requires a clear strategy for data collection and data management.
If you’re looking to build a solid strategy to help you make data informed decisions about your donor relationships, here’s where you should start:
1. Check Your Coding Structure
Do you have a coding structure?
A donation coding structure is a clear set of values in fields like ‘Campaign’ or ‘Fund’ that work to identify how money is being raised and what it is being raised for. A good coding structure is made up of clearly defined field values that correspond to your major fundraising activities and enable you to easily report on your fundraising progress.
Being able to clearly identify what campaign your donors are giving towards enables you to steward donors according to what caught their attention. And knowing what fund a donor wishes to direct their money toward helps you understand what type of causes your donors care about.
These are all important details to use when speaking with donors in the future.
2. Track All Touchpoints
Donating is just one of the many actions a donor takes in their relationship to your organization. If the only thing your DMS is recording is basic donor and donation information, you’re missing out on all the other kinds of interactions your donors will have with your organization over their lifetime.
Your DMS should be tracking if a donor was invited to an event (and if they attended!), whether they received your annual report or clicked on a link in your recent email newsletter.
For personalized interactions, use the activities function to record all one on one touchpoints (calls, meetings, emails, thank-you letters, etc.) you have with your donors so you don’t forget important milestones in your relationship building.
And don’t forget to update your donor notes after every meeting! Notes are searchable and can be used to fill in details you learn as you build your relationship. Be sure to use a set of values to enable you to easily search for types of notes.
And remember: donors can request a copy of their record so don’t include anything you wouldn’t want them to read.
3. Manage The Right Relationships
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: fundraising is all about relationships.
And not just relationships between the funder and fundraiser. Donors and prospective donors often come to your cause through important people in their lives. For example, a board member may introduce you to their mother who then becomes a new donor. If you’re aware of this relationship, be sure to make use of your DMS’ relationship functionality to track the mother-son relationship.
Next time you’re chatting with your board member, they will be grateful you ask about their mother. Relationships can be specified for all kinds of unique relationships, like between spouses, siblings, and employer/employees and knowing this information will give you a deeper understanding of their lives.
4. Treat Donors How They Want to be Treated
Donating to an important cause is often a very personal and emotional experience. Make sure you’re handling donor information with care and asking for permission to acknowledge them publicly, like on your website or in your annual report. If you know they wish to remain anonymous, make sure to flag them as anonymous in your DMS and include that in any report you run that is designed to be made public.
If you do have permission to recognize your donors publicly, ensure you’re tracking the right recognition name (for example: Jim versus James) so they feel connected to the organization, instead of like a stranger. This goes for personalized stewardship, too.
By tracking donors’ preferred communication channels, like email vs. text message, you will be more likely to actually find a time to connect instead of playing telephone tag.
Get more out of your DMS by having a clear strategy in place for data collection and management. Collecting data allows you to answer many questions you may have about how your donors interact with your organization and should inform your outreach. Start implementing a data collection strategy and engage donors in a more thoughtful way to cultivate those all important relationships.
Learn how the CanadaHelps DMS features help you to manage your donor data and build relationships. Request a customized demo with our experts today!