Summer Fundraising Work

I hate July and August at work. Why, well, there is not enough to do. Summer is hard on fundraisers. Maybe there is a direct mail and an email appeal, but try making calls - no one is home or wants to talk about supporting your organization. Ok, I am a bit pessimistic, but it is somewhat true. So, what can you do during the lazy, hazy days of summer?

Clean up your data!

Yes, I know that is everyone’s least favorite thing to do. Surely, we can find something else to do? Well, you couldn’t do something that would be as helpful to your overall fundraising program.  I guarantee your database, no matter how hard you work during the year to keep it clean, isn’t as clean as it could be.  Everyone’s database can use a good data health checkup.

What to look for: old prospects, duplicate records, old organization records, organization contacts and employees, and incomplete records.

Let’s take your individual records as an example.  How do you handle a couple?  Do you create a record for each person, no matter who signed the check?  If so, are you sure you aren’t mailing two pieces to those households?  Are you sure that one isn’t getting a renewal letter while the other is getting a lapsed or acquisition letter?  That would be embarrassing and a waste of money. I prefer couples to have a master record and then a spouse/partner record attached if your system allows you to create that type of record.  If it doesn’t, I would create one couples record with the proper addressee and salutation.  You are less likely to offend if you send it to both of them than the wrong one or send too many appeals.

Organizations have their unique challenges. A gift from a company must be credited to the company’s record, but there was certainly a person who either authorized or solicited the gift on your behalf.  If your system allows this, add that person as the contact on a specific gift.  This is especially true if it is a big company where you might have multiple relationships.  Maybe you do three events a year and get a corporate gift from the company, and each has its own contact.  You don’t want the company in your database three times. You want to have some system in place to write the correct person for each "ask."  And remember that your contact may change from year to year.  I worked with an organization once where large companies sometimes had hundreds of individual records attached to their file.  Many of these people no longer even worked for the company.  And when they mailed to the company, it would pull every single one of those contacts. What a waste, and how embarrassing. Luckily, their CRM allowed them to create different types of contacts and then choose the type when creating a solicitation mailing.

Then there are just dupes. It happens to the best of us.  I have an initial in front of my name, so sometimes I end up in charity CRMs up to three times.  Nothing annoys me more than getting multiple mailings from a charity I support, and I understand how it could happen. Now imagine I am just a regular donor who chose to give your organization a modest gift, and the next year I get multiple "ask" letters. That would not be good stewardship.

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