Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers



: serious and quiet because you are thinking: done or made after careful thinking   : done or made after careful thinking: showing concern for the needs or : showing concern for the needs of feelings of other people

Thoughtful Low Tech Project

I may be a self-confessed tech geek, but I still believe in backing up information to good old paper.  Once all the end of year gifts are entered and the thank you letters are mailed I usually try to do a quick check of my data for duplicates and oddities that can happen in the height of YEAR-END. Then I run a “donor profile report” on all donors over, say $250.00. I use three-hole paper and print it on both sides to save space and store the whole thing in a binder.

So what is this report?  You can find a pre-designed version in some CRM /Database programs. The problem with these reports is they are usually one donor per page reports, and that can use a lot of paper with even a medium sized donor list.

Try creating one in Word and merging it with an Excel spreadsheet of your donors. Promise me you will delete that spreadsheet once the merge is done. Spreadsheets are bad juju – in most cases. You could also use a program like Crystal Reports to create a more permanent solution. Crystal Reports is included with some CRM/Database programs. It can also be purchased separately I got mine from TechSoup.  It is well worth the cost and the time needed to learn it, which isn't long.  I use it all the time, and we will discuss one of my favorite custom reports an APPEAL VARIABLE REPORT in a future blog.

Your report only needs the following info -

Full Name Last Gift Amount
All Salutations Last Gift Date
Complete Address Last Gift Appeal
Phone First Gift Amount
Email First Gift Amount
Company Name First Gift Date
Spouse Info First Gift Appeal
Constituency Code Attributes
Total Giving Notes

It might look something like this-

The reason I picked these fields is that they are the basics you would need to rebuild your database if something happened. It also serves as a handy reference.  Click here to get a full-page example.

This report has saved me may times when I just need a piece of archived information, or my server is down. Just remember it is only a snapshot of your donors at a particular moment not a document to work from on an on going basis.

Later this month we will look at a couple of APPs that a will help you manage your data. Be sure to sign up to get updates if you are not presently receiving e-alerts.

January - Relationship Building Time 

What should the Thoughtful Approach development office be doing in January? Besides getting the last of those acknowledgment letters out by the second week of the month, you should be thinking about two things- which of your 2013 donors did not renew in 2014. As well as which donors from 2012 did renew after taking a year off.

It might seem like an odd place to start 2015 but building these two sets of donors could easily help prepare for success in 2016 and beyond. Look at who did not renew- not just your “major” donors but contributors at every level. 

First let's only look at renewals and two- year lapsed donors. I work very hard to have a renewals rate of at least 80%. That is relatively high so for the sake of this demonstration we will assume a 60% renewal rate on 10,000  donors (or 6,000 renewals). If that rate has held up over the last few years and your total donor population has stayed constant through acquisition you probably still have 4,000 lapsed donors from 2012. These are people who gave in 2012 but did not renew in 2013 or 2014.

Second, let's look at cost. We will take a tiny Peek at those acquisitions. I will hazard to guess that if you are mailing to 100,000 people and doing it really, really well you might be getting 1,000 new donors. Those new donors cost you a pretty penny.

Your renewals should only cost about .75¢ each which means your ROI for an average gift of $35.00 is $34.25 - not bad. Now what if you could get the 4,000 from 2012 to renew and do it at your average gift?  Here is my suggestion -

Why not make some calls or drop some notes to both of these groups? 

“Mrs. Donor, Thank you so much for renewing your donation to XXXXXX. But I am calling to learn more about your relationship with us and to invite you to …an XXXXX event. ” or “Mrs. Past Donor, I am calling to see how you are and to invite you to … “

Well, it doesn’t matter what you invite them to - just try to make a personal connection. In the course of your conversation, you will find out why they did or did not give in the past. You may also end up getting a renewal or even second gift. Most importantly, you will gain insight into who your institution's supporters are.  I would strongly recommend quantifying this information and adding it to your CRM.

What that data is will depend on your organization or agency. It most likely will include a paragraph on your conversation, what their connection is to you, which of your programs they have the greatest affinity for and why they gave in the past.



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