OK, fundraisers and nonprofit people: you gotta have a real donor database. Seriously.
Not Excel. Not some do-it-yourself database patched together in Filemaker by your cousin Vinny. Not your Quickbooks accounting software. Not your Outlook address book or your MailChimp subscriber list. And I’m going to ruffle some feathers and suggest that you avoid Salesforce, even though it’s free for nonprofits.
These are all wonderful software tools. But….
These are not donor databases
Let me ask you this: would you try to build your own vacuum cleaner? Would you try to adapt your leaf-blower or hair dryer to clean your floors? Heck, no! It would cost too much, take too long and you’d have a lousy vacuum cleaner at the end.
You can plunk down anywhere from $45 to $600 dollars for a vacuum cleaner at Target today and start sucking up dirt this afternoon. You can buy parts and get repairs almost anywhere or anytime.
It’s the same with dedicated donor management systems. Why use do-it-yourself solutions to a problem that professionals solved long ago? Anthony Bakker created the Blackbaud company (which sells Raiser’s Edge) in 1981. For the last 35 years, Blackbaud and its dozens of competitors have been refining, perfecting and adapting their donor database softwares. Every day they strive to meet the evolving real-life needs of frontline fundraisers at the world’s large and small nonprofit organizations.
There is no reason you should use anything but a dedicated, professionally developed, off-the-shelf system specifically created to manage nonprofit donor programs. A good fundraiser will have this tool open nearly all the time. It’s the system that organizes a fundraiser’s day, recording new gifts, taking notes on donor contacts, assigning tasks to staff and volunteers, setting campaign and donor targets, launching segmented emails, mailing and other appeals. And much more.
The more difficult question is which one to get. There are dozens if not hundreds of products described as donor management software. Costs range from free to thousands of dollars per month and the feature sets vary at least as widely. Some of them won’t work well for you. Some of them don’t work well for anyone.
No one can stay current on all the donor databases out there. These roundups at Idealware and TechSoup are years old. We can’t keep up either. And we’re not primarily database professionals. But we’ve worked with several of the most-used systems. In a next post, we’ll look at some ways you can zero in on the right donor database system for your nonprofit. But if you want to save time, here’s our current top pick for most smaller nonprofits: Little Green Light. We love Little Green Light. Tell you why soon.
If you’re waiting for a rising tide of charitable giving, you may already have missed it.
Charitable giving in the U.S. reached an all-time high of $416 billion in 2013, according to the Atlas of Giving’s latest report on giving in the last 12 months, an increase of 13.3% over 2012. Looking ahead, the Atlas projects giving growth of just 4 percent for 2014.
Giving to philanthropies that receive most of their gifts from major donors and foundation grants grew the most. Human services received 19.1 percent more gifts and grants than in 2012. Environmental organizations saw giving grow by 18.5 percent. That’s because a booming stock market and recovering real estate caused a huge jump in the value of assets, according to Mitchell.
Religious organizations did not fare as well, reflecting their reliance on the current incomes of less affluent donors. With employment high and wages flat, giving to religion rose just 8.8 percent.
Looking ahead, you still have a chance to claim a piece of 2013’s stock market Read more
The report pointed to many things, including a lack of a culture of philanthropy among these nonprofits, the stiff competition from the largest nonprofits to recruit talented fundraisers, a lack of support from the leadership of the organization for fundraising and a lack of tools for fundraisers in organizations.
In my own experience working with dozens of nonprofit organizations, here are a few of the problems I’ve seen:
Are you curious what the revenue profile is of organizations similar to yours? Finding good data on other organizations is challenging. It can be frustrating as well as its not always possible to really compare apples to apples. The only really good way to get the detailed level of data you might be looking for is to call your colleague at another organization and ask if they’ll share detailed information about their revenue streams. Not everyone may, but we’ve found that organizations can be quite generous in their willingness to help a colleague.
For nonprofits, however, the phone is still a very powerful tool and should not be neglected. It connects people in a real way, and this connection makes donations soar!
Here are 3 proven ways to increase donations using a simple phone call that does not involve asking for money. Instead, these phone calls are to thank donors, update them and offer encouragement. The results are astounding!
Very smart of this nonprofit to tell me who was helping me. And to not be shy about making the ask — in a place where they had my full attention.
how do you get board members to participate in fundraising? Here’s are 12 things not to do: 1. Taking them for granted. 2. Assuming group decisions will motivate individual action. 3. Using scolding to produce action. …