Donor Data Management: A Quick Guide for Nonprofits
90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years, with no slowdown in sight. The world is both a data-filled and data-driven place— and data is only becoming more prevalent.
But, why does that matter to nonprofits? Data can help your mission-driven organization perform an action vital to its success: connecting with donors. Donors are the people who keep your nonprofit going by giving their time, money, and support to your cause. It’s imperative you maintain your relationship with them to hold their attention and support.
However, data will only work magic for your donor relationships if it is properly managed. Incorrect contact information, statistics, and reports will do more harm than good.
That’s where we come in! Your friends at NPOInfo will cover these topics related to stellar donor data management to help your nonprofit make the most of its data:
- What is donor data management?
- How do you keep your donor information organized?
- What donor data should you collect?
- Donor Database Best Practices
Ready to learn the ins and outs of donor data management? Let’s dive in.
What is donor data management?
Donor data management is the process of maintaining your nonprofit’s data over time, ensuring it’s accurate and well-organized.
Donor data management is important for a number of reasons. Good donor data management will ensure your nonprofit has accurate and easily accessible information to get in touch with your donors. When properly segmented, your data will let you know which ones to reach out to for which specific reasons.
Donor data management will allow you to produce thorough and exact reports detailing your nonprofit’s operations. You’ll have all the stats you need to illustrate the impressive work of your organization!
This is an ongoing process with no clear beginning or end. Your nonprofit will constantly be acquiring new donor data, updating old donor data, and using current donor data to support its initiatives.
Here’s a list of the three main components of donor data management:
- Collecting Data: This is the step where you gather new donor information. Collecting data could be en masse, like sending out a survey that garners many responses or investing in a nonprofit data append. It could also be ongoing, like collecting donor details one at a time as they donate.
- Maintaining Data: Maintaining data refers to checking it and making corrections as necessary. Whether it be weekly, monthly, or a different time span that suits your nonprofit, you should make a habit of regularly updating your data. For more information on maintaining your nonprofit’s database, check out this full guide to data hygiene here.
- Using Data: Here is the part where you reap the benefits of your hard work! You can use your donor data to fundraise, generate reports, thank your donors, reach out to volunteers, advertise for an upcoming event, and more.
Now that you know what donor data management is, we’ll tell you how to keep your donor data organized.
How do you keep donor information organized?
Even if you have hundreds, or thousands, of donors to keep track of, donor data management does not have to be a scary, complicated, or intimidating process. There are many simple tips and tricks to keeping your donor information organized.
Here are seven of our most dependable strategies:
- Keep your data in one place. When you need to do anything data-related, it’ll be much easier to have all your information in the same spot. Keep all your data in the same constituent relationship management (CRM) system to save yourself from constantly digging around for the data you need. Make sure your various nonprofit technologies integrate with your CRM, so data can flow seamlessly into your main donor database.
- Use a standardized format. There are many ways to say the same thing— for instance, St. versus St versus Street. Make sure you’re staying consistent across entries so that it’s easier to find and organize information later on.
- Develop data entry guidelines. Your nonprofit should have an outlined data entry process. Who will enter the data, one specific person or many people? Also, will you always search the database before entering to avoid duplicate entries? To see the best results and greatest efficiency, decide your rules in advance.
- Plan for exceptions. When there’s a rule, there’s always an exception. Your nonprofit will inevitably run into a piece of information that poses a previously unconsidered problem. Go ahead and think about how you want to deal with those details in advance.
- Review your data. Like with data maintenance, it’s important to have a routine when it comes to data review. You could go over it daily, weekly, monthly, every other month, etc., all depending on your nonprofit’s priorities. Just be sure to review it and make necessary changes— it’ll be so nice to have updated data ready when you need it as opposed to putting it off for later.
- Train your staff. Even if not everyone will be involved with data entry, all nonprofit employees should at least be familiar with your donor data management processes. Chances are someone might need help with data in the future, and they will have the help they need if the whole organization is in the loop.
- Segment your data. Once you have all your data organized in the same place, you should break it down into helpful categories. There are many possibilities for segmentation: location, age, frequency of giving, and more.
You’re now a data organization pro, but what kind of data should you even be organizing? Read on for our recommendations for what types of donor data to collect.
What donor data should you collect?
Donor data is an invaluable resource for your nonprofit. Within the donor data realm, there are many specific pieces of info you can gather that will be useful to your organization. There are also pieces that wouldn’t be useful at all.
Follow our guide below to get the best donor data for your nonprofit.
Demographics categorize members of a population by defining characteristics. As a nonprofit, it’s important to know who your donors are in order to figure out the best ways to reach them. Here are five types of relevant demographic data:
- Age: Different age groups have different donation habits. For example, all ages prefer to give online via credit or debit cards, but each generation’s second preference varies greatly. Millennials prefer cash, Gen X leans toward bank/wire transfer, and baby boomers will secondarily opt for direct mail. Collect data on your donors’ ages to strategically reach them based on their birth year.
- Gender: Donor habits vary by gender, too, making it a worthy demographic to track. Female donors are more inspired by social media marketing, whereas males respond more to emails.
- Location: If you’re a local nonprofit, it’s safe to assume most of your donors will be from your operating area. However, for national and global nonprofits, it’s helpful to know where the majority of your donors live to design campaigns in their locations that are tailored to their interests.
- Income: A person’s income will impact their giving capabilities. Knowing a ballpark estimate of your donors’ annual incomes will allow you to target the right donors for specific giving initiatives. To illustrate, you wouldn’t want to ask someone with limited disposable income for thousands of dollars. Instead, you’d rather reach out asking for a smaller amount they’d be equipped to send.
- Employment: Take income a step further and learn where your donors work. With this demographic information, you can figure out which donors work at businesses that offer robust corporate matching programs. Almost $3 billion is donated through matching gift programs annually, so it’s not an opportunity you want to overlook.
Next, let’s take a look at the donor contact information you should collect.
In order to reach your donors, your nonprofit needs accurate and accessible contact information. Here’s a list of four reliable points of contact to gather on your donors:
- Home address. This may seem old-fashioned, but direct mail offers a personal touch that’s often absent in digital communication. Even if you never use your donors’ physical addresses, you should still collect this data— you never know when it might come in handy!
- Phone number. The rate at which people open SMS messages is as high as 98%, and mobile users made up 33% of online donation transactions in 2019. Keep track of your donors’ cell numbers to leverage these impressive stats for your fundraising efforts.
- Email address. Email has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel. It’s easy to send emails to large groups of donors with one click, and you can even use software to customize each email to the individual to make it feel more personalized.
- Social media profiles. All social media platforms offer some fundraising value to your nonprofit. Facebook itself accounted for 3.5% of online donations in 2019. There are even platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter that are specifically designed to raise money for a good cause through crowdfunding— check out this guide to crowdfunding to learn more.
So far we’ve looked at more general categories of data. Now, we’ll dive into data that’s specific to donations and engagement with your nonprofit.
No two donors give exactly the same. For instance, some are more sporadic in their donations, and others are consistent and use monthly recurring gift programs. Collect these useful pieces of donor data related to giving habits:
- Gift amount: Donations can range from single digits to multiple figures, and all are worthwhile. Collect this data to be sure you’re targeting each donor correctly according to their amount preferences.
- Frequency of giving: For regular donors, their donations could come weekly, monthly, annually, or at another interval. If you know a donor’s general schedule for giving, you can easily send a reminder around the time you’re expecting their contribution.
- Method of giving: Cash, credit, debit, PayPal, check— the options for donation format are seemingly endless. Save yourself the time of reaching out to someone via text who prefers to mail a check by keeping track of your donors’ methods of giving.
- Lifetime value: This measurement refers to someone’s all-time total contribution to your nonprofit organization. It is helpful to know who your biggest supporters are to keep reaching out to them, as well as to thank them when they reach certain milestones.
- Number of years as a donor: How long a person has been donating to your nonprofit is another great way to assess who your biggest advocates are. You could also thank people according to their year milestones.
- Upgrades and downgrades: Numerically speaking, an upgrade would be someone giving more money than usual. On the other hand, a downgrade would be someone giving less than usual for them. These terms are purely numbers— all donations are valuable regardless of size! However, this info is worth keeping track of for follow-up purposes. For instance, did they donate less because their income went down, or are they feeling less drawn to your organization? It’s a question worth asking.
Tracking your donors’ giving habits will allow you to find patterns in giving and strategize your fundraising efforts based on those patterns. You could figure out who to reach out to more or less often for the greatest efficiency and even what time of year is best to reach out to certain donors.
Use this data to create a donor pyramid and use it to organize your donors. Donor pyramids are a way of conceptualizing your donors’ overall value and where they are in their giving journey with prospective donors at the bottom and major donors at the top of the pyramid. With accurate, well-managed data, a donor pyramid can be effective for visualizing your donor base and determining where to focus your efforts when reaching out to your supporters.
Where giving habits are limited to a person’s donation behavior, interactions describe their general engagement with your mission-driven organization. Through interactions, you can learn who your most committed supporters are in ways that go beyond money.
Here are six examples of donor interaction metrics your nonprofit could track:
- Event attendance: Event attendance is a great way to assess the success of an event. Also, by knowing the specific people who attend your events, you can figure out which audience you are attracting: young or old, men or women, families or individuals, etc.
- Email open rates: We’re all guilty of letting our email inboxes pile up with unopened promotional materials, and your donors are no exception. With data on email open rates, figure out what types of content your donors are responding most to and what types of content they’re not interested in at all.
- Website visits: 44% of nonprofit website visitors in 2019 arrived at the website organically. However, your nonprofit’s website visit data may look way different than the overall data. Keep track of website visits to figure out how donors arrive at your website and what makes them stick around.
- Direct mail response rate: Direct mail can be expensive— plus, digital methods of communication are increasingly popular. To make the best use of your time, look at data around which donors respond to your direct mail. Focus your efforts there, and stop sending mail to unresponsive addresses.
- Social media engagement: From likes to comments to shares and more, social media offers a wide variety of data for your nonprofit to gather. Like emails, you can evaluate what types of content perform best and calibrate your social media strategy from there.
- Volunteer activity: Donations don’t only exist in the form of money— many of your donors are willing to give their time to your cause. Keep track of the individuals who volunteer both once and on a regular basis, thank them for their time, and do what you can to retain their participation.
Data on interactions, like giving habits, will also allow your nonprofit to spot patterns and adjust its marketing strategy accordingly. Use this to your advantage and raise more money with greater efficiency.
For an even more in-depth look into what data your nonprofit should be collecting, check out this guide on nonprofit data collection. But for now, you’re well on your way to creating a robust database full of useful information— next, we’ll give you a guide on the best practices for keeping up your donor database.
Donor Database Best Practices
After reading about donor data management and what data to collect, don’t neglect the amazing donor database you’ve put together! Here are five of our donor database best practices.
Donor data will not be useful to your nonprofit if it isn’t properly sorted and managed. You can keep your database organized by keeping it all in one place, using a standardized format with clear entry guidelines, regularly reviewing it, and training your staff on data management.
For a more thorough refresh on how to organize your data, refer back to our previous section here where we explain how to do so.
Collect the Right Data
Your nonprofit should focus on collecting data in these categories: demographics, contact information, giving habits, and interactions.
Also, make sure you adjust your giving forms so that they only ask for information you need. To guarantee you get the data you need and donors don’t leave items blank, make certain fields like contact information required.
Purge Your Data
If you’re like most nonprofits, 88% of your donations come from 12% of your donors. Purge your database by removing inactive donors from your contact lists— it’ll save your organization time, money, and effort. Plus, you’ll see a greater return on investment for your campaigns.
Use a Data Append Service
Data appending is the process of supplementing existing data with more information from external sources. This is valuable both to fill in gaps in your database and to check the accuracy of your existing data by comparing it against external resources.
NPOInfo is a data appending service that works specifically with nonprofits. We provide accurate, quick, and thorough data enrichment for your nonprofit.
NPOInfo offers five different types of data append services:
- Employer appends: This type of append will verify where your donors work. With this information, get ready to double your donation amounts through corporate matching gift programs.
- Email appends: Our email append services will verify the emails in your donor database, guaranteeing more accuracy for your email fundraising tactics.
- Phone number appends: Just like email appends, this service will double-check your donors’ phone numbers and be sure you’re using the correct ones.
- Date of birth appends: Date of birth appends will confirm your donors’ birthdays, and subsequently, their ages. You could run a fun Happy Birthday campaign or simply segment your donor database by age group.
- Address appends: Did you know that more than 40 million Americans move each year? That means about 10% of addresses become outdated annually. Use our address append services to keep your donor database as up-to-date as possible.
Data append services are a great way to make sure your donor database is as correct and complete as possible. For more information on data appending and data append services, check out our complete guide here.
Incorporate a CRM System
Constituent relationship management (CRM) systems stores large amounts of constituent data for businesses and organizations.
If your nonprofit’s CRM isn’t supporting your data management efforts, it may be time to invest in a new solution. Here are four characteristics to look for when choosing the right CRM for your nonprofit:
- How many donors it can track: Depending on the size of your nonprofit, you’ll need a CRM system that can accommodate how many donors you need to gather and store data about.
- How many users the software allows: You’ll want a few employees involved in the process of collecting, maintaining, and viewing your data. Make sure the CRM system you select permits your ideal number of authorized users.
- What features are available: Different CRM systems will offer different services for you to use. Investigate what’s out there and decide which features will be most useful to your organization.
- If it has integration capabilities: Many CRMs can connect to other softwares, and with that you can send your data back and forth easily. For instance, you could send the most accurate data from your online donation software straight to your CRM instead of manually transferring the information. That will save you time, money, and stress.
- How much it costs: You’ll want to be sure the CRM system you pick fits your nonprofit’s budget.
Now you have all the best donor database practices under your belt! Go out and work some donor data magic for your nonprofit.
We’ve covered what donor data management is, how to keep donor information organized, what donor data you should be collecting, and the best practices for maintaining a donor database. Let’s take a step back and remember the why behind donor data management.
Data analytics is invaluable for nonprofits. With all the effort you put into acquiring data and managing it in the form of a database, don’t forget to use it to your benefit by deriving data-driven insights.
An insight is an intuitive understanding of a pattern found in facts. All of your nonprofit’s decisions should trace back to insights found in your data for best results. After all, data is a concrete illustration of what works. It’s an important tool to generate awareness and enthusiasm for your nonprofit among its donor base.
Want to start using data better? NPOInfo can help! Contact our team today to get a quote.
In the meantime, for more helpful nonprofit marketing information and resources, check out these three articles:
- Your Ultimate Guide to Employer Appends for Nonprofits. Employer appends add information about your donors’ employers to your database. Use this resource to make the most of corporate matching gifts and other forms of corporate philanthropy.
- The Fundraiser’s Guide to Improving Nonprofit Data Hygiene. Maintaining your donor database is essential to effectively running your nonprofit. Read this article for the best advice on improving data hygiene.
- The Nonprofit’s Ultimate Guide to Data Append Services. Data appending can be an intimidating process, but not with the help of data append services. Check out this guide to how data append services can help your nonprofit, and to find one that’s right for your nonprofit.