New donor database survey findings about email marketing integration

Good morning, DonorDreams readers! As many of you know, my work schedule has become challenging in recent months, and I’ve asked a number of “virtual online friends” to help me out with guest blog posts. Today’s post is a Q&A session with Software Advice’s Janna Finch. The topic is focused on electronic donor communications (e.g. solicitations, stewardship activities, etc) and integration of all these things with your other software systems (e.g. donor database, CRM, financial management, etc). I hope you enjoy this morning’s post.  Here’s to your health!  ~Erik

Q and AThere are many ways to ask individuals for donations and support, and not every nonprofit asks in the same way. However, a new report from the fundraising technology advisers at Software Advice indicates that more and more nonprofits are asking for donations through email marketing, and want those marketing tools to integrate with their fundraising database and accounting systems. Nonprofit market researcher and author of the report Janna Finch shares her insights on why nonprofits are seeing software with more functionality, addresses common questions about navigating software selection, and discusses implications for the fundraising space in 2015.
What was the most striking finding from your survey of nonprofits?
This year, 133 percent more buyers specifically requested built-in email marketing and outreach tools, and I was surprised to see such a large increase. It makes sense that nonprofits are requesting outreach functionality, of course, but this was a significant jump. Retaining existing donors by engaging them and building good relationships with them is a tried-and-true strategy for keeping consistent contributions. It’s good to see that small nonprofits are being proactive about trying to put new systems in place and considering new technology.
In replacing software, the top response was more functionality. What kind of functionality are buyers seeking and why?
Email marketing was by far the most-requested type of functionality at 42 percent, followed by automatic acknowledgements at 35 percent, reporting capabilities at 23 percent, and campaign management features and direct-mail support, both at 22 percent. In my interpretation, this indicates a desire to automate certain processes to be more organized and save time, generating more capacity to focus on furthering the mission of the organization.
Do you have any ideas or theories on what drove the increase in demand for email marketing? 
I think that nonprofits understand the value of storytelling and personalized messaging for donors, and are looking for ways to do that more efficiently. It’s incredibly difficult to manage messaging for more than a few dozen donors without some kind of system, and software can make it easier. There are a good number of affordable fundraising systems with email marketing capabilities available today, so it’s hard to imagine why fundraisers wouldn’t want to consider using email-marketing tools.
What are some ways people can determine which fundraising software is best for their nonprofit?
There are three important considerations for nonprofits purchasing fundraising or donor management software—budget, staff/volunteer skill level and the activities you expect it to support. First, set your budget. If you’re not familiar with how fundraising software is priced, then read about total cost of ownership (TCO) so you know what licenses and fees vendors typically charge. Next, assess the technical literacy of everyone who will need to use the system. For example, if a nonprofit has lots of short-term volunteers who use the system, then ease of use should be priority. I also recommend creating a comprehensive list of every activity you want the software to support, few solutions truly “do it all,” and it can be helpful to prioritize the list into “need-to-have” and “like-to-have” categories.
What are the implications of the trends you identified for the fundraising tech space?
We see a trend of fundraising, donor management and CRM systems naturally morphing into a single system that supports all types of interactions with constituents and fundraising activities. There is overlap in what these systems do and how people use them, so it makes sense that this is happening. Hopefully these more comprehensive systems can make it easier for small nonprofits to amplify their message, better organize and protect their data, and promote long lasting relationships with donors and supporters.
You can read the full report here: Fundraising and Donor Management Software BuyerView | 2015

CRM? Donor Database? Your non-profit needs one

crmIn recent months, I’ve been reminded of the power of donor databases and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. For-profit corporations grasped the importance of gathering customer data a long time ago, which is why they invested in these systems before many non-profit organizations started doing so. I will divide the remainder of this blog post up into sections and share a few personal stories about my experiences in recent months. At the end of this post, I’ll share a few resources to help you with your search.
What is the difference?
I suspect the difference between a traditional donor database and a CRM is getting smaller and smaller as time passes. However, I think the whitepaper at titled “Do I need a CRM or a donor database?” written by Mags Rivett at Purple Vision did a nice job spelling out the technical differences.
Here is how Mags described a donor database:

“A donor database can be anything from an Excel spreadsheet or Access database through to a tool available on the open market or even built especially for you. The definition of a database is usually much more limited than that for CRM: ‘A database is a collection of information that is organized so that it can easily be accessed, managed, and updated.’ (Google Dictionary)”

Likewise, here is how a CRM was described:

“Today, CRM has assumed two meanings. It is both:  a) the approach of successfully managing customer and organisational relationships (be that for business, fundraising or service delivery) and b) the tool which we use to manage the relationships. We think of it as being the 360 degree view of our customers and the work of the organisation.”

Still don’t understand the difference? Don’t worry about it. Please trust me when I tell you:

  • you need a tool like this in order to make your private sector fundraising program run effectively in the 21st Century
  • you shouldn’t just purchase one and think that all of your problems are now solved
  • you need to connect and integrate your other systems with this tool
  • you need to build organizational capacity around this tool (e.g. written policies and procedures)
  • you need to put staffing around this tool

Does this sound like work? Of course it is! But it is worthwhile because this tool will help you build and deepen relationships with prospects and donors, which is what resource development is really all about. Right?
Welcome aboard, Mr Anderson!
IMG_20150414_215128628[1]My husband and I like to take cruises every other year and visit fun places. Over the years we’ve traveled to the Caribbean, Greek Islands, Scandinavian peninsula (and St. Petersburg, Russia), Alaska, and recently the Panama Canal (and Central America).
Over the last 10 years, we’ve only sailed on Princess Cruises, and they’ve collected an awful lot of data on us. For example, they know:

  • Our age
  • Our birthdays
  • Our dining preferences
  • Our entertainment preferences
  • Our drinking preferences (e.g. we’re oenophiles)
  • Our weakness for buying artwork
  • Our desire to purchase off-ship excursion packages

I am confident this information is stored in a CRM of some sort because I see signs of it from the moment I walk onto the cruise ship. The following is what is waiting for me in my cabin mailbox:

  • advertisements for the special wine club membership (for discounts on bottles of wine)
  • invitations to wine tastings
  • brochures for upcoming excursions
  • invitations to purchase tickets at the captains dining table
  • a handwritten card from the art director welcoming me back and inviting me to the first art show

IMG_20150414_191147999_HDR[1]While some people think this level of interaction is creepy, I believe the vast major of people (including myself) find this comforting and convenient. I prefer to think of it differently. I’m in a 10 year relationship with Princess Cruises, and they better know my preferences just like my husband better know my eye color.
Of course, relationship building goes beyond simply tracking my expenditures and targeting special events and offers at me. It includes more fundamental relationship building tactics like sending a bottle of champagne and a hand written note immediately following our purchase of artwork.
Non-profit organizations who use these types of systems are:

  • customizing how they communicate with their supporters (based on the donor’s interests and desires)
  • targeting donors with specific invitations, campaigns and appeals
  • celebrating specific milestones (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, etc)
  • connecting supporters based on affinity groups and backgrounds
  • managing events and campaigns

I don’t know about you, but this all seems very convenient and helpful to me from a donor perspective. Dare I suggest . . . “very donor-centered“.
Welcome back, Mr. Anderson!
marriottWhen I returned from my cruise at the end of April, I immediately hit the road on a business trip. Whenever I visit this one particular client, I always stay at the same hotel — Marriott SpringHill Suites.
When I checked into the hotel, the front desk person:

  • greeted me by name
  • knew my room preferences
  • reminded me of things that we’ve talked about before

And this time, they asked if I had enjoyed my Panama Canal cruise. The catch is that I had never told that particular front desk person about my cruise. Hmmmmm? I smell the existence of a CRM.
As I said in the previous section, I’m sure there are people who find this kind of stuff scary. However, I find it comforting and reassuring. It is nice to connect with people on a more personal level. In my opinion, it is the essence of being human.
Choosing a system that is right for your non-profit
OK . . . these systems can be expensive, especially when you add in the costs associated with creating systems, hiring people and developing policies and procedures. So, my advice is simple . . .

Treat this decision like you might do so with a marriage proposal

  • Think through what you really need
  • Involve all stakeholders
  • Develop a budget
  • Try different systems on for size
  • Ask lots of questions

I once came across an awesome online workbook titled “Getting the Most from Your Decision: Four Steps to Selecting Donor Management Software” developed by NPower Seattle. I think this step-by-step workbook is awesome, and I suggest you click-through and use it if you are thinking about purchasing a donor database or CRM.
While I don’t endorse products at DonorDreams blog, I have had experiences with certain products that I feel are worthy of your investigation. The following is a short list you might want to look into:

There is no such thing as a perfect product, and you need to find what best fits you.
I strongly urge you NOT to pick-up the phone and start calling sales professionals for these companies. Sit down with the NPower Seattle workbook first and determine your needs and wants first.
Is your non-profit organization using a CRM or donor database? How is that going for you? Please scroll down and share your experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Seeking your input on donor databases and QuickBooks Online

data integration1One of my many jobs in this world is being the webmaster and community manager for a large national organization’s resource development website, which essentially acts as a fundraising toolbox for their local affiliates. One of the many functions of the website is an “Ask the Expert” service where front line staff can ask resource development questions and receive an answer in approximately 24 hours. A few weeks ago a question was asked about donor databases and QuickBooks Online. While I’m happy with our answer, I’m wondering if there isn’t more advice that could’ve been provided.
So, this morning I’m inviting all of you to become one of our “experts” and weigh-in with advice that will help round out the response that was originally provided.
The Question

“I am looking for guidance on purchasing a donor management system. We currently use QuickBooks online version and are having difficulty finding a solution that will integrate with the software. Are there any solutions out there that are recommended?

The Answer We Provided

There is a great workbook in The Vault titled “Getting the Most from Your Decision: Four Steps to Selecting Donor Management Software.” It is located in the Donor Management Guides section where you will find many more interesting resources that can assist you in making a sound decision.
It sounds like your organization has ranked data integration with your QuickBooks Online account as a high priority. As you move from the second step of your search process (e.g. prioritizing) to the third step of the process (e.g. deciding), you will end up:

  • engaging a variety of companies
  • viewing many product demonstrations
  • using your list of preferred functions and features to screen your options

I encourage you to walk this path with other people (e.g. preferably other system users and individuals who will be impacted by this decision).
With all of this being said, it sounds like you are following this process and disappointed in how few options exist when it comes to data integration with your QuickBooks Online account.
The national organization has a policy that prohibits me from recommending specific products. So, please do not construe any of the following information as a recommendation.
After some preliminary investigating, it looks like the following two donor database products offer the feature that you’re looking for:

I also found an online service called itDUZZit which seems to work with DonorPerfect in the cloud to configure and integrate your data with QuickBooks Online. You should check into the willingness of this company to create other bridges for other products. From what I saw on their website, this might be an option.
It is important to note that I have no experience using DonorSnap and itDUZZit, and I have very little experience with Donor Perfect. Again, please don’t view any of this as a recommendation to purchase those products. I am simply suggesting these options might be worth further investigation.
However, I am recommending the following:

  • Keep looking . . . Google is a great resource and so are all of the articles located in The Vault
  • Identify other non-profit agencies in your community who use QuickBooks Online and ask them if/how they bridge their systems
  • Think outside of the box . . . many cloud-based database systems have export features that give you what you need to upload to QuickBooks Online (and being OK with a few extra clicks might expand your database search options)
  • Don’t lose sight of the fact that data integration is likely only one of many functions and features that you desire. While integration with QuickBooks Online is obviously at the top of your list, I encourage you to guard against letting it blind you from your other functions and features needs.

In researching your question, I reached out to Nancy Guthrie who is the owner of Business Matters, an accounting firm who works with many non-profit organizations like yours and has experience with QuickBooks Online. Here is what she had to say:
Time marches on and there are solutions . . . there are many external softwares that now integrate with QuickBooks online.  I googled “Quickbooks online donor integration” and hit the choice below (DonorSnap). I am sure there may be others.  I support looking at all of the online solutions for data and accounting. It is where the attention is and gives the most flexibility and most modern choices and connections to time and communication tools.  The integration with QuickBooks Online has come a long way!
In a second email, she added this:
At this point, reverting to a desktop-based accounting software will NEVER get my vote — no matter the integration.  The amount of the transaction entry time for deposits saved will never make enough difference to change the accounting away from the Online version, which is so perfect for non-profit organizations.”
I hope this helps. If you have additional questions, please feel free to come back and “Ask the Experts”.

And now . . . the rest of the story?
data integration2OK . . . you’ve had a chance to read the question and answer. What additional advice would you have provided? Do you use QuickBooks Online and a donor database with a data integration bridge? If so, what can you tell us about the data bridge and the database (or CRM)?
Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. I will happily pass your thoughts along and possibly even append the response that we uploaded to the website.
Similar to Tuesday’s post about revising a whitepaper/brief, I’m asking you to “pay it forward” today.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How many undiscovered “diamonds” exist in your donor database?

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a recent post, John re-told a story about an African farmer, who sold his farm to go in search of diamond mines, only to find out that the farm he sold turned out to be one of the worlds largest diamond mines. John applied the story in OD terms to your co-workers and all of their talents (aka diamonds that are unmined in your organization).

When I read this story, my mind naturally wanders to fundraising and all things having to do with donors. I think of your organization’s donor database and imagine all of the undiscovered diamonds that exist in those data records.

I commonly get asked by agencies how they can better mine those diamonds out of their donor database. After all, we’ve all heard stories about those $100/year annual campaign donors who go on to give millions of dollars to capital campaigns and endowment campaigns.

Of course, the easy 30 second answer is investing in donor analytics services like Blackbaud’s Target Analytics or WealthEngine.

I am a data-kinda-person, and these services are amazing, but . . .

The more complicated (yet amazingly simple) answer is exactly what John encourages you to do his post about the African diamond farmer. Before investing in expensive data analytics services, you really need to commit yourself to “getting to know people”. It starts with you and that is the easy part. The harder part is changing your organizational culture to embrace this idea.

I am by no means an “OD expert,” but it seems to me that changing your agency’s fundraising culture will entail some of the following:

  • hiring the right people (e.g. people who like people)
  • looking at all of your systems, identifying obstacles, and eliminating those barriers to change
  • aligning your systems (e.g. performance management systems, compensation, recognition, etc) with your new vision of “getting to know donors”

If you want to read more about change leadership, click over to John’s blog and thumb through a number of his posts on change and culture.

All of the data in the world won’t help you identify your donor database diamonds if you aren’t willing to get out of your office, sit down with your donors, and get to know them and understand their passions.

Do you subscribe to a donor analytics service, but find it a little disappointed that the big gifts aren’t magically appearing? What do you love about your analytics services? What don’t you like? How have you inspired your organizational culture to celebrate “getting to know” donors?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. After all, we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Don’t sing the ‘goodbye song’ to your non-profit donors

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, I am focusing on a post that John wrote about attribution theory and contingency theory based upon a “classroom song” story that a friend shared with him over a fierce game of Scrabble. After reading his post, a song jumped into my head from my days at Grace Pre-School in Mount Prospect, Illinois. It goes something like this:

“Grace Pre-School is over and its time for us to go home;
Goodbye, goodbye;
Be always kind and good;
Goodbye, goodbye;
Be always kind and good.”

That was the song we sang at the end of the day when it was time to pack-up and go home. I can’t believe how four decades later that song sprung into my head as conveniently as if I had just sung it yesterday.

At the ripe old age of four, that pre-school song helped me bring the school day to a close. It reminded me to put my toys away, say goodbye to my friends, get my coat and bag, find my Mom, and leave the building without shedding a tear. It only worked within the confines of the church that housed my pre-school program. It didn’t result in me being “kind and good” . . . you can ask my Mom and she’ll tell you that I could be a terror on certain days.

To think that singing my pre-school — anywhere and anytime — would yield the same results or “cause” me to be “kind and good” is quite simply misattribution.

In the non-profit fundraising world, we do this all the time with donors and it goes something like this:

  • Contribution comes into the office,
  • The contribution is entered into the donor database,
  • The computer generates a thank you letter that is sent to the donor,
  • The donor gets added to a newsletter mailing list, and they receive a few newsletters,
  • Another solicitation is made that results in another contribution.

Cha-ching!  The donor is conditioned. The money rolls in. It is oh so simple. I can almost hear fundraising professionals singing a song that goes something like this:


Cause and effect is such a great thing until you realize that you’ve attributed the wrong stimulus to the wrong results.

Penelope Burk, CEO of Cygnus Applied Research, does a great job in this interview with The Chronicle of Philanthropy of debunking the myths associated with singing the donor song. She points to research illustrating how the average non-profit loses 50% of donors somewhere between their first and second contribution to their agency.

Huh?  I wonder if those fundraising professionals mistakenly sang my pre-school “goodbye song” to their donors instead of the “money song”.  LOL

All kidding aside, Burk is the queen of “Donor-Centered Fundraising” which tells us that cookie cutter approaches to donor stewardship result in high turnover rates. Donors stop donating because they feel “over-solicited”.  Many fundraising professionals hear this and think that fewer solicitations are the remedy. This conclusion is simply not true. Burk does a great job of explaining the subtle nuances behind “over-solicitation” in The Chronicle of Philanthropy interview:

“. . . over-solicitation is not a frequency of asks in a set period of time; rather, it is being asked to give again before donors are satisfied about what happened with their last gift.”

Let’s bottom-line this . . .

  • Every donor is like a snowflake — they’re different.
  • Everyone has a different threshold for what they need to see in order to be satisfied about what happened with their last gift.
  • No one responds to the same stewardship activities the same way.

When Burk talks about being “donor-centered,” she is really saying that we need to get to know our donors individually. We need to craft stewardship strategies around donors’ needs and preferences in order to avoid “over-solicitation”.

Am I hearing some of you mutter words like “crazy” and “impossible“? If so, then I encourage you to dwell and explore the following ideas:

  • database contact records
  • segmentation
  • surveys
  • discussions
  • focus groups
  • stewardship plan

My parting advice to you is stop misattributing the “money song” to securing donations because you are losing half of your donors after their first contribution and 90% by the fifth gift. Read up on the concepts of “Attribution Theory” and “Contingency Theory” and stop singing the “Goodbye song” to your donors.

How does your non-profit organization customize its stewardship activities to individual donors? Do you just do so for your major gift prospects? Where do you store your individualized stewardship plans? What role does your donor database play in managing your Moves Management program? Can you share your success results? Did your donor loyalty rate improve?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How many of your non-profit donors are “lurkers”?

A few days ago, while vacationing in Michigan for the Labor Day weekend, I started reading “The Social Media Bible” by Lon Safko. As the pages turned and I read about marketing within a social media framework (including tactics, tools and strategies), I can’t tell you how many “ah-ha” and “hmmmm” fundraising moments that I experienced. Yesterday, the book inspired me to post about the costs associated with bad word of mouth and how this should evolve into a “generative question” around which to organize your board meetings. Today, the book has me looking at your donors very differently.

In the very early pages of this book (page 29), the author describes the various “phases in the membership life cycle” for social media users:

  • Lurkers — These users view content, but don’t participate.
  • Novices — These users view content, and periodically provide content.
  • Insiders — These users are regularly providing content, commenting, etc.
  • Leaders –These users are veterans and everyone watches what they do.
  • Elders — These users have left the network for any number of reasons.

After reading this page, I found myself thinking about donor database segmentation practices (because the social media content provider pyramid graphic reminded me so much of a tradition range of gifts chart donor pyramid).

In a white paper written by Roy Wollen and Bonnie Massa, they talk about five ways to segment a donor database (including why to do it). They describe various donor groups as follows:

  • Low dollar donors, volunteers, constituents, past & present employees
  • Buyers (e.g. those people who attended an event, bought something from you, subscribed to something, etc)
  • Lapsed donors
  • High dollar donors
  • Members, benefactors, patrons
  • Institutional givers

In the end, we segment people into groups because we understand that different groups have different dynamics and needs. Once this revelation hits us, we understand that “one-size-fits-all” fundraising solicitation strategies don’t work. Sending a letter to an institutional giver might get you a handful of dollars, but it will fall short of what they can and will donate to your cause. For this reason, a major gifts strategy is probably the right tool.

Conversely, employing a major gifts strategy is overkill and too expensive for the legion of low dollar donors that reside in your donor database.

Once you realize how important segmentation is to the success of your resource development program, a flood of new questions come down the pike, such as:

  • How many database records exist in each segment?
  • What characteristics and needs exist for each group? (e.g. what makes them tick)
  • Which solicitation tools in my fundraising toolbox work best for each group?
  • What stewardship activities do I need to employ with each group to maximize the odds of moving them from one group to the another?
  • Are there things I can do to increase each groups “frequency” of donation and “size” of contribution?
  • What is the ROI (e.g. the cost of raise one dollar) for each group? If I shift my attention ratio around, will I raise more money?
  • What metrics should I be tracking?

Ahhhhh, yes. It suddenly becomes a brave new world and your fundraising perspective changes quite quickly. Perhaps, that resource development audit or donor database review takes a different shape or level of importance now?  😉

Does your non-profit organization segment its donors? How do you do it? Into what categories do you use? What metrics are you tracking and how? Has your approach changed as a result? How many social media “lurkers” exist on your agency’s various social media platforms, and how many “lurkers” exist in your donor database?

Please scroll down and share your answers and thoughts using the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Donor Loyalty: Inspect what you expect

Tuesday’s post titled “Time in the office versus time with donors” begged more questions than it answered. Today, we’re going to zoom in on one of those questions and examine it more closely.

How do you measure relationship building
and the success of such activities?

It was suggested in earlier posts that a weekly contact report is one tool that can be used to track relationship building activities; however, there are other tools that you should consider using in conjunction with a contact report.

  • Dashboard
  • Scorecard
  • Annual performance plan
  • Weekly or monthly reports
  • Donor database reports
  • Moves Management reports

If you want to learn more about organizational dashboards, click here to check out a BoardSource book titled “The Nonprofit Dashboard: A Tool for Tracking Progress“. If a dashboard isn’t appealing to you, then you might want to look into a balanced scorecard approach. Click here to see what Bernard Marr at the Advanced Performance Institute has to say about this tool.

Of course, choosing the tool is probably the easiest part of this decision. The more difficult thing is determining which relationship building metrics to track. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Number of cultivation meetings with prospects
  • Increased contribution size – maintained – decreased
  • Number of face-to-face stewardship meetings
  • Number of prospects converted into donors
  • Donor loyalty rate
  • Donor satisfaction survey score
  • Renewal rates for year two, year three, year four, and year five donors
  • LYBUNT and SYBUNT renewals

There are no right or wrong answers to the question of what you should track. I believe that it really boils down to the title of this post: “Inspect what you expect”.

I suppose the best advice I can give to you is “don’t try to make decision by yourself”. I encourage you to engage fundraising staff, resource development committee volunteers, board members, fundraising volunteers, and even donors. There is nothing wrong with pulling together a small focus group, ordering a few pizzas, and engaging them with a few thoughtful questions.

If you are looking for a few good samples, the following are a few links that I think are worth looking at:

Using tools and metrics like these should help you answer the difficult question posed in Tuesday’s blog post: “How much time needs to be spent outside of the office compared to behind your desk?”

What tools does your non-profit organization use to track relationship building and resource development activities? What metrics do you hold your fundraising professionals and executive director to? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Want access to donor data? Then your non-profit needs a strategy!

This week we’ve been talking about technology and donor data at DonorDreams blog. Tuesday’s post, which was titled “What can’t your donor database do?,” looked at all sorts of interesting functions and features associated with database software packages. Wednesday’s post, which was titled “Wow . . . Non-Profit Donors are Naked!,” examined various free online tools that can help you capture invaluable data for inclusion in your donor database. If you missed either of those posts, I encourage you fo circle back and check them out!

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about social networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). We all agree that these sites possess an unbelievable amount of free personal information about our donors. Yet, I see so many non-profit organizations struggling with social media.

I suspect that non-profit organizations are too thinly stretched and don’t dedicate enough time and resources to developing an effective social media strategy. I believe a little bit of time and lots of thoughtful strategy can go a long way towards getting donors engaged, which gets you closer to that FREE and invaluable donor data.

The following are just a few ideas that even cash strapped non-profit organizations can implement:

Get “friendly” online. You can’t just set-up your Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn presence and expect people to find you and connect. Look over your donor list, identify your top few hundred donors, and actively ask them to connect.

Content is important. I’ve seen too many Facebook pages with little to no content, which begs the questions “Why did I like this page in the first place?” Perhaps, it might be worth your time to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk to 10 of your more active donors. Ask them what kind of information they’d like to see your non-profit post on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. I could rattle off all kinds of ideas today (e.g. pictures of your mission being brought to life, transparent sharing of program outcomes, etc), but none of what I say matters. What matters most is what the people who you want to join your social network want to see.

Engagement is king. Your agency needs to understand the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Social media is not about shouting at the top of your virtual lungs various things about your agency on your social network pages. That was so Web 1.0. If you want your social media strategy to work, then you need to engage your donors in “conversations”. People don’t just cruise over to your Facebook page or Twitter feed to check out what you’re saying and posting. They get there because you’ve drawn them over with a shiny object. I’ve seen some non-profits do the following to build a following and engage donors:

  • Run a contest online. During a certain period of time, anyone who likes your page or follows you gets entered into a raffle and a chance to win something (e.g. iPod, iPhone, iPad, gift card, etc). It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to be fun and something people value. It could also focus on submission of something for judging (e.g. picture, essay, etc).
  • Ask for opinions. I’ve seen organizations poll their social media followers on a variety of issues. Those issues could even be operational in nature. For example, ask donors and supporters to help you name something. Or ask their opinions on adding a new program or expanding to a new site. This can be particularly effective because people love to be asked their opinion.
  • Become an advocate. How many online petitions being circulated by non-profit organizations have you signed in the last 6 months? I know I have signed at least four. This can be particularly effective because people love to be asked to get involved in ways that supplement their financial support. It is an easy way to help a donor feel involved. Besides, you’ll probably end up asking them to consider making an online contribution at the end of the petition process.

The bottom line for me is twofold:

  1. Donors are giving away valuable personal information about themselves online for FREE. It is worth investing a little time to engage them because you’re already trying to do it in other ways as part of your resource development program.
  2. Nothing associated with your social media presence will happen by accident. You need to put together a strategy and execute your plan (regardless of how simple it may be).

If you are looking for more in-depth ideas on Facebook best practices, I suggest you read what the good folks at DIOSA Communications  are suggesting.

What does your agency do to engage donors on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest? What metrics do you use to track your effectiveness in inspiring and engaging participation on your social network platforms? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Wow . . . Non-Profit Donors are Naked!

Yesterday, I wrote about the power of donor database software in a post titled “What can’t your donor database do?”  In that post, I marveled at the availability of powerful tools such as WealthEngine and Blackbaud’s Target Analytics that have the capability of interfacing with your donor database systems. Of course, these service cost money and for a number of non-profit organizations with scarce resources, sophisticated prospect research can feel out-of-reach.

The reality is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Much of the information that data mining companies provide comes from public sources of data. All your organization has to do is dedicate a little staff time to this project, and you’ll be able to develop fairly complete prospect/donor profiles.

To test this hypothesis, I selected one donor from a local non-profit organization who I don’t know very well and used online resources to find out as much as I could on him. In order to protect the innocent, I will refer to this donor as “John Doe” throughout today’s blog post. In completing my prospecting work, I used a number of free resources that are available to everyone with an internet connection.

Google. It is amazing what you can find out about a person using Google. I typed in my prospect’s name using quotation marks and plus signs. It looked exactly like this:

“John Doe” + Elgin + Illinois

Using the quotation marks and plus signs helps narrow the Google search and improves the search results. With just that simple search, I found the following information on this prospect:

  • Place of employment
  • Address of workplace
  • Phone number of workplace
  • Work email address
  • Job title
  • Number of employees in workplace
  • Company sales volume
  • Last five employers
  • Other non-profit boards upon which they serve or or or These types of sites can help you secure information like home address, phone number, estimated age, and names of relatives. You can also find information on previous home addresses, which gives you more to search on Google. Once I found this prospect’s home address, I went to and found out what those people believe his house value. (If you are feeling brave, you can check on your house’s value. I am feeling a little ill after doing exactly that. Apparently, out house has dropped $92,000 in value since we purchased it six years ago. Ugh!) Publicly traded companies are required by the federal government to disclose a lot of information. I went to this site to learn more about the company for which my prospect works. I also clicked around to see if he is a significant investor or owns large chunks of any publicly traded companies. Unfortunately, he did not. Non-profit charities are also required by the federal government to disclose a lot of information. So, I looked up the 990 forms of the non-profit organizations for which my prospect sits on their boards. I also did a search on my prospect’s name to see if there are any foundations that have been set-up in his name or his family’s name.

Facebook. Even though this prospect and I are not “Facebook friends,” many people don’t understand this social network’s privacy policies. As a result, a number of you have more personal information hanging out there than you care to know about. In this instance, I found out where my prospect graduated from high school. So, now I know where he grew up. I also found out where they went to college and what they studied.

LinkedIn. It is amazing to me what people post on their LinkedIn profiles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my prospect on this social network. However, if I had, then I probably would’ve had access to information such as: employer, past employers, job functions/responsibilities, interests/groups, and possibly even his birthday. If I was “linked” with the prospect, I would’ve likely been able to view their network of friends and business associates.

So, the point I am driving at is that you don’t need lots of money to afford the services of data mining companies because there is already a lot of information out there on your prospects and donors. All you need to do is find time to gather the information and enter it into your donor database.

Ohhhhhh . . . I can already hear many of you saying that your organization is too thinly stretched and don’t have time. OK, I get it. I’ve been there and done that. However, how many prospects and donors do you really need this level of detailed data on? For small and mid-size non-profit organizations, it might only be your Top 10, 25, 50 or 100 donors. If you set aside a few hours each week, you will have detailed donor profiles for your most important donors in a very short period of time.

Ohhhhhh . . . I can also hear many of you saying that this feels like an invasion of privacy. Or maybe stalking? I also know some of you doubt the need for this level of detail.

Let me simply end by saying, fundraising is all about relationships. The more you know about your prospects/donors, the more likely you are to deepen those relationships, connect with them, and raise money for your mission. While this might not be necessary for “transactional fundraising” programs that rely on special events and annual campaigns, it is an absolute necessity once you start moving toward donor-centered fundraising and development of a major gifts program.

Still not convinced? Birthday and age information impacts planned giving strategies. Home value is one data point that can contribute to assessing wealth and philanthropic capacity. Understanding a prospect/donor’s social network, friends, and professional relationships will help you with volunteer solicitor assignment strategies.

Online prospecting work will never replace good old fashion relationship building. It is amazing what people can and will share over a cup of coffee, but doing your homework by using free online tools or paying data mining companies certainly helps and it makes your resource development efforts a little easier.

Does your organization use fee-based data mining companies like WealthEngine to do donor screening or compilation of donor profiles? If so, what has been your experience? Have you used some of the aforementioned free online tools? If so, please share your experiences and thoughts by using the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

What can’t your donor database do?

I left the non-profit frontline back in 2006 for an internal consulting position with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. So, it has been a long time since a donor database has “run my life”. A few weeks ago, I participated in a webinar focused on the Results Plus database product produced by Metafile in Rochester, Minnesota. It was during that webinar that I was reminded about how powerful donor database software packages have become.

For the “average non-profit” out there, a donor database is the software package they capture the following data:

  • Donor name
  • Donor address
  • Donor phone number
  • Contributions (amount and to what campaign)

It is less common for non-profit organizations to capture other information such as: solicitor names, spousal information, occupation & employer, social networks, wealth indicators, interests, etc (and this list can go on and on and on because there are more than a hundred data fields in most database packages that can be filled with information).

What I’ve found to be common for many non-profit organizations is they purchase a donor database system, invest in training, and lose institutional knowledge as employee turnover naturally occurs. As new fundraising professionals are hired, the desire to throw the old database out the window is magnified because they weren’t involved in database set-up and the systems built around the database weren’t designed by them. Most commonly, new fundraising professionals come to the table with biases toward database systems with which they might be more familiar.

Naturally, the drums start to beat and the mantra becomes “Buy a New System” rather than: 1) invest in training, 2) clean and deepen the data, and 3) fix the systems built around the database.

While I participated in that “refresher webinar” hosted by Mark Gerber at Results Plus, I was awestruck with what some donor database can do nowadays.

Credit Cards processing. Many donor databases have built functionality into their products where you can swipe and store a donor’s encrypted credit card information. This can make events (esp. auctions) really easy. It also makes recurring contributions (e.g. monthly giving program) to your annual campaign really easy. I’ve seen some database companies (e.g. build credit card processing right into the services they provide their clients. Other databases like Results Plus allow you to hook-up to external merchant account companies like Moneris and credit card processing happens with just one keystroke.

Event Management.For a long time now, fundraising professionals have been able to do a lot associated with event planning from inside their donor database, but the functionality and features continue to multiply. The following is just a short list of what is possible: seating assignments, auction management, creating/sending invitations via snail-mail or email, budgeting, creating/managing project management task lists, tracking entrée selection, managing gift acknowledgement letters with appropriate IRS disclaimer information for the value of services received (e.g. quid pro quo gifts), and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Volunteer management. A recent study released by Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch reports two big things: 1) 67% of survey respondents said they “generally make their financial donations to the same organizations where they volunteer” and 2) Volunteers tend to donate an average of 10-times more money to charity then people who don’t volunteer. This is why it is so very important for your non-profit organization to use your donor database to track and manage your volunteers. You can track and do all sorts of things such as: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Interests? Time volunteered . . . value of that time . . .  background check information . . . generate cultivation/stewardship letters . . . and the list goes on and on and on!

Prospect research. Third-party data mining companies have done a remarkable job integrating their services in such a way that you can run their applications from inside your donor database and even pull that data directly into your system. These services are costly, but it is amazing what you can find out about a prospect or donor from public records. Wow! And it can all easily be done from inside your donor database. If you have some cash to spend, talk to your database provider about whether or not information from WealthEngine or Blackbaud’s Target Analytics can be easily brought into your database system.

These were just a few functions and features that had me on the edge of my seat throughout that webinar. My best advice to all non-profit organizations with donor database systems is to:

  1. Call your database provider and ask a sales professional to provide you with their “nickel tour”. Even though you already own the system, you will likely learn a lot about what you already own. The sales pro will play along because they might just sell an upgrade or add-on module.
  2. Invest and continue re-investing in training. The donor database world is constantly evolving and you really need to stay on top of what your system can do.
  3. Pay attention to the systems you build around your database (e.g. staffing, contact reports, event registration forms, pledge cards, etc). These system have a lot more to do with the data you’re capturing than the software you’re using.

I wonder when the donor database companies will build enough functionality into their systems so all I need to do is press a button on my computer and the database will brush my teeth for me?  😉

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share one of your favorite features or functions associated with your donor database.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847