Would you please solve the REAL problem? Structure Drives Behavior!

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 we’re focusing on a post that John titled “Close Cover Before Striking“. In this post, he uses the example of how matchbooks were re-designed to discuss an important organizational development concept — “structure drives behavior”.  This is an important concept for all non-profit professionals to master if organizational excellence and mission-focused productivity is your goal.

At the Boys & Girls Club, I cannot tell you how many kids forget their barcoded membership cards every day. So, as I tried to apply John’s blog theme to this example, all I could think of is TATTOO that damn barcode on kids’ foreheads!

Needless to say, I abandon that blog post idea for something a little more rationale — donor contact reports.

Every time someone from your organization visits a prospect or donor, they should (in theory) fill-out a “contact report”. This report needs to find its way back to your agency, into the hands of the person entering data into your donor database, and typed into a contact record. Why? So, that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. More importantly, the information a donor shares with you can influence many other things (e.g. how much they will be asked for during the next campaign, designing a custom stewardship program, building an effective Moves Management program and approach, etc).

Of course, few non-profit organizations are ever effective in convincing their volunteer solicitors to complete this extra form.

Hmmmmmm? John’s blog post got me thinking. This is likely a “structure” issue. So, how could this process be re-structured to get the desired result?

This topic is one that has bothered me for a very long time. I’ve tried everything including: talking slower, pleading, printing more forms, lecturing, simplifying the form, etc. I’ve even thought about investing in mind reading. As you can see, a new line of thought is probably warranted.

Here are a few thoughts I’ve had since reading John’s blog post (some might still be off-the-mark but I think I’m getting closer):

  • What about putting the “contact report” on the back of the pledge form? This could also re-enforce the idea that volunteer solicitors shouldn’t leave the pledge form behind with the prospect/donor. This could be a “twofer” solution.
  • What about taking the responsibility out of the hands of volunteer solicitors? Your agency could email each prospect/donor a short questionnaire a few days after they complete the pledge form. You could ask a few questions (both open-ended and closed) designed to yield important insights into why someone contributed, what they want to see your agency do with their contribution, etc.
  • If you don’t like the idea of a questionnaire, what about recruiting a team of volunteers to follow-up via telephone a few days after a donor makes a contribution to your annual campaign? The call could include a personal “thank you” and end with the volunteer asking if the donor minds answer a few questions designed to help the agency do a better job managing their generous gift and the priceless relationship.

OK . . . I’ve started the ball rolling with a few ideas. Please go back and read John’s blog post titled “Close Cover Before Striking” and use the comment box below on my blog to share additional ideas on how “re-structuring the process” surrounding your donor contact report might get better performance and better donor data.

Come on! This is an issue with which I’ve seen even the biggest and best non-profit agencies struggle. A few minutes of brainstorming can have a huge impact on so many other non-profit and fundraising professionals. It is Friday . . . how about “paying it forward” today?

Or perhaps you want to join me in advocating a TATTOO solution for kids and donors?  😉

Here’s to your health!

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

Choosing the Right Donor Database is like Buying a Car

Welcome to “Mondays with Marissa” at DonorDreams. Every Monday throughout 2012, we will start your non-profit week off right with a technology related topic before returning our attention to donors, fundraising, resource development and all things non-profit. We hope you enjoy Marissa as a new addition to the DonorDreams family!

Having a donor database that fits the needs of your organization can make a world of difference. So, how do choose the right one? When I sat down to think about it, it is a lot like buying a car.

There are some people who are more impulsive with their car buying than others. They walk into a dealer knowing they want a blue one with a sun roof and satellite radio. While others take their time to research and test drive different models; finding a car that has exactly what they need at a price they can afford. Both consumers get what they want, but the consumer who went with the second approach might have gotten a little more for her money. Let’s apply that strategy to finding the perfect database solution for your organization.

First, you want to make a list of what you are currently using. This not only includes the current donor database you are using (if you are using one), but the types of computers, any paper filing systems, the technological competency of the people responsible for maintaining the database, etc. Everything you are using to keep track of donor interactions should go on this list. It would be helpful to break down each item into as many details as possible. For example, when cataloging the types of computers being used, list how old they are along with the installed operating system. Next to each item, make sure you include a small statement about how well the item is satisfying the needs of the organization. Being specific now will only help you later.

I should note that if there are plans to upgrade technology, expand staff, or change facilities soon, make sure you have all of those details as well. The database you choose will exist in that environment. So, you might as well plan for it.

Second, you want to prioritize the requirements that you want included in your new donor database. This is the fun part. Don’t think about money. I’ll say it again because I know, working at a non-profit you probably don’t hear that very often — don’t think about money. The goal is to figure out what features are needed  for the software of your dreams. Think about the functional requirements such as the need for data back-up, ability to print, run reports, can it run on both Mac and PC, does it need to run on both Mac and PC, does it offer a secure log in, is the design customizable, etc.

Next, turn your thoughts to donor management. What functions do you need included to successfully manage your donors? Some items might include: scheduling, reminders, calendars, events, employee matching, the ability to export to Quick Books, and forecasting.

Make your lists detailed and long. Then sit down and prioritize the list into what is needed most. This isn’t to say that you won’t be able to attain everything on your list, but having priorities will help steer you to the right vendors.

Third, investigate your options with the available vendors. (To help you narrow the field, you can check out sites such as techsoup.org and idealware.org.)  Then you’ll want to take the information you receive from the vendor and see how it closely matches your lists. This, of course, is where money comes into play. When thinking about the total cost of purchasing a new database system remember that it includes: equipment, maintenance, training, implementation, customization, downtime during conversion and tech failures. Also, don’t forget to question the vendor to make sure that they are a good fit for your organization. Do they have customer service hours when you need them? Do they have a large non-profit customer base? After considering all of these options, choose the product that will work best for you. It might turn out that the best solution is continue using what you already have or switch to using a CRM.

Oh yeah, don’t be afraid to ask for references and check them!

Finding a new donor database that works best for your organization is not so different then buying a car. By assessing what you have, listing what you need and researching what’s out there; you can walk into the dealer as an educated consumer and can walk out with the product that meets your needs, most of the time at the price you had in mind.

Here’s to your health!

Viruses, hackers, spyware and donors oh my

Last Thursday, I turned my computer on and started preparing to write my daily blog, when suddenly my virus software sprang into action. A pop-up window told me that my computer was infected with a trojan virus and asked if I wanted it removed. Of course, I said ‘YES’. In a blink of an eye, I was staring at the dreaded “blue screen of death,”and I was obviously out of commission. It was for this reason you did not see any blog posts from me on Thursday or Friday.

During my unplanned time down, I started thinking about how non-profit organizations probably deal with this on a daily basis and how in some instances it could even impact donors who routinely feed us their personal information (e.g. name, address, phone, email, credit card and banking info, etc).

Upon further investigation, did you know that the Obama team, who has collected tons of donor information at donate.barackobama.com, had to dealt with hackers as recently as a year ago? And “Twitter hacking” has been in the news recently for reasons I refuse to go into.

Non-profit organizations are constantly collecting information on their donors and storing it in their donor database. In fact, with the social media revolution in full swing, non-profits are pushing further by “friending” donors on Facebook, following donors on Twitter, and linking with donors on LinkedIn. All of these activities are intended to help deepen our relationships with donors and get to know them even better.

It is a brave new world and non-profit organizations need to make sure they are ready to deal with these issue. If you don’t think spyware, computer viruses, phishing and hackers are an issue, then go talk to our resource development friends at the University of Notre Dame  or Maine Public Broadcasting.

Put yourself in a donor’s shoes after being informed that your systems were compromised? Where is your confidence level? What is running through your mind the next time you’re asked to make a contribution?

Of course, the answer is not to unplug your donor database or shutdown the organization’s Facebook or Twitter accounts. However, you might consider the following:

  • Develop a privacy policy for donors like the one Hope House has posted on their website.
  • Use the Association of Fundraising Professional’s (AFP) Code of Ethical Principles & Standards and The Donor Bill of Rights as a foundation to develop your resource development policies.
  • Develop a crisis management plan like the one United Way of Marion County in Florida has posted to the internet and consider involving donors in the policy development process so you can capture their point of view on how they’d like to be informed on certain matters.
  • Develop a documentation retention policies so you know what you need to keep and how to securely keep it. Blue Avocado has done a nice job getting you started down this road, but you definitely need to involve your board volunteers, Finance Committee, auditors, and possibly even your donors in developing your own policies.
  • Use virus software and spyware software routinely. Check out Tech Soup’s “virus protection toolkit”.
  • Don’t ever email donor data or information.

If you really want to scare yourself, spend a few moments with this PowerPoint presentation from our friends at NTEN.  Scared yet?

So, how do you protect your donor data? If your systems got hacked or compromised, how would you go about informing your donors and dealing with the crisis? Please weigh-in and share so we can all learn together!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC