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The Donor Database
Thank you to my colleague David Matthew for bringing the topic of "finding balance with nonprofit software" to my attention. I believe that proper use of a donor database is THE essential component is any fund development initiative.
It's no longer a question of: Can you afford donor management software? There are fantastic products on the market at every pricepoint. Check out this excellent report from NTEN. The question is: Will you invest the time to learn how to use the software to its full extent? I find that most nonprofits still (yes...still) use their donor database like an electronic rolodex. Unfortunately, many just use it to record name, address, email and gifts. Big deal. That's like using a 4G IPhone to just make phone calls!
First - choose your software carefully. Talk to colleagues and get recommendations from development directors who are using their software to help build relationships, stay connected, monitor correspondence with donors, anaylze return on investment of fundraising initiatives, study trends in your donors' giving patterns, and make realistic projections going forward.
Second - Budget time and money for training, consulting and courses to learn how to maximize the power of the software. With the proper training, the software WILL make you a better fundraiser.
Third - make the guys/gals at your software company's tech support your best friends. Make lists of your questions and call often. Send them birthday cards.
Fourth - Find a few colleagues who use the same software that you use and schedule chats once a month to compare notes and learn from one another.
I get several calls a month from nonprofit professionals asking me what software to buy. It's not about the software, my friends, it's about the development professional understanding the power of this tool and investing the time to learn how to utilize it.
Good luck. And...if you're going to be in NYC next Wednesday, July 13th, sign up for a great panel discussion at the Foundation Center -- Raising Money Over the Internet. I'll see you there.
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