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The Nonprofit Blog

6 comments - Last on 01/29/2009

Recession Fundraising:
Getting back to donor data base-ics

It amazes me how many nonprofit organizations do not take advantage of the low-cost, skillfully designed donor management software that is on the market today.  

Microsoft Access and Excel are not donor databases.  Yes, they are an improvement over keeping your notes on cocktail napkins, but they are merely electronic rolodexes.  A donor database is a dynamic tool that helps you record donations, thank supporters and actively cultivate loyal relationships with your donors that will lead to sustainable partnerships; yes, even in these hard times.

Where to begin?  A google search of "donor database" results in over 1.3 million hits.  Ugh.  Techsoup  weeds through with a good comparison chart available for free download.  If you're just getting started, read Robert Weiner's article at  the Network for Good Learning Center. Also, read Weiner's classic article:  Ten Common Mistakes in Selecting Donor Databases.  Once you begin to get a sense of what's out there, get references from development directors who use these databases.

I would love to have you join me for my free teleseminar on Feb. 23rd: Using Donor Management Software to Build Profitable Relationships.  We'll discuss specifics of what your database can and will do for you (if you put in the time and effort.)  I will be offering tips on finding the right software for your organization and setting it up to help you set aggressive goals and achieve them; yes, even in these hard times.

Take a look at GiftWorks by Mission Research.  It is a high powered, dynamic fundraising tool.  The website offers a great video library of  demos as well as free live online tours.  Mission Research is committed to helping their users get the most out of their software.  They understand fundraising and strive to offer a product that responds to the needs of  development director in this challenging economic climate.  The phone support desk is terrific and the  price for the Standard Edition is only $399!

The use and selection of a donor database is an important discussion and I hope some of you will comment on the donor management software you use and its value in your fundraising initiatives.

Add a Comment

As someone transitioning to the nonprofit sector from the information services industry I have experience installing databases. There are three consistent issues I saw arise and am confident they are applicable to nonprofit organizations as well:

1) Immediately opting for a database based mainly on the name or the cost even though it may not be appropriate to the fundraising needs. A decision made for the wrong reason will be a bad fit for the organization and result in unproductive and resentful employees.


2) Not knowing what the fundraising needs are. This is the core issue. Too often the people who make the database decision are in the IT department. They have valid infrastructure and security concerns that need to be understood, but they will not be the everyday users of the database. Only the people who have a deep understanding of what their jobs require, what they currently can do and what they need to do can properly evaluate database functionality. The tone is set by management who must take ownership of the relationship with the database provider.

3) Training is given short shrift and a support person is delegated to handle the database. A solid database should be the nervous system of an organization. Rather than trying to shoehorn the current process into the new system, an install is the best time for a total evaluation of all processes and communications. It can be time-consuming, but it's the only way to implement more efficient and effective procedures. Otherwise the organization is likely to settle into a mindset of, "This is the way we've always done it. This is how I learned to do it. This is the way I tell everyone to do it."

I'm enjoying the technology theme this month and hope you'll continue drawing attention to this important topic.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomaslnegron


thank you for helping demistify the concept of creating a dynamic donor base by use of affordable software that is user friendly.  i had a meeting this morning with a small non profit and i emphasized the importance of a donor base as the foundation to successful fund raising (i picked that up from class the other day).  at first they were hesitant,  but when i shared the concept of lower cost software that is more user friendly they jumped at the idea. 

ted kamoutsis


I think buying a computer program to keep your database in a bad economy seems like an efficient investment for fundraising.


Thank you for this informative article on "donor data base-ics" and for the free teleseminar "Technology for Fundraising."  I particulary liked your comments regarding excel and access being "electronic rolodexes" and the 30/70 rule. This will be vital when upgrading from the e-rolodex to a donor database software program.  


As someone who has worked with the Board and founders of a small start-up non-profit, I cannot say how helpful its been learning about the different "levels" available for donor databases. An organization like the one I worked for would not be willing to invest a large sum of money right off, but it is, in my view, the best investment a non-profit can make. Just being able to present a choice that is more inexpensive, but still specially designed for managing your donor information and helping form lasting donor relationships is extremely helpful in convincing the Board to acquire this type of software instead of going the Excell route for the first year and then learning how inefficient it can be for these purposes. Thank you for your input.


Our nonprofit organization has created a team to select new hardware and software to more fully meet the organization's growing needs. Your blog and the comments were very helpful -- the first budget proposal came in without anything budgeted for training or technical support. We are reworking the budget to make sure that we cover these essential components.


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