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Maximize Your Nonprofit CRM: 5 Donor Management Tips

Managing your nonprofit’s donor data can seem like an uphill battle. Check out these 5 effective strategies for making the most of your nonprofit’s CRM.

Dan Quirk Dan Quirk on August 27, 2018 • 9 minute read

These days, it’s a given that nonprofits of all shapes and sizes need to have a CRM on hand to manage constituent relationships.

After all, there’s a lot your team needs to keep track of, from who has donated to which supporters attended your latest event.

Yet, even though nonprofit professionals can agree that CRMs are vital donor management tools, not every organization knows how to make the most of this dynamic software.

In fact, many organizations aren’t utilizing their donor data effectively given all the benefits CRMs have to offer. If your non-profit wants to get a head start with your donor data management, you’ll need to take a second look at how you’re maximizing the potential of your CRM.

Think your team is up to the challenge? In this article, we’ll review our top recommendations for how your organization can get more out of your CRM. Your team should:

  1. Know what donor data you actually need.
  2. Make connections and create smart segments.
  3. Find a CRM that integrates with prospect research software.
  4. Create opportunities for capturing data.
  5. Choose a CRM that connects with your other software.

Whether you already have a CRM in place or are just starting to consider implementing one at your nonprofit, the following strategies will help your team get more value from these ubiquitous nonprofit tools. Let’s dive into these essential tips!

1. Know what donor data you actually need.

By far, the biggest data management mistake that nonprofits make again and again is failing to capture the right data.

If you already have a CRM up and running at your organization, you probably have profiles created for your donors that you use to help manage relationships.

Yet, if these profiles are capturing too little data (or even too much data), they might not be reaching their potential as donor management resources.

Let’s review some must-have data fields your team should see in your CRM’s profiles:

  • Biographical data including your donor’s full name, nicknames, prefix (Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.), date of birth, and gender.
  • Contact information like their phone number, home address, email address, social media handles, and workplace contact information.
  • Giving history at your organization with notations for each and every time they’ve made a gift to your cause, and how much they gave.
  • Volunteer history with your nonprofit, including when they’ve volunteered, how many hours, for which campaigns, etc.
  • Event attendance history for your nonprofit’s fundraising and stewardship events, including digital-only gatherings.

For many organizations, donor profiles only include biographical and contact information, with even fewer tracking giving history at your nonprofit.

However, it’s integral that your organization tracks everything you need to know to manage your donor relationships. A big part of this is knowing when and how an individual has engaged with your cause.

After all, knowing who a donor is and how to get in touch with them won’t be very helpful when the time comes to determine who you should approach for a major gift or invite to your next gala. Your nonprofit’s CRM should paint a comprehensive picture of your constituency.

Curious to learn more about what features your CRM needs to ensure you’re capturing the right donor data? Check out Salsa’s Top 5 Essential Nonprofit CRM Features to find out what CRM features your database should have on hand.

2. Make connections and create smart segments.

Like we touched on in the past section, a common misconception about nonprofit CRMs is that they mainly consolidate donor identity details.

However, there’s a lot more to donor identity are than just their names and birthdays.

In fact, if your organization wants to maximize your CRM as a relationship building tool, it’s important to track your constituents’ relationships with one another.

Consider some of these ways you can leverage segmentation tools in your CRM to identify connections among donors:

  • Track personal relationships between spouses (including divorced or widowed partners), parents, children, siblings, and more.
  • Monitor professional relationships between employers and their employees, employees and their coworkers, and between individuals and their former companies.
  • Craft giving segments tailored to important fundraising tiers at your organization, including major givers, recurring donors, and more.
  • Create marketing segments that group constituents who are good prospects for social media campaigns, email campaigns, direct mail, etc.
  • Group advocacy segments by specific advocacy campaigns, actions those individuals took on behalf of your cause, and more.

Ultimately, knowing how your donors are connected to one another can do a lot to inform the way you approach those relationships in the future.

Not only does understanding these connections play a role in how you engage with these individuals, it can also help your team hone its fundraising strategy.

For example, if you know you’ve already received a large gift from one family member, you could skip asking their spouse for a donation. Similarly, if you know that a certain segment of your donors responds well to online asks, you can focus your digital strategy on that cohort.

You could even create a segment of supporters who work for top matching gift companies in order to more effectively steer donors toward corporate philanthropy.

By leveraging this data to plan out fundraising opportunities, your team can save valuable time and money that would have otherwise been wasted on guesswork. Knowing your supporters is important, but understanding their relationships helps complete the big picture.



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3. Find a CRM that integrates with prospect research software.

Using prospect research software will allow your team to take what they know from your CRM and use it to better manage your donor relationships.

Many nonprofit organizations use prospect research tools to process donor lists and identify prospective donors for upcoming campaigns. Typically, this means exporting donor data and then having it processed by a prospect research database or firm.

But, did you know that some CRMs integrate directly with top prospect research tools like DonorSearch?

By choosing a CRM that integrates with your preferred prospect research database, you get to cut out the middleman and avoid the labor-intensive process of manually exporting donor data.

Instead, a wealth of data will appear directly in your supporters’ donor profiles. You’ll be able to see indicators like their estimated net worth, real estate holdings, and other key factors in the same place you’d find their names, relationships, and interaction histories.

This way, you can quickly browse profiles to get a bird’s-eye view of their giving capacity before making asks. Similarly, you could leverage this data to structure event invitation lists that only approach supporters with opportunities that are relevant to them.

Finally, another way to leverage integrated prospect research data is to create wealth segments. You can group together supporters of similar income to understand the giving capacity of your entire community more comprehensively.

 

4. Create opportunities for capturing data.

So far, we’ve talked about many of the ways your nonprofit can more effectively manage the data in your CRM.

However, there’s still a lot that your nonprofit can be doing to more effectively capture that data and transfer it to your CRM.

Some nonprofits take a manual approach to data collection. As donors give, they have someone on their team create a donor profile and log the data. But this method leaves a lot of room for inaccuracies, missed opportunities, and accidental data duplication.

Take a look at these ways your team can improve its data capturing process:

  • Optimize your online giving forms to include fields for key information like donor name, contact information, employer, and more.
  • Leverage advocacy forms like digital petitions to collect similar data from supporters as they interact with your campaigns online.
  • Capture data through your events by sharing optimized registration forms or surveying guests in person.
  • Leverage volunteer opportunities to learn more about your constituents. Ask volunteers to complete a digital form to gather all the information you need.

The more points in the process for capturing donor data, the more comprehensive your donor management strategy will be.

However, it’s important to note that asking your supporters for too much data can also be problematic.

As your team looks for more ways to learn about your community, you need to keep in mind that your donors might feel that manually sharing their data is tiresome, especially for those providing their data through mobile forms or channels.

For this reason, your organization should ensure that your CRM integrates with your other nonprofit software to transfer data across your entire system. In this next section, we’ll dive into what this looks like in practice.

5. Choose a CRM that connects with your other software.

Having a standalone CRM isn’t just a limitation on your overall donor management strategy—it can actively alienate your supporters and sour them on engaging with your cause.

Think of it this way: if your team leverages separate marketing and fundraising software, you might accidentally ask the same donor for their data multiple times if your systems don’t communicate automatically.

They could complete an email marketing form and then go to donate, only to be asked again for their email address or social media handles.

This makes your nonprofit look like it doesn’t know what to do with data and actively adds roadblocks between your constituents and completing actions on behalf of your cause.

Your nonprofit should pick a CRM that integrates seamlessly with all of your favorite nonprofit software, including fundraising tools, marketing solutions, communication software, and digital advocacy resources.

This way, your data will automatically flow between your different systems, building more complete donor profiles that paint a comprehensive picture of your relationships.

Even better, since there’s no need to export data between systems, you minimize the risk of common data management missteps and ensure that the information you have on hand is as accurate as possible.

The bottom line? If your nonprofit is serious about more effectively managing your donor data, choose a nonprofit CRM that’s designed as a seamless element of your entire software suite.

Managing donor data can be an uphill battle for any nonprofit. With these smart CRM strategies, there’s nothing stopping your team from building stronger supporter relationships.

About the author
Dan Quirk
Dan Quirk Dan Quirk is the Marketing Manager at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Dan's marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization, and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.
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