Loving your Donor means loving your database

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Loving your Donor means loving your database

I would like to welcome the first of my Guest Blogs in what I hope will be a series of expert-sharing  posts to support the business of donor care. Michelle McCombie established Hartland Data Insight to help charities maximize their  fundraising results by knowing the people who support them. Over to Michelle….

Knowing your data and not knowing your data can make an enormous difference to your fundraising results. I understand that many fundraisers find the database a slightly scary beast in the corner of the room. But if you know how to feed it and care for it well, the beast becomes a kitten.   Knowing your data can help you achieve a number of things:

  •  Maximise sustainable, long-term income streams from donors
  • Invest in donor recruitment strategies based on potential
  • Maximise profitability by allocating expenditure according to lifetime values, and
  • Develop fundraising messages which both reinforce your brand position and maximise income
  • Streamline processes allowing your donor care team to spend more time focussing on the donor rather than often tedious data tasks.

So how do you tame the beast?

The first thing I recommend is a Database Health Check.  Often I find limited data being held, or poor quality data with significant amounts of information being held in the ‘Notes’ field which causes issues when it comes to creating reports and selecting data for mailings. Some information is held in multiple locations, or worse, not recorded at all, such as communications in and out from the donor. Often I find financial codes are inconsistent or inaccurate and not enough staff know how it works. That scary beast again!

Starting with financial coding, it is an idea to develop and document (with all key stakeholders in FR and Finance) a clear rationale to support code development in line with your FR Budget structures. Set clear roles and responsibilities for code development and implementation, and make sure everyone understands. Give examples!  Also, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to have a good project manager when taking this on.

The impact will be a much calmer beast. You will have a structure that is consistent, and makes use of all elements of the income codes. For example, on Raisers Edge this is campaign, appeal and fund.   But most importantly you will now have a system that allows you to make robust analysis of your fundraising, and a fundraising team that knows what activities are delivering.  You can now segment data more effectively and avoid scattergun approaches to donor care that wastes resources and diminishes loyalty. Can you hear the purring yet?

My next recommendation would be to initiate a sustained drive on data collection by asking supporters at all touch points for their contact details (email, mobile and home phone), their date of birth (where channels support) and – critical for effective donor care – their motivation (through all response forms and telemarketing).

I recently worked with Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke (NICHS) and I would like to thank their Donor Marketing Manager Elley Martin for not only embracing this work, but allowing me to share their results. Since NICHS reviewed their data collection touch points, they have had a:

  • 333% uplift in email addresses
  • 75% uplift in home phone numbers
  • 533% uplift in mobile numbers

The impact of this is incredible. It will allow you to diversify communication channels which satisfy your donor’s preferences and protects you against unsubscribing and lapsing.   It means your donor care is targeted and personalised because you know what motivation factors are at play and you can insert variable paragraphs in letters and scripts.  And by recording communications you can improve supporter care by identifying what they are receiving and responding to.

By now you have a tame kitten who purrs when you use it. Using your database effectively to improve your knowledge of your data will deliver vastly improved donor care by enhancing their experience, and help you make more effective investment decisions.


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