How well do you know your donor base?

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This is the busy season for most nonprofits. Organizations are simultaneously “closing out” this year and planning for next year. Development directors and executive directors are keeping a close eye on the total of gifts received, and the extent to which the organization is on track to meet its fundraising goals. In the midst of it all we recommend keeping your individual donor in focus. 

Here’s what we mean: meeting a fundraising goal means that many people decided to give to your nonprofit. Each should be recorded in your donor database. Together – the person and the data associated with them – should be reviewed as you fundraise and plan. When you record information about your donors you have the information you need to make critical management decisions. 

Here are three things to consider.

1.     Who specifically are the donors who provide your organization with the majority of its funds? Print out the list. Look at their names. Are these program officers associated with foundations? Corporate giving officers? Individuals or families? Decision makers for a fund at a community center? Has each made a gift or grant yet for this year? What is their giving history? How much has each given in total over the past three years? Who typically solicits each? What actions need to be taken prior to yearend? Which need to be taken in the new year to continue the relationship? 

2.     What does an aggregate view of your donor information communicate? Run reports so you can answer the following questions. What has been your attrition rate over the last three years? What is the average gift size? Have there been increases or decreases in the total number of donors over the last three years? How many of your donors provide in-kind gifts and resources? How many of your donors participate in a matching gift program? How many of your donors upgraded their gift over the last three years? Do you have enough prospects who can collectively provide you with three times the amount of money you actually need to raise? Can you identify your lapsed donors – those who gave last year (or the year before) but haven’t given this year? What percentage of your goal do these represent? Do you have a specific strategy to reengage these donors? 

3.     How do you communicate with each donor? Is it “one size fits all” or tailored to match donor preferences or the way which each gives? Do you in fact know the method(s) that each uses? For example, who makes a grant? Who writes a personal or business check? Who makes onetime online gifts and who has signed up for recurring credit card donations? Do you know who gives at special events, and who gives as a result of being personally solicited? Does your communication match their giving method? When do you make a phone call, send a card, or invite a donor to visit your program? 

Your donor base is the heartbeat of your fundraising management: don’t forget to take its pulse.

Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

When you are ready to build a fund development program, grow your fundraising, or increase board engagement we are here to help. (901) 522-8727.


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