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3 Summer Donor Database Cleaning Tips

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For the typical nonprofit, the majority of individual donors will send in their money during the fourth quarter of the year. That means we’re quickly approaching the time when you need to have your database and procedures in place for the giving season. Use the slower period between June and September to do a few things.

Start by evaluating your effectiveness. Look at key metrics to see your fundraising efforts generally translate into impact. Donor engagement, donor retention, average gift amount, number of major gifts, and solicitation response rates for solicitation mailings can be a few key metrics to look at.

Have these metrics stayed stagnant over the last few years? Are you noticing any declines? Where have you improved the most?

Answering these questions first can help you evaluate next steps.

Declining – If you’re noticing a decline in any or several of these Key Performance Indicators, it’s probably time to look at three things.

  1. Can you do anything to your processes to incorporate a focus on these declining statistics? Maybe you need to think about adding some key stories to your appeals. Have you invited your donors in for a tour of your program recently? When you send your mailings, is it one and done, or do you follow up with those that don’t make a donation with the initial ask? Try to build one or two more stewardship pieces to your content and make sure your asks are tied to impacts donors can make with your mission.
  2. Does your system give you the information you need in the right format to help progress your fundraising forward? If your system can’t help you segment your list for targeted appeals, it’s probably time to start looking for a replacement. If your system doesn’t allow you to simply pull a list of donors ready to upgrade and donors at risk of lapsing, you’re not using a system that can help you propel your fundraising forward. Now is the time to start looking to move to a system that can help you!
  3. Is your data in good health to be used effectively? Bad data could be your biggest hindrance. Not just bad addresses, but bad structure. During the conversion process it’s not uncommon to find data where fields aren’t clear on their purpose, or where data has been entered inconsistently. We’ve seen databases designed for sales create true hardships for fundraisers causing duplication and incorrect household structures for stewardship and success with future efforts. Your database is more than a place to store your data, it’s a tool to help you leverage that data for future success. If your system isn’t helping you do that, look at our buyer’s guide for new fundraising software because it’s time to invest in a change.

Staying the Same – If you’re generally staying the same, that might be good. But last year the stock market boomed, so if your donations lagged behind the economic growth in the country you might need to re-evaluate whether you truly stayed the same. Be careful of becoming complacent. Have you worked recently on your major gift pipeline for new potential major gift donors? What criteria have you used to evaluate that? For your major gift donors, have you done research to make sure you are appropriately targeting the ask? Make sure that as you work on declining areas you keep the same follow-through and efficiency for these groups. Also, make sure you’re always trying new things and incorporating something new. Don’t become stale with your donors but make sure the fundamentals that kept you propelling forward remain.

Improved – Fantastic! I hope everyone reading this has multiple categories they improved on. Have you made a process or data change that has helped you increase your efficacy? What have you done there that can be replicated? If you cleaned your data to achieve better results with a solicitation, have you thought about philanthropic research to help target your asks? If you’ve improved you retention rates through better stewardship, have you thought about taking that to the next level? How many donors get phone calls from Board members or from you? Like those areas that stayed the same you want to make sure not to let any of those areas that improved decline.

Take the next few weeks to ask the hard questions and then make an action plan to improve your processes and data to ensure that you improve your fundraising impact during the giving season coming in just a few short months.


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