Do you really need a donor database? I mean, REALLY need it?
Shortest. Blog. Ever.
Fine, I’ll expound.
Maybe you are thinking “we are a smaller shop with only a few employees and we keep track of everything on Excel, and everything is fine.”
Is it, though?
I am in sales (as are you), and over the years I have worked with all kinds of people – those who relied on database management systems (I definitively fall into this category) and those who have other… uh… systems (Excel, shoeboxes with index cards, etc). Almost universally, those who used a CRM were more successful than those who didn’t.
We are all humans who cannot rely on our faulty memories to remember when to call someone back, what they were interested in, when your last conversation was and so on. You need to be able to keep track of that and a database is going to allow you to do that, and to do that MUCH more effectively than spreadsheets.
Consider that time you went to lunch with a major donor and she told you that she just on vacation in Venice for two weeks, and that she roots for the Virginia Tech Hokies, and that she would be interested in upping her financial commitment next year, but not to call her until after August 1 because she has a lot going on between now and then and she can’t be disturbed.
Think about all the salient, useful facts you learned about this donor during that conversation. Lots of useful nuggets to record and draw upon later. How much more powerful is it if you are talking to her in a year, you drop into conversation that you remember she was in Venice a year ago? Or if you congratulate her after the big Hokies win? And how critical is it to remember that she does not want to be contacted before August 1? These details are necessary to your relationship with this major donor.
If a donor database can track those kinds of notes and memories from conversations, it is already ahead of spreadsheets. If the database can also take those notes and combine them with other interactions (email opens, event attendance, donations, etc) to give you some sort of scoring system that helps you understand the relationship you have with your donors, even better. Tracking those relationships and then interpreting them is what will help you retain more donors year over year.
Your board members may not be in sales or development and may not understand why a paid-for solution is worth so much more than the free solution you have been using for a while. Take the time to do the math with them, show them what a good prospect research feature will bring in with major gifts, show them what an increase in 5% on your donor retention rate means. Do the math with them to show them how the database will pay for itself, and if it doesn’t pay for itself, find another database provider.
Don’t settle for spreadsheet, start fundraising successfully by leveraging the relationships you have built!