insights Opptys SofTrek
  July 2014


Welcome to the summer issue of SofTrek’s fundraising newsletter, Insights & Opportunities.

One question: If everybody’s hoping for an endless summer, why are we already seeing back-to-school sales?


Growing Your Active Donor Base with Data

active-donor-dataWith the numbers on donor attrition looking as stark as ever, the focus on a healthy and active donor base has rarely been stronger. A major 2012 survey from AFP and the Urban institute revealed that the average nonprofit donor retention rate hovers at 40 percent; the average new donor retention rate, little more than 25 percent. Other studies have shown similar results.

So, if we all acknowledge the issue, what can your organization do about growing the list of its active donors? The first step is realizing that the process for doing so is continual. If you’re strategic about it, however, you can take small and steady steps to reactivate donors who have lapsed as well as gain new names. (Moving current donors upward in their giving is also a key strategy for revenue growth, of course, but they’re already active and not our focus here.)

One of the most important steps begins with the letter “D”—for data. Your organization will benefit by ensuring data that’s already in its possession is working as hard as it can. We’re not talking Big Data. No—this data is already in your system, and improving it can boost the number of your active givers.

Data Management Done Right

Data management is the operational ways in which your organization gets, confirms, stores, secures and makes use of its data. When you implement effective data management, you end up with data that you can access easily, data that’s dependable, up-to-date and accurate. If your data exhibits these qualities, any fundraising tactics that rely on that data are likely to show better results.

Would a search of your organizational soul reveal your data is not up to snuff—perhaps it even gives people headaches? Then consider some of the following tactics designed to shore up your data management, which will support the growth of your active list.


Database integration:  One of the best ways—a best practice, in fact—to improve data management is to merge any databases on which your fundraising efforts rely. Integrate donor, volunteer and event, even shadow databases, into one list that is the source of all (donor) truth. If you have an online giving database, integrate that as well. The benefits will accrue quickly. Any changes made to a record are available to anyone who uses the database. That means when membership inputs a new preferred address for snowbirds and enters it into your database, annual fund folks will also have the info. Because you no longer need to enter data more than once, double-entry errors decrease or go away completely.  When a donor gives online and enters his/her information, it goes directly into the main database and is immediately available for further cultivation.




Data standardization:  Make firm rules about how you amass data. These rules should include the specifics that must always appear in a new constituent record, whether that information is entered manually or captured digitally. Employing USPS-standard formats for addresses also helps here. You can take the standardization even further by collecting more information than you currently do, things like mail records identifying specific appeals, the results of those appeals or breakdowns of giving channels.



Workflow standardization:  Let anyone who uses and changes constituent information know that your organization has adopted a consistent way of coding data, then make sure your system(s) enforce that method.  You might, for example, specify that certain pieces of information have to be part of a record before the system allows it to be saved. That ensures important data (say, codes that show the solicitor associated with a constituent) is always included in the record.


Adding a National Change of Address (NCOA) and/or “new move list” service (from companies like SofTrek partner Melissa Data) gives you the assurance that you always have up-to-date addresses even for inactive donors. The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that approximately 15% of people change addresses in a year, so you can greatly increase the number of people you reach with any mail appeals.



Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law Implications for Nonprofits

Q3 2014 Newsletter Canada-Anti-Spam-LawGot Canadian constituents? If you do, or if you’re soliciting prospects in Canada via email, you should take note of Canada’s new anti-spam law, or CASL. Though it was passed way back in 2010, CASL just took effect on July 1, 2014. Canada is pretty firm: “No type of organization, including charities and not-for-profit organizations, is exempt from Canada's anti-spam legislation.” Take a moment to visit the informational site that outlines the law, its potential effects on your nonprofit and tips for staying on the right side of the law. You can, of course, read the full text of the law, although your attorney might be someone who can review it for you and provide guidance.


The Life Cycle of a Report: Getting Better Information from Your Data

BI-Reports-life-cycleReports, reports and more reports. Of course your organization generates reports. But are you generating reports that deliver complex information in a way that’s usable and understandable—and reveals what you or your organization actually needs?

A key way to produce valuable reports is to apply a strategic report-development process. When you employ a defined report-development process, your reporting can actually rise to the level of business intelligence. Reaching that pinnacle takes a deliberate plan to approach any complicated reporting project. The steps involved in a formal report/BI development process ensure the information you think you need does what you want it to and that discovers clear meaning from your data.

The process—in reality, the life cycle of a BI report--includes these steps: (See Infographic

Whether you’re building a report with assistance from with your database administration, IT department or an ad hoc report tool, like the one in ClearView CRM, this process is vital to producing a meaningful report that actually works when you run it. 


Read the Study — or Studies

Some of us can never get enough data about fundraising and philanthropy. If that describes you, take a tour through these resources, ranging from a literature review to scholarly research on relevant topics.