This is the third of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters.

Table of Contents

Chapter 3

What You Need to Know about Your Donors

There are many ways to collect information about donors. Remembering the 80/20 rule, it’s obvious you’re going to put more hands-on time and effort into collecting information about the 20% of donors who give 80% of contributed income. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest. All donors are capable of growth. And your largest donors today probably started out making far smaller gifts.

You need to develop profiles of all your donors. It’s just that the profiles of your smaller givers are unlikely to be as fleshed-out as those of your largest donors. It’s common sense that you will know a lot better the donor who gives a hundred thousand dollars than one who gives a hundred. Nevertheless, you should be collecting basic profile information on all donors. One more word of, I guess, caution. You’re not going to be able to get all the information listed here. But try. Over time, you’ll be surprised at how much of it you will be able to collect.

The real value of a donor database-a collection of donor profiles-is in the information contained. The basic profile of each of your donors should include:

  • Who they are
  • How to contact them
  • How they became donors
  • Their giving record
  • How, by whom, when contacted by a representative of the organization
  • What other interaction they have had with the organization

To begin with, you need the basic information that identifies each donor.

  • Name: Last, first, and middle
  • Salutation: Should you address them as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Dr., etc.
  • Name-tag: At a function should the name tag say Joe, Joseph, or Buzzie
  • Occupation: Where they work and their title
  • Birth date: Day and year. Know how old they are
  • Spouse or significant other’s name: All too often not given proper recognition
  • Significant family members: These are the other people in the donor’s family who may or may not have an involvement with your organization but who may play a role in the donor’s decision making process, or they could be “important” people in the community

If you get this information you will be able to identify each donor as an individual, and you will know things about them that go beyond name, rank, and serial number.

When it comes to contacting a donor, you need to be able to do it in different ways. You need to know the best way, and you need to know the contact method preferred by the donor. Each donor’s profile should include:

  • Postal addresses, both home and business.
  • Phone numbers: home, business, and fax.
  • Email address. Today, email addresses are crucially important. Your organization should be collecting email addresses from everyone it touches.

From this information, you need to identify each donor’s preferred method of contact. How and where does the donor want to be reached? Are you supposed to contact first by email? Should phone calls go to the home or business?

A record of how a person became a donor is useful in analyzing how to approach that person in the future. Aggregating that data can tell you what has worked for your organization in the past and what areas of donor recruitment you are not fully exploiting. Who or what was the referrer of the donor to the organization? Referrer in this context means more than the name of a person who may have introduced a donor to the organization. A referrer can be an advertisement, a speech by someone representing the organization, an outside mailing list, or use of the organization’s services. Anything that brings a donor into his or her first contact with an organization is a referrer. Did the donor have contact with your organization before becoming a donor? If so, what kind, how much, and with whom?

A giving record is the one thing that every organization is sure to have for every donor. At least I would hope so. However, it is something often put on a shelf and forgotten about until the next campaign. Don’t. A giving record can tell you much about how to cultivate and maintain a donor. Record every pledge a donor makes and if you know, include why the donor gave. Keep track of when a donor makes payments on pledges. Are payments on time, late, or early?

Which solicitors or methods of solicitation have had the greatest success with the donor? Has response been better to male or female solicitors? Do phone or mail solicitations work better? How has a donor responded to different campaigns? Is there always a gift for the annual fund but never for a capital drive, or vice versa? Does a donor give once a year no matter what? Does a donor prefer to give only at the same time each year? Can a donor be enticed with a naming opportunity?

And of course keep track of the total given. This last part sounds easy doesn’t it? But, do you include things such as the value of the donation part of a benefit ticket or gifts in kind? This is valuable information to have when it comes to thanking and recognizing a donor. A great deal of information can be gleaned from an individual’s record of campaign contributions.

Giving may not be the only way in which a donor interacts with an organization. A donor may also be a client or user of the organization’s services. If so, which ones and how often? Does the donor volunteer at the organization? Keep track of volunteer hours so that you can thank and recognize him or her. Has the donor visited the organization? When? How many times? Who was seen? What was seen?

Has the donor worked a fund-raising campaign or benefit? As a Solicitor? Team captain? Chair? How well did the donor perform? What areas of the organization’s work or what needs has the donor expressed an interest in? Has the donor served on the board or any committees? Does the donor belong to any support groups of the organization? With which staff members has the donor had the strongest contact?

The closer your relationship with a donor, the more information will be available about that donor, and your closest relationships will be with your largest donors.

When it comes to larger donors:

  • Whatever system you use to collect and hold data about donors must have the flexibility to manage information that is individually specific and relevant.
  • Never fail to record a piece of information you believe might be valuable. Better to err on the side of excess here.
  • Troll the rest of the organization for information about large donors. At least, monthly check with other departments about any contact they may have had with your top donors.
  • Analyze new information to determine if it presents an opportunity for someone in the organization to make a personal contact.

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