Your donors are the lifeblood of your organization. Their dedication and support are integral to your success, which is why it’s so important to get to know them well. Your donor database, also called a donor management system or constituent relationship management software (CRM), is how you organize information about your donors to help you more effectively communicate with them and personalize your outreach.
It’s easy to understand why you would want to organize all of this information. Personalized communications and targeted marketing for fundraisers is much more effective for securing funds and furthering donor relationships than a generic ask. What’s not so easy, however, is picking the right software to help you do that.
There are lots of different options out there. That’s why we put together this useful donor database buyer’s guide where we’ll take a look at:
- Donor Database Basics: FAQ
- Donor Database Features to Look For
- Our Suggested Donor Database: NonProfitEasy
This guide will help you determine how the right donor management software can help you, whether you may need to upgrade your current system, and how to pick the right option for your organization. Let’s get started!
Donor Database Basics: FAQ
Whether you’re looking to invest in a donor database for the first time or are aiming to upgrade your current donor database software, you might have a few questions. Here are some of the most-asked questions on the topic.
What does a donor database do?
An effective donor database will offer a wide range of different capabilities, but its main purpose is to help you better manage your donor relationships and fundraise more effectively. With this in mind, one of the most important things it does is to not only help you manage and track your donors but to also get you critical data on who they are financially so that you have a better understanding of your supporters. A database gives you a centralized place to keep all of the important information about your donors, such as their giving history, methods of contact, demographics, their connections, and more.
Having this information helps you fundraise better by enabling you to segment your donors and target certain fundraising efforts and communications to them. This might mean that you communicate to some donors more than others about different campaigns or that you adjust your messaging depending on what segment of your donors you’re addressing. Without information centralized in this way, you wouldn’t be able to easily identify who to target for your fundraising.
Your donor database helps you personalize your communications by informing you about who should be receiving different messaging, but it also makes it easier to communicate overall. Many donor databases include email marketing tools that allow you to personalize and schedule different communications to different segments of your audience. You can send personalized emails from one place without significant extra labor.
By improving your donor communications, a donor database will improve your donor relationships. The goal is always to have an engaged donor base that fosters long-term relationships with your organization — good software will help you achieve this.
Is it time to upgrade my donor database?
One of the biggest hints that it may be time for an upgrade is if you and your staff are doing a lot of work manually. If there is little to no centralization of data and automation of donor-related tasks in your current system, it may be time to consider more robust donor management software.
Another question to ask yourself is whether your fundraising messaging is generalized and the same for everyone? If yes, is it because you haven’t considered personalization or because your staff does not have time to personalize?
If the answer is that your staff doesn’t have the time, upgrading your donor database to automate some of these tasks might be worth the investment. Overly-generalized messages are likely to return very low engagement rates from your donor base. This isn’t effective for building strong donor relationships, which should be a priority for your organization as you work to grow. Updated software can help you improve this.
How do I choose a donor database?
While the abundance of choices available to you may be overwhelming at first, with some research and help from guides like this one, you’ll find the right platform in no time.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is identify what’s lacking in your current CRM. What do you wish you could do? What do you often do manually that could be automated? After you know what features you’d like to have, you can use some of the other features we mentioned in this donor database buyer’s guide to start researching software providers.
There are a lot of options but we think you’ll love our product, NonProfitEasy for both its affordability and scalability that makes it a great choice for any nonprofit organization. This is because it has all of the features that you should look for in donor management software. It’s one of the most effective software options for turning one-time donors into lifetime supporters of your organization.
Donor Database Features to Look For
Each donor database is slightly different but most will incorporate some of the same top features. To make sure you pick the right software for your organization, it’s important to identify which features are going to be most useful for you. We’ve included some of the features that we think are most important to look for in donor management software.
Because many different types of organizations might use the same donor database software, you may not see everything you need in the default fields. This is why custom fields can be so helpful. A database that lets you create custom fields will ensure that you’ll be able to accomplish everything you need.
Once you make sure that a database offers custom fields, you should also check if there are any limitations that may cause a problem in the future. Are there limits to how many custom fields you can create? Are there only certain types of custom fields that can be created? Take a deeper dive to make sure your needs will be met.
Detailed Donor Profiles
As we’ve discussed, one of the biggest benefits to a great donor database is the data organization and improved donor relationships as a result of using this data. However, no level of centralization and organization will help you make better-informed decisions if you don’t have enough data. Can your CRM show your Donors’ giving history at other charities, their income level, and propensity to give to a certain cause? Make sure your CRM can get this data for you so that you are better informed when talking to your donors.
This is why you want to make sure that your CRM offers detailed donor profiles. In order to properly segment your donor base, you’ll need lots of information about your donors so that your communications really do feel personal to them. The more you know about your donors, the better you’ll understand them and understand what will motivate them to engage with your organization.
Now that you know what kind of information you’ll be able to collect and include in your donors’ profiles, you need to make sure that your CRM has the segmentation capabilities that you need. There may be limitations on what factors you can use to segment or how many different segments you can make.
While these limitations may not be a problem for you right now, you should be aware of them. If you are hoping to see your organization grow significantly in the future, it’s important to consider if these limitations might cause problems in the future. Setting yourself up for success in the future will eliminate the need to switch CRM’s again.
Since the purpose of a donor database is to help you track data and run more effective fundraisers, you need to be able to measure the success of your fundraisers and communications. Most donor databases will offer you some degree of reporting, but not all are made equal.
Finding donor management software that will eliminate as much manual work as possible when it comes to analytics and measuring the success of campaigns is crucial. A CRM with an easy and comprehensive reporting system will enable you to measure each campaign, compare it to others, identify which donors are engaging and in what ways, and what areas can be improved in your next campaign.
While it’s obvious that you need to find software that fits your current needs, it may not be as natural to think several years ahead when it comes to donor database software. However, you want to avoid having to re-do this whole process two years down the line and transfer all your donor data yet again. Your CRM’s capabilities need to match where you see your organization several years from now.
The easiest factor to consider is how many donors a specific database can manage at once, in case of growth, but that’s not the only thing to consider. There may be features that you won’t currently use but could be useful in future projects that you want to make sure you have. When picking your donor database, try to keep a forward-thinking approach and don’t limit yourself.
Finding a well-designed database is your first priority, but you will also want to consider what other integrations are available. The integrations offered can significantly increase your capabilities and the ease with which you use your database.
Integrations can take some work off your plate by easily connecting platforms you may already be using, like WordPress or Mailchimp, to your CRM. And as you identify new ways to raise funds, like by promoting matching gifts to your donors, integrated options significantly reduce the barriers to getting up and running with your new strategy. Overall, having more integrations available to you through your donor database will only open up opportunities and make it easier to connect and automate different tasks.
This is possibly one of the most important considerations for your organization. Understandably, you may be hesitant about spending money on new donor management software. It’s also possible that some prices will not be feasible for your organization. However, a limited budget does not mean that you can’t upgrade your software
There are products at many different price points out there so you’ll likely find one that suits your situation, but it’s also important to consider the investment that you’re making. If your staff is currently wasting hours doing menial tasks that could easily be automated with an updated CRM, you’ll free up hours of their time that can be spent doing outreach, securing funding, and bettering donor relationships. By pivoting their time to more beneficial and lucrative activities, your investment in better donor management software can actually help you earn more money.
Why We Think You’ll Love NonProfitEasy
Why Our Donor Database Stands Out
A lot of different CRM’s offer the same features, but NonProfitEasy does more to ensure the success of our clients. Not only is our software very user-friendly with all the features you could possibly need, our experienced customer service staff will make sure that your organization is never left in a lurch.
NonProfitEasy also has over 15 integrations to help you get the most out of our software. The various pricing plans available and multi-year contracts make it affordable for more organizations, as well as more scalable. Once you lock in a price in your multi-year contract, you can continue to scale without any extra charges for the duration of your contract.
Getting Started With NonProfitEasy
We think you’ll love NonProfitEasy, but you don’t have to take our word for it! As part of your research, you’ll likely want to try out products you’re seeing before making a final decision. If you’re interested in NonProfitEasy, you can easily request a demo or free trial.
Setting yourself up with NonProfitEasy is at no risk for you because of our fundraising increase guarantee. If after a year your organization has not seen increased fundraising revenue, we promise to help move your data to a new database of your choice for free.
Choosing donor database software is an important decision that can help your organization raise more funds, improve organization and enhance donor relations. You don’t want to rush into it. We highly recommend you do your research and demo products like NonProfitEasy to help you weigh your options before you make your final decision.
If you’re looking for other tips and ideas for strengthening your donor base, check out these additional resources:
- Fundraising Ideas | 150 Easy Campaigns for Any Cause. Getting your supporters involved and regularly connecting with them through various fundraising events and campaigns is important for building a long-lasting connection to your cause.
- Essential Features of a Nonprofit CRM. This article offers more in-depth tips and considerations for making sure that your CRM is a perfect fit for your organization.
- Volunteer Appreciation–Planning the Celebration. Learn how to make your volunteers feel like they are important to your organization with this article that will help you plan a celebration in their honor.