Data Collection: Dropping the Ball on Future Opportunities

Donor Master Records

The donor data is in good form; it’s clean, standardized and duplicates have been removed.  The next step is to examine what has been collected. This would qualify as relationship building content and management / decision making data.

Without going into unique requirements too deeply, let’s look at some of the basic pieces of information that create value for a fund development department. We all understand contact information. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, a home address for private donors and a company address for businesses.

Full addresses are usually easy to collect, but phone and email can sometimes be elusive. Acquiring this information may be dependent on what is requested when the ‘Ask’ is being made, or when a donor turns up in person. When a donation is from a non-private donor, the opportunity exists to contact the organization for complete information.

An address lets you contact a donor for a donation, invite them to an event, or send a newsletter. With a phone number, we can contact them personally to say thank you, ask for their support, or invite them to participate in a focus group. Email provides the opportunity to send an eNewsletter, inform them about upcoming events and direct them to a website to further build their interest or send a donation.

How often is some of this information incorrect or simply non-existent? Opportunities lost are not the fault of the software, but the lack of a comprehensive plan to capture data necessary to build a fund development program.


Every business, association, foundation, church or service club will have contacts that perform certain tasks.  These contacts are people who interact on behalf of their organization, with the charity. One definitive list that identifies why these people are beneficial, needs to be built and used by all department members.

With one list versus multiple lists, contact information can be kept up to date.  Staff members can move to new positions without leaving holes for the organization to attempt to fill. Contact information for organizations needs to identify ‘who and why and how’ a person or a position, is instrumental to the charity. Qualifying contacts makes access fast and accurate.

Information from the software can be exported to keep email tools and address books up-to-date. When you think about the contact information you collect, think about how this impacts on your ability to keep your community informed by ‘telling your story’, advocacy opportunities and donor support.  Communicating with your ‘audience’ is important to keep their interest and maintain their commitment.

 More Information is Required

This discussion represents only a small part of a much bigger picture when it comes to the type of information we need to ‘flesh out’ the database, making it a powerful entrepreneurial resource.  The ability to run comparative reports on giving history based on business or personal demographics, or select groups of individuals or organizations based on areas of interest, all impact on new opportunities and fund raising dollars.

Incomplete data collection is often supplemented by written notes, comments in emails, or saved in the memory of a staff member … all of these are inaccessible and inadequate as a method of retaining valuable organizational memory.  As part of this project we introduced the 15 second rule.  Accessing what you need in 15 seconds can only be done through the software, the use of a system of coding and a strategy to capture need to know information accurately.

Two areas expand knowledge of our donors. First is the use of the Communications tab to record relationship building information.  Photographs, major gift plans, social networking sites, web sites, web downloads, power point presentations and more can be linked directly to a private or corporate master record.

Second is Dickens, the contact manager.  Dickens records important points of contact that need to be shared organization wide without restriction. Think professional when you think of Dickens.  It takes a moment to record a verbal or electronic transaction. The time is hardly an imposition when you consider the alternative … the loss of valuable historical contact data and of course we look at the benefit …a comprehensive picture of contact activity.

This is the path forward thinking charities are taking as they look at their not for profit organizations from a business perspective.  Personally, we applaud the effort and commitment of the management team involved.  It is no easy task to do a self examination and make changes.  The outcome will find more time freed up for fund raising, less stress and more enjoyment in providing the services they offer.

3 responses to “Data Collection: Dropping the Ball on Future Opportunities”

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