A ’57 Chevy in the Daytona 500: Data Matters
Phoenicia,” he said, “I just received the thank you letter for those special event tickets, and you should know, I haven’t been married to (Jane) for eight years!”
I was new. The letter merge was automated. Suddenly, instead of fundraising, I was apologizing profusely and burning with embarrassment!
I was a victim of Dirty Data, which you likely know can bring crashing down the most high-minded development strategy! (Click here to view my video on free donor research ideas, or if you prefer to read, Click here!)
This is no quick fix for this common dilemma, but in today’s blog I’ll help you develop an iterative process to satisfy the IRS and keep your donors’ important information up to date. (Email Me with what’s working for you already!)
As I recently wrote, here’s the problem: Accounting software rarely synchronizes seamlessly with customer (donor) management systems.
Therefore, small and mid-sized organizations commonly track donors in two or three separate systems. Then, they assign two or three staff to spend part of their day managing these programs. This work-around is not cheap, but it does spread the pain and the expense.
My ’57 Chevy Experience
I know this from experience: Years ago, I joined an organization that needed some belt-tightening. Cutting out the donor software subscription was part of our diet.
So, I asked a co-worker to “dump” recent data into Excel, and for several years, I managed fundraising while our finance director used QuickBooks to manage accounting.
We met monthly to reconcile. His data trumped mine (as it should have). His books were audited. My Excel spreadsheets were not.
This worked, but it was like driving my husband’s ’57 Chevy in the Daytona 500. We got around the track and looked good, but the turns were difficult and technological hot rods passed us by.
What I did in 2003 is nearly impossible today. That said, it’s better than doing nothing!
With multi-channeled, on-line fundraising, auction software, text-to-give, etc., now is the time for your non-profit to develop a long-term fundraising technology plan which, first and foremost, satisfies all IRS requirements!
Flash Forward to the Facts
To implement a comprehensive technology plan can take years so start with an evaluation. Otherwise, you’ll rush to the web and download flashy, expensive technology which simply doesn’t meet your comprehensive needs.
Start Where You Are
Ask yourself this simple question, “When we plan our biggest fundraiser of the year, where does the invitation list originate?” If the answer is Excel or a combination of two or three exports, then ask “Why?” You’re on your way to understanding your organization’s data needs.
Remember, your ultimate goal is to raise more money. A donor-centric plan considers how donors give now and how technology can make asking and giving easier.
When reviewing software websites, you’ll be shown impressive, colorful dashboards and complex metrics. Ignore These!!! These charts are available only after your staff is trained for many (expensive) hours and your donors find the interface simple enough to actually make a gift.
Also be skeptical about the pricing. Since 2003, I’ve been blessed to manage much larger operations where I learned quickly that add-on modules can also add on to the price tag!
Finally, get in writing any promises of “included technical help.” I’ve found that on-line training is no replacement for a focused consultant, but again, this costs money.
I recently ran into a long-time professional associate who said she’s reviving an important fundraiser: “No one knows what happened to that list,” she said. “No one can find those names.”
When the hungry need to be fed, the sick healed, the music performed, the exhibit marketed, and illiterate taught to read…asking about a database may seem out of touch with your mission.
Persevere! Your future of the mission will be made stronger by this conversation, and the fundraising necessary to fulfill the mission will also be strengthened.
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