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Why you need a donor database to scale your organization

Quit your Excel sheets and learn why you need a donor database, what it can help you accomplish, and which software might be right for your organization.

Rachel Mills
March 28, 2022
Nerd Mr Butter

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Is your latest fundraising campaign leaving you feeling frazzled? A successful fundraising campaign has numerous moving parts—and you need the right technology (and a solid dose of caffeine) to keep your momentum. To keep things organized, you need a donor database.

A donor database houses all types of donor information—from phone numbers and addresses to giving history and event attendance. To build an effective database, you'll need to invest in a CRM system for your organization.

Below, we explain why you need a donor database, what it can help you accomplish, and which software might be right for your organization.

Why do you need a donor database?

The purpose of a donor database is to keep your team organized—yet it does so, so much more than that.

A donor database is housed in a CRM system, which stands for customer relationship management. A CRM system houses all the contact information of your donors—think of it as an Excel spreadsheet on steroids, where different points of information are held in "fields" rather than cells. A CRM system stores notes, giving history, and email/phone correspondence for each donor.

Here are just a few ways your team benefits from a donor database.

1. Share supporter notes with your colleagues 🗒

Where do you store notes on your most loyal supporters? A Google Doc? Old emails you'll never reread? An Excel spreadsheet on your desktop?

Those methods might work for you, but they don't work for your organization. If you leave for another opportunity, those notes—and the time you dedicated to building that relationship—get lost.

A CRM system (sometimes called a donor management system) keeps donor profiles in a central place, giving teammates and successors deeper insight into those relationships.

This makes employee turnover a smooth transition, and ensures the continuation of donor relationships—even when a staff member exits the organization.

2. Keep track of supporter history 🎁

Communication with your donor base takes place across multiple channels—email automation, one-to-one emails, phone calls, and in-person events. Wouldn't it be nice to store all those activities in one place?

CRM software makes it easy to log supporter history (usually called "activities") so you know how each individual engages with your organization. You can track email threads, phone calls, fundraising event attendance, and other correspondence automatically, giving you insight into each supporter's behavior.

3. Plan future campaigns and outreach strategies 📣

Understanding how supporters behave in the past allows you to plan for the future.

Donor database software makes it easy to track open rates, impressions, and other metrics in one central place. That way, you can easily plan email marketing campaigns with conditional logic (e.g., if a donor gives to our spring fundraiser, then send them a two-part email series).

In addition, you can track past gifts from new donors and loyal supporters alike, thereby increasing donor retention. For example, if you see in a donor's profile they gave last Giving Tuesday, include them on this year's list for your direct mail campaign.

4. Run reports 📈

Reports provide an overarching view of your supporters and ongoing campaigns.

You can run a report on virtually anything, with one major caveat: The donor data must exist in the first place. For example, if you want to run a report on the average gift made over the past three months, you must log each gift into your CRM software (or, have it done automatically by integrating your fundraising platform with your CRM system). Or, if you want to know how donor retention rates improve year over year, you must record when the first gift (and last gift) took place for each supporter.

Running reports helps streamline your fundraising efforts. It helps you understand the demographics, behavior, and history of your supporter base.

Which donor database software is right for your organization?

If you expect to scale your organization, a CRM system is non-negotiable. Fortunately, most software companies offer discounts for nonprofit organizations, making it a worthy—and affordable—investment.

When choosing a CRM system, you'll want one that offers the following:

  • Integrates with other platforms 🔒: To get the most from your database, it needs to integrate with your accounting, email automation, and fundraising software (at minimum).
  • Offers free migration 🔄: Many nonprofit CRMs offer free migration when you sign a contract, moving donor data from Excel or other CRM system to your new software solution.
  • Is known for customer support 📲: You will need to customize your CRM system to fit your organization. To change fields, create your first reports, or automatically track activities, you may need direct and fast support (and not get charged an arm and a leg for it).
  • Is affordable 💰: Some donor management systems charge per user (i.e., how many team members need access to the software) while others charge by the size of your database. Be sure the scaling price tiers work for your organization down the road. Better yet, use a free all-in-one CRM.
  • Comes with robust functionality 🔔: Search for a platform that makes donor communication easier by creating automated workflows, logging engagement metrics (website visits, payment processing history, and email opens), listening through social media, and providing other real-time data on your audience.
  • Was built for nonprofits 💕: While virtually any CRM system can help track donors, some systems were built specifically for nonprofits. Some systems can even verify your nonprofit 501(c)(3) status! Look for a solution that offers features and/or reports related to donor management, online fundraising, donation tracking, donor engagement, and other tools related to nonprofit success.
  • Offers prospect research data: Hopefully, a CRM system can offer additional information on your constituents. With Givebutter’s integration with DonorSearch, you can reveal a donor’s giving capacity and other other actionable insights, helping you to connect donors to your cause.
  • Integrates with marketing automation: Hopefully, your outreach efforts are intertwined with your marketing efforts. So, find a CRM solution that integrates seamlessly with your marketing automation platform (psst! Givebutter’s all-in-one platform comes complete with CRM and marketing automation already built in!).

Looking for a donor database solution that does all of the above? Discover Givebutter's free donor management tools and nonprofit CRM—the world’s first completely-free CRM system built exclusively for nonprofits. Givebutter's donor management suite is completely free to use and integrates with the rest of Givebutter's all-in-one nonprofit solution. With Givebutter, you can seamlessly raise funds, track donation history, and keep tabs on your contacts, all in one place and all for free.

The best donor database nonprofit software

There are countless platforms offering donor relationship management for nonprofits. Here are four platforms that integrate seamlessly with any Givebutter fundraising campaign:

A donor database is critical to your organization's success

The right fundraising tools and technology strengthen your fundraising efforts, increase donor retention, and improve communication among your team.

As you scale, choosing a powerful CRM system is one of the best decisions you can make as a nonprofit.

With the right platform, you can gather insights on your donors, track gifts, plan future campaigns, create a high-level overview of your audience, and ultimately strengthen your fundraising strategy.

To get the most of your donor database, use Givebutter's built-in donor management tools—which includes the world’s first free CRM platform built for nonprofits. To see how the entire Givebutter platform can help you reach your fundraising goals, create your own free Givebutter account or try a free demo today.

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