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Why fundraising software loses you money

Tim Sarrantonio

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Relationship-Focused Fundraising: It’s about people

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that people are the core of any mission. Having processes and procedures, brochures, letterhead, and other material items simply won’t matter if your organization cannot sustain a donor’s interest in your mission. Without engaging a donor’s interest and retaining them as an active donor, your nonprofit will continue spending significantly more time and money recruiting new donors. Let’s take a look at the differences between transaction fundraising and relationship-focused fundraising; and, how software can impact your organization’s ability to connect with sustaining donors more easily.

Transactional Fundraising

Many nonprofits have developed programs that ensure individuals and organizations are receipted in a timely manner for their gifts, which is extremely important! Afterall, in this day and age, it is the cornerstone to any fundraising operation getting up and running to ensure the transaction side is efficient and does not bog down staff. However, it is very easy to stop there and get stuck in a rut that centers upon this type of shallow engagement of a donor, member, or event attendee. If your organization is not thinking beyond the transaction and only collecting minimal data about your constituents’ interests, this may be a sign of a lackluster transactional fundraising approach. Leveraging software that only helps solve the transactional facet of the organization can be detrimental to effective retention of those hard earned constituents.

Relationship-Focused Fundraising

The pure essence of relationship-focused fundraising is the level of engagement your organization is giving to each and every donor. Knowing every single interaction, no matter how small, should be a hallmark of your fundraising program and should not stop at merely knowing what they gave to and why. There are many concrete things your organization can do to start shifting toward a relationship-centered approach. Creating and tracking relationship-focused data and developing a process around what to do with the data is paramount to building effective donor retention and a long-term strategy toward sustainability.

Are You Practicing Relationship-Focused Fundraising?

The key difference between transaction versus relationship-focused fundraising starts in the types of data collected about your donors. Here are some questions to ask when examining your database:

  • Do you have a data driven approach to fundraising?
  • Have you flagged all the VIPs in your system for deeper engagement?
  • Has your organization developed different copy for segmentation, especially for gifts and campaigns that may be of long-term importance?
  • Are you able to quickly identify volunteers or event attendees and target pertinent communications effectively?
  • Do you know relationships that your constituents have beyond their household information?

By starting with these questions, your organization can begin to develop specific strategies around knowing who constituents really are and how to target different mailings, emails, and mission-specific social media toward them. Some ideas are:

While your database is an important tool to ensure this information is organized, the key will be to develop specific strategies for when you do engage different types of donors and potential donors.

Nonprofit CRM vs. Fundraising Software

While fundraising software is helpful on the tracking of transactions, a true nonprofit CRM is built so your organization can implement a relationship-focused fundraising strategy without creating more work.

Nonprofit CRMs are built to allow the tracking of important custom data focused on the donor’s interests, rather than just the transaction details. Some fundraising software lumps this crucial data into a “journal”, or catchall area, where all non-transactional data exists.

But a relationship-focused CRM will capture important data in a clearly defined area which can also be leveraged in reports and email audience queries so the data becomes actionable. Along with the storage of this data, a true nonprofit CRM will have the built-in tools allowing you to use  the data to execute some of the suggestions discussed above. For example, your CRM should be capable of initiating a “new donor” welcome emails series based on the initial gift so your CRM will begin engaging that new donor automatically.

Using a relationship-focused software will help save staff time, improve the accuracy and efficiency of engagement, and become an integral part of your organization’s relationship-focused fundraising strategy.

Nonprofit Donor Databases: The Buyer's Guide

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