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Thoughts & Musings

Crossroads

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with nonprofits while in their infancy.  It has given me the opportunity to see powerful visions and ideas come to life in solving our nations’s most pressing problems.  Often times, these initiatives are funded out-of-pocket by the visionaries themselves, or through grants, or through an outpouring of individual generosity.

But as months and years pass, nonprofits often find themselves at a crossroads.  Sometimes initial funding dries out and organizations struggle to achieve their mission.  While other times, missions may shift or expand, and a new stream of funding becomes essential.  In either case, the true reality of nonprofit work comes to the fore - it’s not enough to be an expert in your cause, but you also need to be an expert in fundraising.  Perhaps some of you have experienced this?

Thankfully, you’re not alone.

Fundraising is a complex science (and art) with it’s own language and nuances, but Heather Yandow’s article, “Benchmarking Individual Donors” in SSIR helps make sense of it all and encourages nonprofits to start with drafting a fundraising plan.  Yandow states, “organizations that have a fundraising plan raise one-third more money from individuals, have almost double the number of donors, and garner significantly larger average gifts.”

And while many nonprofits try to manage and measure these plans in spreadsheets, there is a growing market of donor management systems or “CRM” (constituent relationship management) systems that can help guide you in executing your fundraising plan.  Most donor management systems provide a core set of functionality, such as:

  • Adding & Tracking Donations
  • Donor Profiles (How much have they given this year?  Last year?  Lifetime?)
  • Activity Management (calls, meetings, notes, to-dos etc.)
  • Querying & Reporting

Where some of the more advanced systems have built-in or integrated apps that support the following:

  • Payment processing (so one-time or recurring gifts can be processed directly in the system)
  • Website Integration
  • Email Marketing
  • Online Donation Forms
  • Volunteer Management
  • Event Management
  • Peer to Peer Fundraising

There are dozens of systems in the marketplace, ranging in features and functionality, each with their own price points and subscription models.  But whether you choose a simpler “starter” system or a more advanced feature-rich application, the goals are ultimately the same:

(1) Centralized database.  To move your nonprofit to the next level, it must evolve from storing useful information in disparate systems, spreadsheets, emails, sticky-notes, or just in people’s brains.  A centralized database will give your organization a starting point for knowledge sharing and capturing institutional memory.

 (2) 360-degree view of your constituent.  If a constituent is a fan of your work, chances are they have engaged in more than just one way.  They may have volunteered for your organization, attended an event, requested a publication or influenced a large gift.  Knowing all of these points of engagement, along with their interests and activities, are essential in cultivating a long-term relationship with your constituent and delivering a customized message for them.

(3) Gather insights on your fundraising efforts.  By looking at your fundraising activity in aggregate, you can gain valuable insights on the success (ROI) of your fundraising plan and seek guidance in decision-making.  Donor management systems can help you answer such critical questions as:

  • What were our most successful campaigns?  And through what channel?
  • What steps or activities have led to a successful major gift ask or grant award?
  • Based on pledge amounts, what are our financials projections over the next six to nine months?
  • Who are the most vocal and influential supporters of our work?
  • What aspect of our work resonates with constituents the most?

 One thing I’ve learned about fundraising, is that it’s not just about tracking donations...it’s about building relationships.  With limited time and a fraction of the resources, donor management systems help you hone in on those relationships that need to be cultivated, and provide you the data to craft the right message for each. ~

Are you Interested in a donor management system, but not sure where to start?  Or wondering if you’re getting the most out of your existing CRM?  Please take a look at our services to see if OneTenth Consulting can be of help, or contact us for an initial consultation.  Our wide range of services adapt to the needs of your organization and resource constraints.  By enabling small and medium nonprofits through our consulting services, we work to ensure your team realizes its full potential.  Elevating you, Elevating your cause!