Why you need a donor database to scale your organization

Written by
Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

Why you need a donor database to scale your organization

Is your latest fundraising campaign leaving you feeling frazzled? A successful fundraising campaign has numerous moving parts β€” 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.Β 

A donor database houses all types of donor information β€” 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.Β 

Why do you need a donor database?

donor database: Woman sitting on a couch while using her laptop
The purpose of a donor database is to keep your team organized β€” 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 β€” 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.Β 

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

1. Share supporter notes with your colleagues πŸ—’

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 β€” and the time you dedicated to building that relationship β€” get lost.Β 

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 β€” even when their point of contact exits the organization.

2. Keep track of supporter history 🎁

Communication with your donor base takes place across multiple channels β€” 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.Β 

3. Plan future campaigns and outreach strategies πŸ“£

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 (i.e., if a donor gives to our spring fundraiser, then send him 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 πŸ“ˆ

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.Β 

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 β€” and affordable β€” investment.

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

  • Integrates with other platforms πŸ”’: To get the most from your database, it needs to integrate with your accounting, email automation, and fundraising software (at minimum).Β 
  • Offers free migration πŸ”„: 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 πŸ“²: 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 to hop on the phone with a customer service rep (and not get charged an arm and a leg for it).
  • Will scale with you πŸ’₯: 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.
  • Offers built-in dashboards and reports πŸ“Š: A CRM system gives a 500-foot overview on your supporter base and the campaign progress. Be sure your system comes with templates to help you get started.
  • Comes with robust functionality πŸ””: 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 πŸ’•: While virtually any CRM system can help track donors, some systems were built specifically for nonprofits. 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.

The best donor database nonprofit software

Group of people having a meeting

There are countless platforms offering donor relationship management for nonprofits. Here are three platforms that integrate seamlessly with your Givebutter campaign:Β Β 

  • Bloomerang: Bloomerang is a CRM system made exclusively for nonprofits. Through their interactive dashboard and custom reports, you can track donor history, identify major donors (through their "Engagement Meter'' and "Generosity Score"), and run marketing campaigns.
  • Salesforce: Salesforce is the most popular CRM system in existence, and consistently ranks as the best technology available. With online donation forms, out-of-the-box reports and dashboards, gift and recurring donation tracking, data cleaning, and donor journeys, it's the most robust donor management software available.Β 
  • Kindful: Kindful offers a number of donor management tools valuable to CRMs, including donation pages, donation forms, recurring giving, and registration forms. Plus, Kindful's pricing offers unlimited users, so it won't hurt your bottom line as your organization grows.

A donor database is critical to your organization's success

The right fundraising tools and technology strengthens your fundraising efforts, increases donor retention, and improves communication between your team.

As you scale, investing in 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, and create a high-level overview of your audience.Β 

Givebutter offers built-in integrations with Salesforce, Bloomerang, and Kindful β€” all of which can benefit your fundraising strategy. In addition, through Zapier we integrate with a number of CRM platforms, including HubSpot, Zoho CRM, Agile CRM, NeonCRM, and Redtail CRM. For more information, check out our guide on choosing the best CRM software for nonprofits.

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.