Are you ignoring crossed wires?
If tending to your donor database is a job passed off on the intern or an occasional volunteer, you’re playing with fire.
Why? Because that’s not just “computer stuff”. That information is where your donors live.
Those relationships you know you should be building? All your good communication? It’s all but useless if you don’t record the information well.
“Small” mistakes are like dandelions – ignore them and they reproduce. Eventually, they choke your fundraising program.
Here are a few ways sloppy data can hurt you:
You get my name wrong
Many donors are all too tolerant of this. What’s a small mistake, right? But you never know when it will matter.
I’m married, but I kept my name. It’s important to me. I never want to be addressed as “Mrs.” just because it makes it easier to keep my record in your database. (And yes, some systems are stuck in the 50s. Two lines for names – both searchable – really shouldn’t be too much to ask.)
So maybe I’m petty. But address me as Mrs. and your appeal lands right in the recycling bin. Do it when I’m already a donor and you may get a call. Keep doing it?
Don’t make me.
You ignore my preferences
Years ago, I hit one of those periods when my family really needed me. And I was working full-time. One organization began calling every evening. And kept calling. Every call pulled me away from my family when I needed to focus on them.
I pleaded, then demanded, that they remove us from all call lists. (I don’t respond to phone solicitations anyway.) Eventually, they must have tired of it and stopped.
For a while after that, I tossed every mail appeal from this otherwise good organization. They either didn’t care to clean their lists or couldn’t. Either way, that’s not my problem. I really resented their lack of concern.
They tried calling again the other day. The caller was so intent on her script, I couldn’t even get a word in edgewise. (Another mistake.) Finally, she gave me to a supervisor. I hope this finally ends the calls.
So you’re thinking, “Oh, she’s just being cranky.” And maybe you’re right.
But would you keep knocking on a major donor’s door if he asked you not to visit?
Why not treat all donors with the same courtesy?
I’ve also had donors ask to be solicited once a year at a particular time. When you’re coordinating a list of donors and a full communications calendar, that can be a pain. So I get it, it’s hard.
But do it anyway.
Make a note. Set up a system. Find a way to keep good information and a way to act on it.
We hold our donors’ information in trust. And giving donors choices helps fundraising. If they want something changed or a preference noted? Make it happen.
You screw up my giving information
This happens. Everyone makes mistakes. But the only response is a heartfelt apology and a renewed effort to get it right.
The message it sends – even if you don’t mean it – is the gift they sent wasn’t important enough to get right.
And think about it – while overstating the donor’s last gift in an appeal could be suggestive, understating it could, too. (“Well, they think I only gave $10. Maybe that’s all they want.”)
You probably already know this one is a minefield. I’ve spent many hours checking and triple-checking name lists for annual reports.
But that’s why paying attention to your data on a daily basis makes so much sense.
Keep the information clean. You’ll spend less time worrying about it when you’re under deadline.
Good data is good donor relations
Managing your information might not feel like relationship-building. But it is.
We all want to be treated well, called by the right name, given privacy when we ask for it. Don’t put the ease of your inside operations above the way you make donors feel.
So think about these things:
- Don’t make assumptions to make your work easier. It might be easier to slap a “Mr. and Mrs.” in front of a name or assign a gender specific title – but resist. Do some research and get it right.
- Offer your donor control over how she’s contacted. Or at the least, pay attention when she communicates a preference.
- Check and cross check your giving history. Set up systems to reconcile problems along the way. If you look for mistakes, instead of checking to be sure there aren’t any, you’re more likely to find the problems.
- Recognition names matter. If you’re publishing donor names anywhere, be sure you have them right. Here’s an idea: put the recognition names you have into the text of acknowledgment letters: “Your generosity should be celebrated! We will list you as Jane Smith and Joe Hendricks in our annual report. If this listing isn’t your preference, please let us know.”
How about you – is your database familiar territory? Or just a magic place you pull information from?
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire