Computerizing Donor Records

What are the main uses of a computerized development system:

Here are ten reasons an agency needs to computerize its development efforts:

  1. Computer software provides a common format on which donor information can be uniformly recorded and easily recovered.

  2. When an agency loses a key staff member or a board member completes his or her term, information on donors that the staff or board member worked with is still available to other agency personnel and board members.

  3. Development software allows you to create a giving history for each donor which lists individual donations and the total of all donations given to your agency.

  4. Development software allows you to determine what program generated the gift and what the funds are to be used for.

  5. The donor files can be easily reviewed to determine what types of programs the donor prefers. Using this information, a comprehensive annual fund raising plan can be developed for each donor.

  6. The donor software can be used to record the donor’s linkage to the agency and who should contact that donor.

  7. The donor information can be easily combined with word processing software to personalize fund raising appeals or thank you letters.

  8. Development software also provides a way to develop a program to categorize and contact prospective donors and segment lists.

  9. Solicitation mailing and the mailing of newsletters become much easier with the mailing list management programs that are part of most development system software packages.

  10. Development software allows the user to evaluate the effectiveness of a particular appeal to determine the effectiveness of a particular appeal to determine if that appeal should be repeated.

The best development software packages are that that are seamlessly integrated with the organization's general counting application. The primary thing to remember when you are considering the computerization needs of your agency's fund development program is that you are buying a system not just a single program to monitor gifts. This system must include:

  1. A BIOGRAPHICAL DATA FUNCTION: We must be able to accumulate biographical data on a donor or prospects (who is he/she and what is their linkage to you).

  2. A BOOKKEEPING FUNCTION: We must be able to track all types of giving, including cash gifts, pledges and in-kind donations.

  3. AN ANALYSIS FUNCTION: We must be able to determine what kinds of programs does this donor likes to give to and how donor A’s likes compare to other members of our donor family. This area should also tell the fund development officer what types of fund raising techniques the donor responds to.

  4. A REPORTING AND SUMMARY FUNCTION: We must be able to report to our Board’s, government agencies, and other constituencies, on the donor activity of our donor family.

  5. A GENERAL INFORMATION FUNCTION: As more and more data is acquired on the donors, i.e. what they like, who they associate with, how they view your agency, a computer area must be available for accumulating this information.

  6. A MAILING LIST MANAGEMENT FUNCTION: Since a great deal of our development business is done through the mail, a mailing list management system must be part of our programs for both donors and our prospects.

  7. A WORD PROCESSING FUNCTION: We must be able to communicate with our donor, utilizing the various pieces of information in our computerized development system, such as the gift screens.

NOW FOR THAT "HOW MUCH?" QUESTION:

There are three primary costs involved with computerizing your agency’s development program:

It is important, however, that the agency’s board and staff look at computerizing the agency’s development process as an investment, rather than as an expense. Properly implemented, the system should be the heart of any successful development program.

Each name must be spelled correctly, each gift properly recorded, and each comment stated as it was in the written file. Occasionally agencies do not want to record information from previous years, however, this information must be in the computer file if you are to have a clear picture of that donor and a complete picture of the donor family for future fund raising projects.

Since this is usually done by staff members, we cannot assign a cost, however, time must be made available to the staff member so they can complete this all-important phase of computerization with a minimum of interruption. Make sure that more than one person is trained to operate the computer system.

In choosing a software package, you should always talk to one or two agencies who have used the software system for a period of time to see what strengths and weaknesses the system has and what the support assistance is like from the company that is selling the system.

One final thought on the expense of computerizing your development program:

REMEMBER THAT YOUR DEVELOPMENT SOFTWARE PROGRAM WILL BE fTHE PRIMARY INFORMATION SOURCE THAT YOU MUST RELY ON FORYEARS TO COME TO GENERATE AN EVER INCREASING AMOUNT OF SUPPORT FROM YOUR DONOR FAMILY. IN SOME CASES THAT MAY BE MANY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. CHOOSE WISELY.

We hope this overview of some of the important information necessary to begin consideration of computerizing your agency’s development process has been helpful. If you have any questions about the materials, please feel free to call.