Computerizing Donor Records
What are the main uses of a computerized development system:
- They provide the staff members involved with fund raising, the ability to evaluate
quickly the various fund raising techniques
- Identify which donors to approach
- Contact them with the best type of appeal off to them with a minimum of effort in the
shortest possible time.
Here are ten reasons an agency needs to computerize its development efforts:
- Computer software provides a common format on which donor information can be uniformly
recorded and easily recovered.
- 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.
- 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.
- Development software allows you to determine what program generated the gift and what
the funds are to be used for.
- 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.
- The donor software can be used to record the donors linkage to the agency and who
should contact that donor.
- The donor information can be easily combined with word processing software to
personalize fund raising appeals or thank you letters.
- Development software also provides a way to develop a program to categorize and contact
prospective donors and segment lists.
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
- A BOOKKEEPING FUNCTION: We must be able to track all types of giving, including
cash gifts, pledges and in-kind donations.
- AN ANALYSIS FUNCTION: We must be able to determine what kinds of programs does
this donor likes to give to and how donor As 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.
- A REPORTING AND SUMMARY FUNCTION: We must be able to report to our Boards,
government agencies, and other constituencies, on the donor activity of our donor family.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 agencys
- Development Software
- Computer Hardware
- Expense of imputing the original data
It is important, however, that the agencys board and staff look at computerizing
the agencys development process as an investment, rather than as an expense.
Properly implemented, the system should be the heart of any successful development
- Development Software: There are a wide variety of development software packages
on the market today and a wide variety of prices. Key elements in choosing a software
package should be: the size of the agencys donor and prospect base, the ease of
usage of the software (should be menu driven), and training and ongoing support from the
company selling the software. PROJECTED COST: $3,500 to $5,000 depending on the programs
and training support.
- Computer Hardware: The type of hardware chosen will probably depend on the
development software selected and the amount of memory capacity for the program and data
to be entered. Currently we are recommending that the computers have a 150 MB hard disc
and a 386 or 486 processor. We are also recommending a laser printer for sending out
communications to the various donor constituencies. PROJECTED HARDWARE COST: $2,500 to
- Original input cost: The key to your development system is data, and the major
thing to~) remember is the old saying, "Junk In Junk Out". It is vitally
important that great care / be taken when the
agencys current donor information is put into the computer.
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
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 agencys development process has been helpful. If
you have any questions about the materials, please feel free to call.