Saturday, January 9, 2010

Database 101

Now that you've made it through the holidays and have a moment to take a breath, it's a good time to do some nonprofit housekeeping to prepare for your 2010 fundraising and program planning. And the key to all your efforts is your database.

Ask yourself: can you use your database to do these essential functions?

Provide basic demographic and organizational information:
  • Quickly find mailing addresses, 9-digit zip codes, email address, phone numbers (including cell phones), and appropriate salutations for all of your clients, donors, and volunteers
  • Tell what age people are, and whether they have children (and if so, how old)
  • Track program participation and ticket purchases by year and specific event/program area
  • Identify folks who do not want their names/addresses exchanged or shared
  • Look up all past board members, find out when they served, and on which committees
Let you know about your donors and donations:
  • See and date every donation made over at least the past ten years
  • Track specific interests of individual donors i.e. specific program interests, community affiliations, level of involvement in your organization
  • Look up donors who have given to special appeals and/or like to give for specific programs or purposes (such as scholarships)
  • Find out who has been the contact person/solicitor for each donor
  • Differentiate between donations of cash, stocks, materials, and volunteer time
  • See which fundraising events your donors have attended
  • Provide detailed information about donors who have committed to multi-year donations, monthly contributions, and/or planned gifts
  • Find lapsed donors
  • Identify which donors want to remain anonymous and/or prefer not to receive phone solicitations
  • Track all foundation, corporation, and government donations over the history of your organization including contact person's name and phone number
Document the work of your volunteers:
  • Track the number of volunteer hours by month and year
  • Find volunteers who like to help out with specific tasks and/or events
  • Look up volunteers with specific skills i.e. carpentry, hauling, fundraising, finance, etc.
  • Identify the volunteers who have given the most hours per year
Create and print reports, letters and labels including:
  • Customized solicitation and thank you letters
  • Donor lists by fiscal year, amount given, and zip code
  • Reports tracking in-kind donations
  • Volunteer lists by year, month, and task
  • Mailing labels and name tags for specific purposes.
This may sound like a daunting task (and may require a re-evaluation of your chosen software), but the work you do now to put your database in order will benefit your organization for years to come.

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