Taking a Deep Dive Into Your Donor Database

For some of our readers, identifying new prospects is a real challenge.  But for some nonprofits, the real challenge may be having too many prospects and too little information on each individual.  You may have all kinds of people in your donor database, but remember that not all donors (and not all prospects) are made equal.

If you’re having database woes, here are a few strategies to learn more about the donors currently “living” in your database.

Give your database a little elbow grease

Bad data infiltrates every database — even if your database is an Excel spreadsheet.  You may be faced with issues like duplicate contacts, irregularly formatted records, and junk records.  These issues are inevitable for any database, so don’t despair thinking you’re alone.  But while these issues are common, they are preventable.

Proactively “scrub” your data on a regular basis.  This is easiest to do when adding new records to your database.  Establish formatting guidelines that your whole team understands and adheres to.  What is the minimum information required for each contact record?  Where should this information go within the record?

Delete any records that may be duplicate or junk.  Exercise caution here, because you don’t want to accidentally delete something that may actually be important.  Faced with duplicate records, determine which record has the most pertinent data (email address, phone number, fundraiser notes, etc.).  If it’s possible to merge records, that’s a good solution.

Consider deleting inactive contacts.  These may be individuals who are lapsed donors from several years back, have unsubscribed from your email or mailing list, or otherwise no longer have a relationship with your organization.

Finally, check for uniformity.  This is key to a clean database, but it’s also perhaps the greatest challenge.  How many prospect/donor records have you seen with variations of the United States?  “US,” “U.S.,” “USA,” “United States of America” — it’s enough to give anyone a headache, including your database itself.  Wherever possible, establish input guidelines for various fields and stick to them.  Update old records where required.

Why all the scrubbing?  Besides organizing your data to help you work more efficiently, having a clean database is essential for the next two strategies to deliver maximum value to your team.

“If there’s time to lean, there’s time to screen”

Ah yes, screening.  We at iWave love screening, but only because we understand how critical it is to getting real value in your database.  According to MarketSmart’s 2017 Benchmark Study, around 56% of nonprofits qualify their prospects and donors by screening their database against internal and external data.  Of those nonprofits, 84% met their annual fundraising goals.

With a screen, you can learn more about your current contacts by scoring them based on internal and external data.  Here’s the breakdown:

RFM (Internal Data)

Let’s consider your current donors.  They have an established history with your organization.  This history makes it easier to evaluate your relationship with these donors and identify new opportunities to further develop these relationships.

A great first step is to score existing donors using the Recency-Frequency-Monetary (RFM) method. The RFM is an internal analysis of the current relationship you have with your prospect based off of giving data to your organization. Within your donor database, compile a list of donors including the following information:

  • Total Gift Count
  • Total Gift Amount
  • Last Gift Date

See why it’s important to have a clean database?  A screening tool can analyze the gift information within each of your contact records and provide a prioritized list of your current donors who have the most giving potential.  You may discover prospects who sit at a major gift threshold that you were not previously aware of.

iWave Score (External Data)

A major component of iWave Screening is the iWave Score.  Based on results from iWave’s public and proprietary datasets, each of your contacts is assigned a score, which is a three-pronged score that considers propensity, affinity, and capacity indicators. You can then dive into the donations records and validate, add and delete records as required, and refresh the score as many times as needed.

When you cross-reference both internal and external views, you will identify the best prospects and be able to act on those opportunities faster and with increased confidence. Luckily for you, iWave examines your list both internally (with an RFM scoring system) and externally (iWave Score) at the same time. Segmenting your contacts into different donor groups has never been easier.

Set Up Alerts

If you are working with hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of contacts, keeping tabs on all of them is a major challenge.  That’s why iWave has an alerts system where you will receive a notification for any changes to your prospect’s records.  As we build out our alert functions, you’ll have access to alerts on real estate, executive moves, and much, much more.

There are two different kinds of iWave alerts: search and record. A search alert is an alert set on a group of profiles for people, companies or foundations.  You will be notified any time there are changes occur or there is a difference in the record count.  A record alert is a notification on any changes which occur within one individual record.

There you have it.  To find more information about contacts already in your database, consider cleaning that database, screening it, and setting alerts on each of your prospect profiles.

Have you used any of these techniques? How do you keep your database clean? Let us know in the comments below.

[divider type=”e.g. 1, 2″ width=”e.g. small, medium, wide”][/divider]

About the author: Ryan McCarvill joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.

Want to see iWave in Action? Try the platform for free today!

Free Trial of our Fundraising Platform for Nonprofits

Stay Up-to-date on Fundraising News and Resources

Want a Free Demonstration of iWave’s Fundraising Intelligence Platform?

Request a Demo