hands of three people at a table using a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone

7 Steps to Successful Donor Management

For nonprofits that are just starting out, managing donors manually with a spreadsheet might seem feasible. But as you acquire more donors and gather more donor data, you'll find that donor management isn't as easy it sometimes seems. This is why it's so important to have a solid donor management strategy in place.

Your donor management strategy is vital to keeping your nonprofit organized and donors happy. And with the proper techniques and tools, you can leverage this strategy to boost your donor acquisition and retention and make smarter fundraising decisions.

drawing of a small person standing in front of a calendar and surrounded by symbols of monetary donations

This post will discuss seven steps you need to create a successful donor management strategy for your nonprofit organization.

What Is Donor Management for Nonprofits?

Donor management for nonprofits is the process of storing donor information, recording donor interactions, and using donor data to raise more funds. By keeping track of your donors' preferences, demographic data, and donation history, you can communicate with them in a way that leads to better donor engagement and fundraising outcomes.

Specifically, managing your donor data benefits your organization in three ways:

  1. Donor communication: Access to organized data allows you to craft targeted, personalized communications that are more likely to be opened and read by potential donors.
  2. Donor stewardship: Understanding your donors makes it easier for you to steward them toward a long-term relationship with your organization, helping them progress from one-time donations to recurring, then on to major gifts and planned giving later in life.
  3. Fundraising: Structured data helps you determine when and how to make solicitations, increasing the likelihood of receiving more contributions to your organization.

Seven Steps to Successful Donor Management

When embarking on the path to donor management success, there are seven donor database best practices to work through as part of the planning and strategy process.

1. Set SMART Goals

It is essential to set goals that'll inform how you invest resources in your donor management strategy. Goal setting helps align your team so you can assess progress over time. Your donor management goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In other words, they should be SMART goals.

The best way to track your goals is by setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for each goal. For example, if you want to retain more donors from one period to the next, you should set a goal for your donor retention rate.

2. Identify Your Ideal Donor Persona

A donor persona is a semifictional profile based on data from your actual supporters that outlines the characteristics of your organization's ideal donor. Common data points in a donor profile include age, marital status, income, political affiliation, and other demographic information. Other details are preferred contact channel (email, telephone, etc.) and payment method (check, credit card, etc.)

I highly recommend that you create three to five donor personas, or profiles, that describe the kinds of individuals who are likely to give to your organization. By doing so, you can cater your communication to each donor based on their persona.

3. Map Out Your Donor Journey

A donor journey map tells you where your donors are at any given time. A donor journey map tells you things like when to ask for donations, when to acknowledge the support, and when to do it all over again. It's a vital tool for your donor management process as it helps you plan for the future and understand the necessary steps needed to engage with your donors properly.

These are the six steps along the donor journey:

  1. Inspire
  2. Learn and engage
  3. Ask for a donation
  4. Thank and show impact
  5. Re-ask
  6. Repeat

Not every donor will be identical; many will need extra inspiration before they decide to give again. This is why tracking donor information with a robust database management system as part of your overall donor management strategy is a good idea.

4. Create a Donor Stewardship Plan

Now that you know who and where your donors are, it's time to connect with them on an emotional level. Combined with a donor profile and journey map, a donor stewardship plan ensures that you are sending the right content to donors who are ready to give while building a lasting, meaningful relationship between them and your nonprofit organization.

Stewarding donors the right way will lead to increased donor engagement, improved donor experience, better donor retention rate, and even upgraded donation amounts, which are all great for your organization's revenue stream. Stewardship also has the added benefit of encouraging more participation from supporters in the form of social sharing and volunteering.

5. Segment Donors and Personalize Your Communications

Before sending out fundraising appeals, you need to arrange your contacts into groups that fit your donor personas, donor journey maps, and stewardship plan. You could try doing this manually, but if you have more than a few dozen contacts in your database, it's going to take a long time and will be highly prone to error.

Instead, you should segment your donors into discrete groups that share certain characteristics using database software. This is achieved by tagging donor profiles with key data points like income level, geographic location, and communication channel preference, then combining those tags to produce groups of contacts.

For example, if you want to encourage more major donations from people who live in your city, you could use a filter to create a segment that delivers contacts with high income levels in your zip code who prefer to be contacted by phone. Then, send them targeted, personalized fundraising appeals.

6. Evaluate Your Progress

The key to successful donor management is knowing how your organization is doing in relation to the goals that you set in step one. So it's important as you proceed through your strategy that you monitor your KPIs and assess progress toward your long-term goals. If a KPI is moving in the wrong direction, it may be time to go back to the drawing board to understand why and what to do about it.

It's also vital to generate fundraising reports that can be distributed to your team, executives, board members, and other stakeholders to show your organization's performance. A well-written fundraising report is not just a way to monitor your donor management progress during a campaign, it's also a tool to demonstrate your nonprofit's commitment to transparency and constant improvement.

More so, a report at the end of a fundraising cycle is also a way to create a permanent historical record of performance that can help you plan better in the future.

7. Use Donor Management Software

Donor management may sound like a lot of work for you and your team, but it doesn't have to be. A dedicated donor management software platform like Keela offers a range of tools and features that automate many of the tasks that would normally land on human shoulders.

Keela allows you to keep all of your contact information in a database that is connected to intelligent tools, so you can automatically calculate metrics for KPIs, segment contact lists, generate beautiful reports, and much more.

A successful donor management strategy begins with a plan. So, if you take anything out of this post, let it be the importance of having a solid plan in place for engaging your donors long after they've made their first contribution.


Additional Resources

Top photo: Shutterstock