The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Why You Need a Fundraising Database

“After people, data is your most important resource.” – John Kenyon, technology consultant to nonprofits

What would happen to your organization if you lost your entire donor history, if you didn’t know who had given you what, or if you didn’t know which funds were restricted for which purpose?

Your organization needs a record keeping system, a fundraising database, to track donations, donors, events, etc. in order to maintain consistency and keep your data in order.


What a Fundraising Database Should Do

Not only does a fundraising database store data, it should be your “institutional memory.” If you win the lottery, or your fundraiser, program manager or executive director wins the lottery and doesn’t come back to work again, can others reconstruct where they were with all of their relationships and all of their donors? Your database should allow you to do that.

A good fundraising database should help you track what you’re doing and what you received. It should track your donations, your solicitations, your constituents, and who attended the events you put on.

It should help you monitor and forecast performance. You should be able to monitor your performance throughout the year so you can say, “This is what we forecast, and we’re doing better, or we’re doing worse, or we’re on track.” Your fundraising database is your go-to place for tracking results and running donation reports.

Your fundraising database should also help you focus your work and work more strategically, so that you are asking the right person for the right gift at the right time for the right purpose, the “holy grail” of fundraising. And, it should help you report to the people who need to hear from you: your board, funders, constituents or donors, or the general public.

A good fundraising database should help you work smarter and more effectively. It can help you:

  • Prioritize and segment mailing lists
  • Manage and track your prospects
  • Steward your current donors
  • Identify future donors
  • Manage your time
  • Measure and forecast
  • Ask the right person for the right gift at the right time for the right purpose



  • Data is one of your most critical assets. Protect it and use it well.
  • A fundraising database serves as your “institutional memory.” If someone leaves your organization, the database should allow her successor to pick up where she left off.
  • A fundraising database helps you work smarter, faster, and more effectively.


Adapted from Robert Weiner’s “All You Need to Know about Choosing a Donor Database” presentation.
This post was updated March 28, 2016. 

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About This Blog

Amanda Khoury
Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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