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How to Get Started with Donor Data

Donor data can be a powerful resource for attracting new supporters and retaining existing ones. But many nonprofit teams struggle to get started with data. There’s a lot of information you could gather, but how do you know what’s most valuable and what you should focus on? And there are many ways to collect data, but what tools should you use, and how can you streamline the process? Let’s explore the answers to these questions to jumpstart your journey to using donor data to grow your nonprofit.

What Do We Mean by ‘Donor Data?’

Donor data is a broad term that encompasses a lot of different things. Consider all the types of information that fall under the category of donor data:

  • Name and contact information such as mailing address, email, and phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Donation history and average gift amount
  • Preferred communication channels
  • History of engagement and notes on past conversations
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Career information
  • Organization affiliations such as alumni, religious, etc.
  • Relationships and household information 

What Data Should You Collect?

With all of the great technology and software available today, you can track just about any type of donor information and activity you want to. But if you try to track everything, you’ll likely become overwhelmed. Begin by choosing the data types that will be most valuable to your organization based on your goals and objectives. Start with the list detailed above. Then, after establishing your database, if you find that tracking other information would be beneficial, add those data types. 

Getting Off the Ground with Data

New nonprofits usually don’t have a lot of data at first. You may be wondering how you’ll start collecting the valuable data you need to grow your organization. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Enlist your evangelists 

One of the best ways to get the word out about your organization’s work and start attracting those who care about your mission is to engage folks you know who have strong networks. Begin keeping track of the people who may be willing to serve as evangelists for your organization. These people might be board members, early donors, or simply friends and family. Consider adding information like birthdays, workplaces, and other information that may be useful as your organization grows.

2. Keep your supporters engaged

Right from the beginning, start communicating consistently with the people who believe in your mission. Email your list of folks with updates, new campaign announcements, and progress reports. People will get excited to share what you’re doing when they see your progress and get a behind-the-scenes look into your work. If you’re just starting out, you can make the communication process simpler by using an email marketing software tool that offers easy-to-use templates and list-building features such as MailChimp or Constant Contact.

3. Ask folks to share

In your communications, don’t be shy about asking supporters to share your updates with their networks. Word of mouth is a new nonprofit’s best friend! Make it easy for folks to share by including social share buttons and a “Forward to a Friend” link that auto-populates an email for them with a subscribe link (available in most email marketing software tools).

4. Continue to collect data

Growing nonprofits must stay focused on collecting data. Whether you capture information in software programs or continue to keep a spreadsheet for a while, aim to gather additional information for more supporters so you can expand your audience and better target your communications to your supporters’ interests. Many teams find it beneficial to schedule a regular brainstorming day to come up with fresh ideas and ways of engaging existing contacts and reaching new ones. For example, you might host a contest or send a survey, or partner with another organization with a complementary mission to expand your audience. If you are using a spreadsheet, you should explore software that will help you easily organize and manage donor contacts. Network For Good’s donor management solution helps you do just that.

Donor Data Is Fuel for Nonprofit Growth

Ultimately, donor data is the fuel that allows you to communicate more effectively with more people who care about the work your nonprofit is doing. Staying focused right from the beginning on collecting valuable information that will allow you to target your communications will turbocharge your growth as an organization.

Download our eGuide, Donor Management Strategies: How to Organize Your Donor Data, to learn more about how you can use donor data to grow your nonprofit!

Published: August 17, 2022

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