Using Your Nonprofit CRM: A Guide to Donor Data Management

John Killoran September 12, 2017 Nonprofits

Donors are your organization’s intricate support system. Not only do they help fund your mission, but they also support you through volunteer work and advocating for your cause. As you can see, your organization can’t be successful without their support.

That’s why it’s imperative for nonprofits to track their donors’ information as this will lead to developing closer relationships with supporters and encouraging them to get more involved in your cause.

If you’re using nonprofit CRM software, you probably already have a system in place that collects donor information and compiles the data into constituent profiles.

But, are you using those tools to their full advantage?

In this article, we’ll cover five tips to help you manage your donor data using CRM software:

  1. Optimize your data entry process.
  2. Segment your constituents.
  3. Use fundraising tools that integrate with your nonprofit CRM.
  4. Clean up your donor data annually.
  5. Create a backup of your donor data.

With these useful tips, you’ll be able to maintain an organized donor database to boost your fundraising efforts. Keep reading to learn more!



1. Optimize Your Data Entry Process

In the last section, we talked about integrating your fundraising software so that your organization doesn’t have to manually input data. However, there may be circumstances (like after a phone call with a donor) when your staff will need to input data into your database.

To help you manage your data effectively, your organization should have a clearly defined process to standardize the data entry process.

This will ensure that other staff members can find information and create uniform reports on the data they collect.

The way you organize your process will depend on what information is most important to your organization and how you use your donor management software.

When creating your guidelines, make sure that you cover all of your bases. For instance, your staff will need to know:

  • If they should input the donor’s given or preferred name.
  • How to format phone numbers (i.e. (123) 456-7890, 123-456-7890, or 1234567890).
  • If they should keep missing fields blank or fill them with a placeholder.

Regulating this factors may seem fastidious, but in the long run, it will ensure that your database is consistent and organized in the best way possible.

You may be wondering how to you can implement a standard when you’ve already recorded plenty of data without one. The best part is that it’s never too late to start standardizing your information! Just make time to go back and standardize your old records.

To summarize: Create a set of guidelines on how you want your donor data to be recorded so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to inputting information.


2. Segment Your Constituents

Obtaining donor data helps you understand your donors on a deeper level. Your organization can use this information to promote different fundraising events, offer donors other ways to get involved in your mission, and so much more.

You can optimize your donor data even further by segmenting your constituents based on different categories, such as:

  • Preferred giving method.
  • Type of supporter (i.e. donor, volunteer, board member, etc.).
  • Hobbies and interests.
  • Donor status (i.e. first-time, recurring, or major gift donor).
  • Location.

Dividing your donors in this way will help you tailor your communications. Additionally, it will make sure that donors aren’t receiving information they’ve already learned so that they can move up in the stewardship process.

Targeting donors with more personalized outreach will appeal to their interests and passions, which will lead to more engaged and active supporters.

For example, you may have a group of donors that prefer donating via mobile donation forms. In that case, you might want to promote your year end text to give campaign to these supporters first.

In contrast, if you’re hosting a fundraising event, you might only want to send information to supporters who live in the area. You can segment your list based on geography to ensure that promotion for the event is only sent to donors who can realistically attend.

Segmenting your list like in the examples above can lead to more responses and more funds for your organization.

To summarize: Segmenting your list of donors is a great way to tailor your communications to provide donors with information that will be most valuable to them.


3. Use Fundraising Tools That Integrate With Your CRM

It’s likely that your organization is using multiple fundraising tools—online donation forms, text-to-give software, donation kiosks, etc.—to raise money. Using multiple fundraising tools is great, but it also means that your donor data will be scattered across different platforms, making it hard to get a complete picture of your donors.

Moreover, your staff will have to spend valuable time navigating your various tools to find the information they need.

Your organization can avoid these challenges by keeping your donor data in a centralized location (like your nonprofit CRM for example). That way, your staff can easily access your donor profiles and have a more complete understanding of each donor’s giving habits.

Migrating information into your nonprofit CRM can be done either manually, which will require staff to input the information, or automatically through integrations with your fundraising software.

If you ever need to implement new fundraising software like a peer-to-peer platform or mobile giving tool, be sure to look for tools that integrate with your CRM.

Connecting or integrating your software means that your data will automatically be pulled into your donor database, which will greatly reduce data entry errors.

Since this process requires no effort on your nonprofit’s part, you’ll have much more up-to-date insights into your donors’ giving history and behaviors without using valuable staff time.

To summarize: Software integrations will save your organization time and help you maintain a more complete picture of your donors.

Pro tip: If you’re looking for more fundraising tools to integrate with your nonprofit CRM, check out this list of free nonprofit software from @Pay.


4. Clean Up Your Donor Data Annually

No matter how detailed your data entry standards are or how trained your staff is on donor management software, mistakes are bound to happen. Even with integrated fundraising software, errors can occur.

While it’s only natural for mistakes to happen, that doesn’t mean that your nonprofit shouldn’t strive for an accurate database.

Therefore, your organization should focus on cleaning up your data annually to spot and correct any errors in your information.

Additionally, cleaning up your donor data means getting rid of inactive accounts and updating contact information so that your profiles are as up-to-date as possible.  

Your organization can pick any time during the year to “spring clean” your donor data (we suggest picking a time when your organization has fewer events and other fundraisers occurring). Just make sure that your entire team is diligent on catching any errors.

Everyone should be on the lookout to correct any:

  • Duplicate entries or profiles.
  • Inactive constituent profiles by removing those that have been inactive for over two years or updating contact information (when possible).
  • Old entries that haven’t been standardized yet.

Setting time aside each year to clean your database will help make sure that all your entries are standardized and up-to-date with recent information.

Plus, correcting these areas may reveal gaps or challenges in your procedure, which you can adjust to improve your data entry process.

To summarize: It’s important to review your donor database to fix errors, update information, and clear out inactive profiles.


5. Create a Backup of Your Donor Data

We can’t stress it enough: donor data is important for building relationships and optimizing your fundraising initiatives. You probably use your donor data daily to:

  • Communicate with donors.
  • Analyze the progress of particular campaigns.
  • Conduct prospect research.
  • And so much more.

If something unexpected were to happen, your organization wouldn’t be able to perform at top speed. It’d be like trying to navigate a maze while wearing a blindfold.

That’s why it’s so important for your organization to backup all of your records just in case something unexpected happens.

Using your nonprofit CRM, you should be able to easily create a backup of all your donor information by exporting your records and saving them externally.

But wait! If your database is constantly changing and updating, how do you maintain an up-to-date version?

Simply set a schedule for when you’ll export a new backup or create a new copy whenever you make significant changes to your database.

Don’t let unforeseen circumstances stop your organization from performing at its best; keep a backup of all your donor data and update it frequently so that you have the most current version of your database to refer to.

To summarize: Create a backup of your donor data to ensure that all your information doesn’t get lost when an unfortunate situation arises.


Congratulations—you’ve made it through our list of tips to better manage your donor data! Use these best practices to maintain a consistent data entry process, catch errors before they become a larger concern, and improve your donor outreach.

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