Online Fundraising Academy: Building the Foundation for Successful Fundraising

Online Fundraising Academy: Building the Foundation for Successful Fundraising

Earlier this week, a panel of fundraising professionals from GlobalGiving’s partner organizations joined us for GlobalGiving’s second Online Fundraising Academy session. Panelists answered questions about the fundraising tools their organizations use to manage and engage their individual donors and track their fundraising activity.

Meet our panelists:

Beth Eisenstaedt, Chief Development Officer, Wildlife Alliance

Erin Phelps, Program Assistant, GoodWeave International

Session Recording:

Session Notes:

What donor database do you use? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it?

A donor database makes it possible to track your donors and their giving history, as well as your past interactions with each individual. Without a donor database, it’s as though you’re starting from scratch with each interaction. A donor database is crucial to track your donors over time, develop lasting relationships, and convert them into bigger and more frequent givers.

Wildlife Alliance: eTapestry

  • Pros: Incredibly user friendly; online software – available wherever you are; built to capture information for fundraising; excellent reporting capabilities to analyze and segment your donors

  • Cons: With greater sophistication, comes greater expectations and analysis doesn’t always meet that; must use their software for online donations and mass emails

GoodWeave International: Filemaker

  • Pros: Customization and flexibility; capabilities like complex searches, linking with other contacts, entities, and companies, list segmentation; consistency across different country offices; analytical tools

  • Cons: Difficult to access remotely; requires some user training; not linked to organization’s email platform (email lists must be exported); frequent data cleaning is required; no “undo” function (must use caution when handling the data)

Q: What are some cost-efficient or no-cost online databases?

A: There are many, many donor database options for non-profits. One option, besides Filemaker and eTapestry, is Salesforce which does have free options for non-profits. It is a useful tool, but it does require lots of customization. What is important is that you do research and find a database that works for your organization – what are the elements of the databases listed above that really stand out to you, and what is it that you are looking for in a database?

What donor information do you track? How?

Wildlife Alliance:

Beyond the typical name, contact information, and gift amount, we track:

  • Fund: What program do they give to?

  • Campaign: Is the gift for a specific project under a program umbrella?

  • Approach: Is this gift in response to our last appeal? Annual report? Event they attended?

  • Acknowledgement: Has an acknowledgement been sent? When?

  • Overall Giving: When was the last time they gave? What is their lifetime giving to the organization?

  • Personal info: Where do they work? Are they married? Do they have relationships with other donors? What part of the country (or world) do they live in?

GoodWeave International:

Do both database tracking and external tracking:

  • Revenue: includes type of donation, frequency, amount, date, payment type, dedication, special notes, thank you note tracking.

  • Contacts: includes all donor information, special fundraising rules (like “do not solicit,” or “email only”), revenue (including sums, averages, yearly totals)

  • Campaigns: includes fundraising and mailing lists, list experimentation, event attendance

  • External tracking: all checks photocopied and marked, online notifications sorted, external donation processing spreadsheet

  • Cons: Difficult to access remotely; requires some user training; not linked to organization’s email platform (email lists must be exported); frequent data cleaning is required; no “undo” function (must use caution when handling the data)

Q: When/Do you retire old donors?

A: We don’t completely scrub contacts from our database, as there are often low cost opportunities to reach out to old donors. We usually will send e-campaigns out to everyone, whereas hard mailings (ground mail) will typically only go out to donors who have given in the last 3 years.

Q: Can QuickBooks serve the same purpose as a donor database?

A: QuickBooks is primarily an accounting tool, so other than account and finance purposes, it’s hard to track anything other than donors’ names and donation amounts. Donor databases are really relationship managers, in that they help you optimize your relationships with donors so that they continue to return and give. Some databases do integrate with QuickBooks!

What newsletter provider do you use? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it?

Wildlife Alliance: MailChimp

  • Pros: Useful and unique templates to choose from; excellent tracking in opens and clicks; can link directly to social media; can create targeted segments within lists; can schedule emails to go out at appropriate times for all time zones; ability to do A/B testing

  • Cons: Can’t send one email to multiple lists at once – must replicate emails for every list; the video embedding tool isn’t fully functional yet; isn’t the cheapest mass email option

GoodWeave International: Vertical Response (similar to MailChimp and Constant Contact)

  • Pros: Free email credits for non-profits; fairly user-friendly and easy to learn; allows for detailed analysis and comparison of data such as click-through, unsubscribe, open, and bounce rates; automatically filters out unsubscribed emails; allows for varying levels of complexity in graphic design; provides other resources for fundraising best practices; affordable

  • Cons: Database is not linked to Vertical Response, and lists must be imported; without in-depth HTML understanding, occasional layout problems in Gmail vs. Outlook

What is one important lesson that you have learned about online fundraising?

Wildlife Alliance:

  • Keep your appeals emotional, short and targeted – no one wants an email they can’t read on the go!

  • Don’t underestimate the impact of your visuals – chances are they aren’t reading it that closely anyway!

  • Follow up – an online donor wants the same cultivation as an offline donor – and you have a great, non-invasive way to keep in touch!

GoodWeave International:

Creating systems to track processes and analyze results will lead to more effective campaigns.

  • In the midst of busy campaigns, detailed record-keeping of your processes can become low-priority.

  • Without records of failures and successes, it’s difficult to find best practices and maximize results. For reflecting on how to develop new campaigns, duplicate what worked well and tweak what didn’t work as well.

  • Develop systematic methods to track each step of the campaign and to evaluate failures and successes. Finding ways to track your processes and the way your team works through the development of a campaign, will help you realize your own best practices.

Q: Do you find yourself exporting your GlobalGiving activity and tracking it through your own database?

A: Yes! We export and track names and information through our database. As well, we have a special designation for GG donors, and mark them as a GG donor and “do not solicit,” etc.

Q: How much testing do you do during campaigns?

A: We (Wildlife Alliance) do a lot of comparing campaigns against one another, trying to see which campaigns are the most effective. As well, we often test email subject lines and try to use the most effective ones more often.

Manage and track donor information & Send donor communications on GlobalGiving’s website

GlobalGiving offers simple ways to manage your donations and regularly communicate with your donors:

  • Donation Manager – Allows you to view donation and donor information – including donor names, email addresses, and traffic source (how they found your project). Learn more about the donation manager here.

  • Thank you note feature – Gives you the ability to customize templates for your specific project so that you can specifically communicate and build relationships with donors. Revise the template so that it acknowledges that donor and their donation amount, talk about how someone will benefit from the donation, and provide the opportunity for them to build a lasting relationship with your organization. Learn more about thank you notes here.

  • Project reports – Regularly communicate with donors through project reports! Quarterly reports are required. How are donors making a difference with their donations? What are stories of the individuals who are working or volunteering for your organization? What are the needs you are addressing in the community? Future plans for the project? This is your chance to share great stories and photos! Learn more about project reports here.

  • Web Analytics Feature – this allows you to track: how many have visited your project page; how long they’ve spent on the page; activity over the past several months – are there particular times of year your project is visited more often?; project report information – open and click-through rates. Learn more about web analytics here.

This post was written by Destiny Nobles, GlobalGiving’s Program Intern.

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