The most fundamental and effective organizing strategies when using your database (certainly not the only organizing strategies!):
- Inviting Donors and Prospects to Give – you will be most effective in inviting donors and prospects to give when you organize your database by giving history. In other words, to be the most effective and efficient in inviting gifts to be given, you are best served by assessing and grouping prospects by whether or not they have given to you before and when the last gift was given. The best predictor of future giving behavior is past giving behavior and the more recent behavior the better predictive value. So, if could only segment your database on one attribute to invite all to give, it would be by giving history: “Lybunts,” “Sybunts” (within the last 5 years), and “Not Yets.”
- Reporting on Donor Giving – you will be most effective in reporting on donor giving (in summary fashion) when you organize your database by constituency groups. When you show summary gifts and pledges information based on constituency group (i.e., alum, Board, parent, friend, organization, business, foundation, etc.), you provide an answer to the basic question of how the various constituents of the institution are responding to invitations to give. Formatting summary giving reports by constituency group also allows you to establish and report on goals for these giving constituencies (for examples, Board, parents, and alumni giving goals). It is worth noting that reporting by constituency is most helpful when referring to annual or ongoing giving to an institution. In the case of comprehensive or capital campaigns, the most helpful organizing principle for gift reporting is by campaign priority.
- Stewarding Donors – you will be most effective in stewarding donors when you organize your database by gift amount. Establishing a donor stewardship program by gift amount does not have to be complex nor expensive. For instance, the most basic organizing decision for stewarding donors is to identify the amount at your institution that is reserved for “leadership-level annual giving.” For most institutions that amount ranges from $1,000 to $2,500. Once a donor reaches that level of giving annually, simple stewardship strategies such as having the president/CEO sign the thank-you letter, sending the thank you letter and gift receipt “flat” (in a large booklet-style envelope) are simple strategies which communicate a message of importance to that donor. Much like reporting on donor giving above, when an institution is stewarding campaign gifts, there can be more opportunities for stewardship (events, etc.) and different strategies (naming, etc.).
It is important to keep in mind that the above strategies represent the most basic – but also the most effective and efficient – organizing principles. In the best possible world, every individual donor and prospect is invited, reported on, and stewarded personally and uniquely. However, that goal is rarely achievable (or helpful) due to constraints of time, energy, and financial resources.
So, while you can always grow in the sophistication and complexity of how you pull, use, and display giving data, when you begin with and consistently employ the above fundamental organizing strategies, your development efforts will be maximized.