Checking for Duplicate Contacts On the Fly

How to keep your database free from duplicates without slowing down.

The demise of all donor and contact management systems (or CRMs) is the creeping addition of duplicate contacts.  There are many sources for duplicate entries, but every organization is bound to have a few that stand out.

Does your organization ever have:

  • Volunteers who do not check if a contact already exists in your database?
  • Multiple connection points with a supporter (e.g. volunteer, donor, events, etc.)?
  • Individuals from one household interacting with your organization separately?
  • Limited time causing you to rush through data entry?
  • Perfect keyboard skills (a.k.a. have you ever made a typo)?

However they get into your system, they erode and undermine the value of your donor data.  Aside from being just plain embarrassing, duplicate contacts cause more work, create unnecessary costs, and negatively affect your donors’ perception of how valuable they are to your organization.

The costs are simple and often small on the surface, but don’t forget about the lasting consequences. First is the extra printing, mailing, and labor costs when you are sending identical communications to donors. The more devastating cost is the impression you leave with the Donor.

How many of your supporters have ever thought:

  • “If they really valued me – why wouldn’t they see that they are sending me the same letter twice?”
  • “Are they really a good steward of my donation?”
  • “Why not just address the appeal to To Whom it May Concern?”

In the past, best practices revolved around reviewing your database at least annually, but those timelines always seem to be a little too flexible. When it happens, this process merges duplicates, verifies email and mailing addresses, and removes bouncing email addresses. Those are still valid steps and should continue to be done, but what are you doing before those audits?

Preemptive action should be your main focus. The best way to avoid the introduction of duplicates is to use a system that automatically alerts you at the time of entry of a possible duplicate. We like to call that “dynamic duplicate checking.” As you enter the last name of the contact you are adding, a strong database system will be scanning all your existing contacts and suggesting possible duplicates.  This does not slow down the entry of new contacts but can alert you quickly if a duplicate exists and allow you to take action.

Below is a screen shot showing the Dynamic Duplicate Checking in process.  As the user types in the first few letters of Smith, the system displays all the possible duplicates for that contact in the system.  This scan is checking both the main contact name and in the case of two name households, the second contact name.  Paying attention to these potential duplicates should greatly reduce the errors in your system.

live duplicate checker

It is important to periodically ask yourself… do you value each of your supporters? Are you a good steward of their donations?


If your organization is not using dynamic duplicate checking today, you should contact your DonorSnap representative to learn more about this feature.  If you are not currently using DonorSnap, you can learn more information by emailing Sales@DonorSnap.com or by participating in a live demo: Register for a live DonorSnap demo.

What is the Difference Between a Campaign and an Appeal?

If you are looking at the best strategy to raise money for your organization, cause or event, you might have heard the terms “campaign” and “appeal” used seemingly interchangeably. However, there are some important differences between a campaign and appeal that you need to be aware of.

On a very broad level, a campaign is the reason why you are asking for or collecting money, while an appeal is how you asked for that money. For example, your organization might be asking for money so you can expand certain services you provide, or go on a mission trip. Whatever the reason is, that is at the root of your campaign. It is the ultimate goal or objective you have for your organization’s fundraising, and the vision that you are selling to your potential donors.

Most organizations have more than one method they use to attempt to raise the funds needed to complete their campaign. These methods are your “appeals.” Using different approaches for your appeals allows you to go back at the end of the year to analyze the effectiveness of your appeals and compare them to each other or appeals you made in previous years. If a campaign is a set of all the fundraising activities you perform to achieve a particular objective, your appeals are those individual fundraising activities.

For example, let’s say you have an annual fundraising event, a Summer Appeal letter and drive, and several other smaller appeals scheduled throughout your year. By analyzing these appeals and comparing them year-over-year, you can get a better sense of how much money you can expect to raise, or what types of tweaks you may need to perform to make your appeals more successful.

Additional Ways to Categorize Donations

Generally, most donor management systems allow you to assign various categories to each donation.  As we mentioned above you may want to use the Campaign and Appeal fields to help you run reports on your donations and compare from one year to the next.  You may also want to use categories codes for:

  • Donation Type (such as soft credit, in kind or regular donation)
  • Accounting Code (typically a fund code tied to your accounting records)
  • Payment Method (check/credit card/PayPal/etc.)

You may use any or all of these codes or none of them.  It depends on your organization and what you want to track.  For example, if your organization doesn’t record donations into different General Ledger accounts (something the accountants sometimes want) then there is no sense using the Accounting Code field.  Payment method can be used to reconcile deposits to your bank account from different sources (credit cards, PayPal, etc.).  Donation Type is especially useful if you want to track non-monetary donations (in kind).  It’s useful to know how much an individual or organization has contributed to your cause overall, but it’s important to know how much was in the form of money. This makes it clear what you can use for budgetary expenditures vs. material donations that are helpful in other ways.

DonorSnap provides all the aforementioned categories along with unlimited user defined fields. You are able to analyze and report on your contributions in any way that you need.  If you have specific questions on tracking donation information, contact a DonorSnap representative at   Sales@DonorSnap.com.

Common Problems that Could Damage Your Email Communications

(and How to Resolve Them)

Nonprofits across the nation continue to expand their use of email in communications with their donors and followers. However, many of these organizations are not aware of how many of their contacts never actually receive their messages, for a variety of reasons.

Below we outline a few of the most common problems that prevent your contacts from getting your messages, and how you can correct those issues.

Emails never getting opened

This is the equivalent of your letter or call to a contact going unanswered or unread.  If you consistently send information to an important donor and they do not open your messages, your communication with them is ineffective.  If they consistently don’t open your emails you may need to change your method of communication.  Maybe this particular contact prefers a phone call or a personal visit.  If they are critical to your mission, you need to reach out to them in a method they will respond to.

Getting caught in spam filters

 It is not unusual for newsletters or mass email messages to get caught in email spam filters. These filters are designed with the goal of reducing the amount of “junk” mail a person receives in their inbox. To get around a spam filter, you must first understand exactly how these filters identify what is and is not spam.

Typically, spam filters consider the following factors:

  • The recipient’s relationship with the person sending the message
  • The reputation of a particular IP address or sender domain
  • The quality and/or safety of the links included in the message
  • The quality of the subject line and content
  • The ratio of images to text and links to text

While there are many more factors that go into deciding what is considered spam, these are among the most common.

You will have a much easier time getting your messages around spam filters if you create high-quality content that doesn’t pack in too many links or images. This content should be professionally formatted (turn off your caps lock and avoid using too many exclamation points!), and should avoid spammy-sounding words and phrases. It also helps to only send messages to people who actively subscribed to your content. Using services such as Constant Contact or MailChimp can aide you in producing higher quality emails. They will review your email format and suggest ways to improve your chances of being delivered.

Bounced emails

There are several common reasons why emails bounce back, including non-existent email addresses, unavailable or overloaded servers, full mailboxes, and auto-responders or vacation responders.  This would be the equivalent of a return to sender in the days of regular mail. The intended recipient never even knew you tried to reach out to them.

Each of these problems has resolution strategies you should consider. For example, if the bounce was marked as a non-existent address, you should double check for typos. An “undeliverable” message might just mean you need to try again later when the server is back up or the inbox has cleared. An auto response or vacation response will likely provide you with instructions as to when you can reach the targeted person.

Email blocked by ISP

Internet service providers (ISPs) might decide to block emails from certain addresses if they look like spam, if they are sending messages to too many invalid email addresses or if there are technical problems with delivering the message.  This is the worst case scenario for an organization. Not only didn’t your message get delivered, you don’t even know that it wasn’t delivered. Similar to a letter sent to an old address that doesn’t have forwarding in place and you didn’t pay for return postage.  Fortunately, these problems are relatively easy to fix, as seen above.

There are tools that allow you to track the ultimate delivery of your email and whether that email was opened. When doing mass emails using systems such as Constant Contact, you can review the mailing and see which emails were bounced, blocked, never opened or opened multiple times. For specific emails such as Donation Acknowledgments, Pledge reminders and Annual Statements, having a tracking program linked to your emails will help you understand which emails are getting thru and which ones aren’t.

DonorSnap utilizes the latest software, SendGrid, with all of its outbound emails to give you the ability to track where the email is in the delivery process, if and how often it’s been opened and also provides the ability to resend a misplaced email. This will provide you with full control over the email process and, most importantly, let you know who is getting and who is reading your emails.

Remember – in the new age of electronic communication, you can’t assume that your message is getting through and read by your target audience.

Making Fundraising and Donor Management Easy

Fundraising can be an exciting process. I’ve seen unimaginable amounts of money come in right before deadlines, which saved staff positions and helped to make incredible years. The celebration in those moments will be memories that I will never forget.

Unfortunately, the fine details of fundraising aren’t always so exciting. Reconnecting with people to remind them of pledged donations could be the equivalent to pulling teeth. Printing, stuffing, and mailing annual contribution statements is something many hope to pass off to interns or volunteers entirely. DonorSnap gets it and is here to help. Here is a glimpse at two important tools that will help you collect more donations and cut processing time down to practically zero.

Recurring Online Donations

  1. Build an online form integrated with your payment processor account, and give your supporters the ability to automate their giving.
  2. Schedule donations based on a time frame or without an end date entirely.
  3. Let the donor choose how to give by using either a credit/debit card or their bank account via ACH.

Recurring Donations Example Form

The tool is so easy to use that if you can use Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you can build a great looking online recurring donations form.

After you’ve created your recurring donation form, place a link to it on your website, in an email, or embed it right on your website. We take care of all the hosting details and send all of the donations scheduled through the form right into your database for review. All it takes is one form submission and your donors can be set up to continue their giving for a lifetime.

Email Contribution Statements

I can’t imagine the time and work it takes for a small nonprofit to process and mail out their end of the year contributions statements. It’s one thing when you have an entire development team taking on the challenge, but for some organizations, we’re talking days or weeks of nonstop administrative work. It is in these moments that you realize how wonderful technology and mail merge are. Now imagine incorporating email into that equation… you’ll probably feel the urge to give a sigh of relief. This is exactly what the email contribution statements can do for your organization.

Email Contribution Statements

DonorSnap has built this feature right into every database. No matter how many contacts you are tracking, you get to use email contribution statements. The same contribution statement generator that you have been using is what makes up the start of this tool.

Next, add in the ability to customize the email that your statements are attached to using merge fields from your database. This means you can personally address each person in your email. You can generate all of your statements and then email them with a single click. The savings in postage alone could be enough to pay for your DonorSnap subscription this year. If it costs $0.50 per letter (not including your time and paper cuts!) compared to the cost of an email (free!)… you can do the math.

If you’re not already using DonorSnap to manage all of your donors, members, and volunteers, feel free to check it out and see how it can save your organization time, money, and effort. Visit the getting started page to view one of our free overview webinars or to get signed up today.

Cleaning Up Your Database

Whether you are looking to transfer your data into a new database or tidy up the one you already have, here are a few quick fixes that will make a world of difference in your reports and mailings.

1. Standardize your fields. Limit the number of free form Text fields in your database. Use Single or Multi-Select and Date fields when possible to help maintain a clean database. Before transferring data from a Text field to a select style field, be sure to standardize your look-up options by eliminating all but the correct version. For example, when using a text field to track your Accounting Codes, it is possible to end up with numerous variations and even misspellings for the same fund (i.e. GEN, General, Gnrl, Generl). Running an accurate report with so many variations of the same fund is next to impossible.

2. Use proper capitalization and spacing…particularly in your name fields. When you send out mailings, you do not want your current donors or potential donors to feel like you are yelling at them (Dear DICK) or simply do not give a rip (Dear      jane   mae). If your data is in Excel, utilize the Trim and Proper functions to quickly eliminate extra spacing and adequately capitalize your names.

3. Merge Duplicates. Check for duplicate contact records based on Name, Address, Email and even Phone. Once you are confident you have a match on your hands, combine the duplicate records, including any attached donations, notes, etc. into one. This can often be a laborious process but it will yield more accurate reporting results and can often cut mailing costs.

Get Those Email Addresses

business-cards2

For those that haven’t noticed, the age of electronic communication is upon us in full force. Almost everyone has an email address and the younger generation tend to live on Facebook and messaging. Nonprofits have been slow to take advantage of this new medium and are now trying to play catch up. Many organizations with long established databases of contacts had not collected email addresses in the past and now need to play “Catch Up” to update their lists.

Organizations should take every opportunity to get this information whenever interacting with their constituents. The key is knowing who you have email addresses for and who you don’t. Depending on whether you use a Donor Management system or an Excel spreadsheet, you need to code it so you can easily identify people with missing information. Once you know what is missing, you can be on the lookout to add this information whenever possible.

One trick my nonprofit recently used (quite successfully) was to pre-code name tags for our annual event. As people either mailed or phoned in their registered for the event we maintained an Excel spreadsheet that was to be used to print out the name tags for the event. This Excel spreadsheet was cross checked against our Donor Database to see if we were missing critical pieces of information. We added a column on the spreadsheet that was either blank or contained “e”, “m” or “em”. The column was left blank if we had both their electronic and ground mailing addresses. If we were missing either or both we added an “e” to signify a missing email, an “m” for missing mailing address or “em” if both pieces of information were missing. (In the case of guests and people new to our organization registering for the event we almost always were missing both pieces of information.)

nametag

The day of the event, we printed out the name tags for all the registered attendees. The First and Last name were printed from the Excel spreadsheet using a large font. Then in a very small font in the bottom corner of the name tag we printed the “em” code in small print. The name tags were then laid out on the registration table in name order.

As guests arrived, we asked volunteer greeters at the registration desk to hand them their name tags. The volunteer would quickly look to see if there was a code on the lower corner of the tag or if it was blank. If there was nothing on the name tag the guest was simply greeted and given the event information. However, if there was a code on the bottom, the guest was asked if they would like to provide their email and/or address for our newsletter or future communications. If they said yes (and most did) we had clipboards with a brief information sheet for them to fill out. The greeter instructed what information we needed to be filled out and then collected the form from the guest before sending them on their way.

Our organization is also set up to collect this information directly into our database and could have done so the night of the event (rather than the intermediate step of having them write it on paper). We could have provided an iPad to the guest and asked them to enter the missing information. However, we opted not to take this approach in hopes of helping speed the guest along and not imposing on their evening any more than we had to.

Help! I Inherited the Database From…

Frustrated
Image from Jon Watson

Can you relate to this scenario?

You just inherited a database(s) that is meant for you to track down donations, board members, visitors and everything else. Perhaps there are several files with repeated information or better yet, incomplete information. Sitting in the storage room are files of handwritten notes and check copies, none of which have been entered into a computer. Emails are going back and forth between you and other staff collecting bits and pieces of information making it a tracking nightmare.

So what do you do about when you are tasked with organizing your organizations database in a maze of information?

First, define a plan of attack.

Is the focus to improve on the database moving forward? Or is it necessary to change historical information.  A lot of organizations can just say “forget the past, I’m starting fresh tomorrow.” However, most cannot and they have a lot of cleanup to do.

Historical Data
Photo by Miri

How to Fix Historical Data.

First, don’t panic, move slowly through making manual changes. For fixing historical information, find the immediate priorities. Change only those that are needed right now.

Then when immediate needs are finished, start fixing historical information.

  • Edit anything in ALL CAPS.
  • Merge duplicates; researching duplicates that may be spouses. (DonorSnap provides many different duplicates reports as well as a Merge tool). Develop a standard of how to track spousal records moving forward.
  • Edit historical donations so comparative reports will be beneficial.
  • Inactivate deceased/inactive contacts.
  • Most nonprofits inactivate data entries after 3 years of no activity. Delete from the database after 7 years of no activity.

What is the purpose of the database?

Become familiar with the purpose(s) of the database; get acquainted with current donation programs — what mailings have gone out recently, what campaigns are running, talk to Accounting about their needs with running reports between the donor management system and their books.

Try this: Run a Donations Received report of the past checks, go back and change just those to the current and correct drop-downs, so the report is clear and concise.

Remove Duplicates
Photo by Ian Barbour

Get familiar with current database software.

Look at all the existing drop-downs for targeting contacts (how do you label a Contact as a volunteer or Board Member); how are donations categorized. If using a program like DonorSnap you can inactivate any non-relevant codes for appeals/campaigns/accounting codes (never deleting, you can always bring back if you have a question!). DonorSnap also allows you to HIDE (again, never deleting) entire fields that are no longer relevant.

Tip: Simplify the database to what codes you’re using now (and change historical information later, if needed).

Need to send an appeal mailing to the top donors?

Run a DonationStrata report (or other report that can give you Lifetime donations over a certain amount). Edit those contacts; Merge any duplicates ; make sure the mailing label for the contact is your current standard, and do a mailing.

Make a Cheat-Sheet.

Create a standard and cheat-sheet for all data-entry staff of what Codes to use for Contacts/Donations and a process for entering new contacts and adding donations. Create a mailing standard, how the names should be entered in the system and also how the mailing label should be addressed (in DonorSnap would be the Acknowledgement field).

Tip: Arrange a training with staff to go over the database procedures (they need to know this in case your out of the office)

 

Add a Donate Now Form to your Facebook Page Tabs

Recently we have discovered an even further value for DonorSnap Forms – Facebook Page Tabs. Creating a new Facebook page tab out of a DonorSnap Form is easy enough that any user can implement it. Whether you feel your organization could benefit from a “Donate Now” Facebook tab, a “Join our Mailing List” tab, an “Event Sign Up” tab, or more, follow the step by step guide below. In a matter of minutes, your Facebook page will have an integration with your DonorSnap database.

Donate Now Form as a Facebook Tab

Step One: Create your form

If you aren’t already using DonorSnap for your donor management, you’ll need to sign up for an account first. After you’re signed up, you’ll be ready to create any number of forms that you need. For more help on creating your forms, watch the online forms tutorial video here.

Step Two: Sign up to be a “Facebook Developer”

In order to create your own Facebook Page Tab App, you’ll need to be granted access to the developer area. Don’t worry if this sounds scary. Just keep following the directions and you’ll find it foolproof. You can also brag to your friends that you have developed a Facebook app for your organization.

To sign up, go to https://developers.facebook.com and click the button in the top right corner as shown below. Follow the prompts and verify your account.

Register as a Facebook Developer

Step Three: Create Your Facebook Tab App

After you are verified, you’ll need to go to https://developers.facebook.com/apps to start creating your tab app. Click the “+ Create New App” button at the top of the screen and continue through the prompts confirming that you accept the guidelines and that you are human.

Create a New Facebook Tab App

Next you’ll see the app creation form and your App ID on top. Make sure to note this number, because you’ll need it in the next step. Click the Page Tab check mark and fill out the form with your information. Make sure to fill out the following fields as directed:

  • App Domains: “donorsnap.com”
  • Sandbox Mode: Disabled (if you enable it, your tab will only be visible to administrators)
  • Page Tab Name: This can be whatever you would like your tab to be labeled on your Facebook page.
  • Page Tab URL: Paste your DonorSnap form link for the specific form that you would like to use.
  • Secure Page Tab URL: Use the same thing as the Page Tab URL
  • Page Tab Edit URL: Leave blank

Fill out the form to create your Donate Now Facebook tab

Step Four: Install the Facebook Page Tab App

Now that your Facebook Page Tab app is created, you’ll need to install it on your page. To install it, you’ll need to enter the following address into your browser, but make sure to replace “Your_App_ID” with the number that you wrote down in the step before.

https://www.facebook.com/dialog/pagetab?app_id=YOUR_APP_ID&next=https://www.facebook.com

If you entered the URL correctly, you should be presented with the following page. Select your organization’s Facebook page and click Add Page Tab.

Select your Facebook Page

Step Five: Your new Donate Now form is now a tab on your Facebook Page

That’s it. Now go to your Facebook page and see your new tab available to collect donations or whatever else it was designed for.

Your Donate Now Facebook tab is live

For more information, please refer to the Facebook Page Tab App tutorial. When you finish, let know how you’re using your form on your Facebook page by commenting below.

Not using DonorSnap yet?
Sign up for one of our free webinar demonstrations to see the software in action.
Ready to be set up with your own database? Sign up for your new account now!

 

The Power of an Authentic Thank You Letter

Growing up I would take yearly vacations to visit my grandmother in Texas. During these visits she would arrange visits with her friends and their grandchildren for play-dates. These arranged visits resulted in lunches, opportunities to swim in their pools and even excursions to amusement parks.  At the end of the day after each visit my grandmother would have me write a thank you letter for my experience. I started the task reluctantly as I didn’t see the point in writing thank you notes for play-dates. Once I took out the construction paper, crayons and markers I was able to remember the fun experience of the day and let that person know how they made an impact on me.

Today I take the task of writing a thank you letter to a different level. As someone who has worked with nonprofits for years I have donated my time, recruited volunteers, worked with underpaid staff who have given their all and have solicited donations. In each of these scenarios it all comes down to giving and the act of acknowledging the gifts.

How to Write an Authentic Thank You Letter:

1. Speak from the heart
Aside from thanking them for contributing to your organization, let them know how you feel personally about their contribution.

2. Include an image or photo of the impact of their gift.
If it is a donated object such as a toy or car, show them who or what is using it. Photographs and keepsakes are mementos that remind people why they give and will likely result in giving back more.

3. Have more than one person write the letter.
The best thank you notes I’ve ever gotten have been from classrooms of students whom each had a unique perspective on how I had impacted their lives. Create a group activity at the beginning of a board meeting, in a classroom or other gathering for participants to say thank you from their own point of view.

4. Send letters from the road.
If you are going on vacation or to a conference in an interesting city, take a list of your top donors and board members and send them postcards from the road. The art of sending postcards reminds people that you are thinking of them on your journey.

Those who support your organization do so because they believe in you and your work. In turn, it’s important for you to retain their support by acknowledging their gifts and time. Be sure to keep track of your correspondence in your donor management database.

Do you have a tip on a writing authentic thank you notes? Leave a comment and share it with us.

 

Stories About Amazing Donors

Do you have a story about an amazing volunteer or donor?

Last month at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Minneapolis, MN we set out to collect stories that honors the folks that go above and beyond the call of duty.