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)

 

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.

Is Your Nonprofit Prepared for Web 3.0?

Web 3.0? Give me a break! We just got a Facebook page up, what’s next?

First you needed a website. Did it take a while to get one up and running? Then you needed social media, that changes so rapidly it’s hard to keep up! You integrated a blog, that now you need to find people to write for it.

Do you really need to do more? 
Yes you do.

I’m writing this in the summer so you can start to put it into your budget for the next fiscal year. Let’s talk about what you need to do to be Web 3.0.

1. Get your website ready for mobile.

It’s not just that people are looking at your website from a smart phone, but they are starting on a laptop, moving to a tablet, onto a smart phone and back again. This means you have to design your site so it fits on all these devices. 

In order to do it on the Cheap-and-Easy, design your site in a WordPress or Drupal template that is mobile ready. The template description should tell you if it can be applied to smart phones and tablets. This way you only have to design once and it can be on the go.

For a few more bucks you can ask your web developer to make your site mobile ready. What this means is they write code that is wrapped around your site so that it looks good on any device. It’s like wrapping your site in plastic wrap. You see this often when you are looking at a site that starts with m.website.com. The “m” stands for mobile.

2. Make an App for your cause

This is an optional feature. Not everyone needs an app and if they don’t work well people will delete them.  If your organization is doing something that can invite people to take action, participate in an activity or is involved in an event that has a lot of information that you need on the fly, then an app would be good for you. Apps can be expensive, minimum $5000 up to $75,000 depending on the capability. You can also go with pro bono groups such as Code for America who make apps for good causes. You need a technical advisor to think about the type of App you want.

App options:

iOS – Anything Apple. Needs to be approved by Apple, takes 1 – 2 months to be completely approved and ready. Many people around the world have Apple products, broad market. Good thing is you design it once and it fits on all iPhones. Negative, it can be rejected, which puts you back in line to be approved.

Android – Most other smart phones (except Microsoft) are run on Android. The nice thing about designing for Android is you can put it in the App store immediately. Negative, since there re so many different types of Android phones, it doesn’t always look good on every phone.

Microsoft – Only runs on Microsoft smart phones.

Portable App – This basically is a website designed to function as an App. This is a great option if you want to design something cheaply that goes on every phone. Negative, you need to be connected to WiFi.

3. Preparing for .NGO

Your website most likely ends with a .ORG. Theoretically this means you are a “nonprofit organization.” Did you know that anyone who wants a .org can sign up for one even if they are not a 501c3. In 2014,  PIR.org, the agency that owns .ORG will be introducing .NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and .ONG (Same as NGO but for latin languages.) The difference is you have to prove you are a .NGO before you can get the domain. This will be simple for US Based organizations that can prove 501c3 but more difficult for those around the globe that don’t have such a system set in place.

Why .NGO? The term “nonprofit” has a lot of klout in the US Market but not so much internationally. On a global level international governments and organizations understand the term NGO more than nonprofit. Adopting .NGO will be good especially if you plan to work internationally.

The other great things about .NGO is if you have an organization without a website they will give you to the tools to make it easy and cheap. To sign up for more information on .NGO click here for the Expression of Interest Form.

Alright, now you have some of the key elements you will need for Web 3.0. You can take these pointers back to your board or team to look at planning for 2014. Good luck!

Putting Your Linkedin to Use, Finding Board Members and Donors.

I am overwhelmed by the amount of information that Linkedin provides. Until recently I thought of it just as a job seeking site. What I learned last week at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Minneapolis, MN is it is a much more powerful tool than I had imagined. I took a few notes by Anthony Pisapia Director of Development and Programs at Tech Impact.

Let’s start with your network.

Linkedin Maps
Linkedin has a system for visualizing your own network.

The six degrees of separation rule still stands. If you are looking for potential donors or influential board members, it is likely that those who you already know have a contact that would be a good fit.

Your 1st degree connections should be people you actually know and feel comfortable enough  to ask them for a favor.

If in your network a current board member is connected to a potential donor, you should feel ok asking for that introduction.

 

Tip: Ask for introductions outside of Linkedin, such as in an email or a phone call.

I am not strict on this rule for a couple of reasons. First, you can download the entire contact address book of your Linkedin connections. This is good for developing an email list and for CRM information. Second, potential volunteers and donors may be following you personally. Knowing you through Linkedin may give them the encouragement to connect.

Get your members to promote your organization.

Linkedin Volunteer Section
Provide information for your board members to add into their profile.

Browse through the profiles of your board members and volunteers. Where does it say they are part of your organization? They can add information about their participation in the volunteer section.
For patrons and fans of your organization. They can promote you in the Organizations section of Linkedin.

Organizations on Linkedin

Tip: Provide the text you want them to put into their Linkedin Profiles. Make sure your organization and staff profile is updated.

Tap into your alumni network.

Linkedin Alumni NetworkYour alumni network is strong. When you click on a school it shows you options such as years attended, industry, location, etc. Use this to your advantage when identifying potential board members and donors.

Add reminder notes to profiles.

Reminder Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a conference or meeting someone, check out their profile and add information about your conversation with them. They will not be able to see what you have written. This is for your personal information only.

Tip: Use the Linkedin App for notes and reminders before you head out to a meeting.

Did you know that you can add DonorSnap as a skill on Linkedin?

DonorSnap Skill
Go to Edit Profile, Skills, Add DonorSnap.

 

A Story of a Lifetime Volunteer

Photo by Catherine Scott, 2008

My Grandma Amy is a lifetime volunteer and donor. She has inspired me to volunteer throughout my life and showed me the need to give what you can to charity. I asked her to be a DonorSnap contributor and write about why she cares to help out in her community. I see my Grandma as a good example of the caring donor that many nonprofits would love to have as part of their support network. I asked her to write a bit about why she spends her time and money helping out people. This is what she had to say… Continue reading “A Story of a Lifetime Volunteer”

Google Apps Now Free For All Nonprofits!

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 9.29.50 AM

One of the biggest hurdles for nonprofits to overcome is how to pay for and incorporate advertising  technology and web hosting into their organization. Many nonprofits may already be a part of the Google App system but there is still an application and approval process that takes months to go through.

Today Google announced that it will make all Google Apps available to ALL nonprofits. Some of these Apps would include Google Analytics, Youtube, Adwords and email services. For details and information on how you can register for these products click here.