Get More from Your Donor Database

Your database tools have the potential to dramatically increase marketing and fundraising results if you use them right. That’s why I’ll be blogging lots of tips, tools and case studies on building out and using your database(s) to improve your supporter’s experience in 2014—via segmentation, serving customization content and personalization. More satisfying experiences lead to more of the actions you need (results!).

That’s why I reached out to my friend James Porter when I heard he was headed to the Salesforce1 World Tour—Salesforce’s road show rolling out its new Salesforce1 platform—asking him to guest blog on what we need to know about Salesforce. Here’s James…

Nonprofits like yours have benefited from Salesforce’s “free” Nonprofit Starter Pack for years and now, with Salesforce1, Salesforce hopes to solidify its place as the nonprofit database platform of choice. In fact, there are so many New York City-area nonprofits using or considering using Salesforce that all of the nonprofit-focused sessions were vastly overcrowded, with as many folks shut out as could fit in each meeting room.

Here’s what I learned, or was reminded of:

  • The more accurate and complete the data you enter, the more useful and accurate your findings, analysis and actions. Good data in generates value out, no matter what database solution you use.
  • One of the best ways to jump start adoption among colleagues who don’t view the database as their responsibility is to focus on what’s in it for them. Sit down with database users—both in and beyond marketing and fundraising teams—and ask them to list five things they’d like to be able to do with the database (even if they can’t be done right away). If possible, it’s best to have this conversation before implementing the database.
  • To get a full and accurate 360-degree view of your constituents’ habits, actions and preferences, feed in data on every way they touch your organization (and vice versa) across all channels (website, social, direct mail, telemarketing, physical store, etc.), campaigns, programs and departments. Such rich data sourcing is what makes it possible for you to slice-and-dice to get the precise segment you want or customize a certain message for greatest relevance.
  • Mobility enriches data and increases timeliness. The new Salesforce1 app for iPhone and Android helps front-line fundraisers and marketers solicit and enter more information about donors when out of the office (no chance of forgetting key elements) in a flash.
  • Apps (on the Salesforce App Exchange and beyond) for taking online donations (processing fees still apply), project management, and calendar management are likely to help your organization, especially if it’s on the smaller side, to operate more efficiently.
  • Easy-to-use reports from Salesforce and similar constituent or donor databases can help you make more accurate decisions going forward, and illustrate the value of the data gathering and analysis approach to your boss .

Word of Caution: Salesforce is a powerful tool and can do a lot. But many of the Salesforce-based successes that nonprofits share are achieved with the help of consultants. The same holds for the Blackbaud CRM/donor management product successes you hear about.

And Salesforce’s out-of-the-box Nonprofit Starter Pack will only do so much for your organization without customization (even with apps), so figure the cost of consulting assistance when you are choosing your database solution. Once you use the Starter Pack for a month or two, start compiling a list of features and functions (i.e. what you want to do) that are beyond the capabilities of the starter pack, and start figuring out how to get the expertise you need to bring them to life via a consultant, firm or hire.

While we’re talking databases, take a look at:
Big Pressure for Big Data? Here’s What to Do