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4 Best Practices for Effectively Managing Your Donor Data

Whether your organization is planning your next fundraising campaign or virtual event, drafting communications for an outreach effort, or thanking supporters for their efforts, your donor data can help you tailor your strategies.

Your donors will respond most positively when your outreach and stewardship strategies appeal to their individual concerns and interests in your organization and work.

This is especially important during an economic downturn. Many of your supporters may be working to change up their spending habits to adhere to a shifting economy. Therefore, it is important to customize your communications as much as possible to target the right donors with the right message. Personalizing each message can make a significant difference in engagement rates as well.

Your nonprofit’s donor management tools are the source of the information necessary to personalize your communications. Salsa’s guide to donor databases explains how you can use the information stored in your CRM to enrich communications and build stronger relationships. For example, details like a supporter’s name and email address are required to better introduce communications while more complex data like familial connections and pet names can personalize the content of messages.

Today, we’ll take a look at how you can connect more meaningfully with your donors by using the valuable information you collect. We recommend that you:

  1. Integrate your donor software with your online fundraising tools.
  2. Use prospect research data to augment your donor profiles.
  3. Segment your donors to communicate effectively with each group.
  4. Track and report on all incoming donations.

It is important to maintain comprehensive giving records for each of your supporters in an effective donor database. This process is much easier when you’re able to integrate your donor software with your online fundraising tools.

1. Integrate your donor software with your online fundraising tools.

We’re seeing the increasing importance of online giving options for nonprofit organizations. Not only have they been increasing in popularity thanks to their ease-of-use and convenience to donors, but they’ve also proved essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it’s essential that your organization gathers relevant information about your donors when they choose these giving methods.

When your online fundraising tools integrate with your CRM, your nonprofit’s team won’t have to spend time manually transferring important gift information between databases.

You may think of your online donation page as a popular location to give, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an essential means of collecting data about your supporters’ giving habits and preferences. When you select donor software that automatically stores this information obtained from your online donation page and other fundraising tools, you’ll be able to create comprehensive donor profiles containing such information as:

  • Your donors’ contact information. This way, you’ll be able to stay in touch and transform first-time donors into long-term supporters for your organization.
  • Their giving habits and histories. You’ll have records of the campaigns your donors prefer to support, how frequently they give, and how much they usually give.
  • Their preferred giving methods. Knowing how donors give—whether via your emails, your website, on mobile, or using another method—can help you determine the right medium to use when reaching out to them and can show you which of your donation tools are most popular among your supporters.

Your organization is likely to find that fundraising efforts are more successful when you’re able to store giving data and other donor information from your fundraising tools automatically.

Your CRM’s integration capabilities aren’t necessarily limited to your online fundraising tools. For example, you might look for a system that integrates with a matching gift database to remind eligible donors that their gifts are eligible to be matched by their employers. Additionally, you can choose donor software that integrates with a prospect research database to help you learn more about current and potential supporters.

2. Use prospect research data to augment your donor profiles.

Prospect research is the process of gathering information on your donors (and individuals likely to become donors) that provides an indication of how capable they are of making gifts and how likely they are to do so.

When your CRM integrates with a prospect research software tool, you’ll be able to augment existing donor profiles with valuable prospect research data.

An effective prospect research tool collects additional donor information available in public records to identify the current and potential donors most likely to support your organization. The types of prospect research data you’ll be able to gather and store in your CRM include:

  • Past giving histories. These include prospects’ histories of giving to your nonprofit as well as to other causes and organizations with missions similar to yours. According to DonorSearch’s affinity to give guide, these indicators effectively show how likely a supporter is to feel a connection with and give to your mission.
  • Wealth markers. Indications of wealth, including real estate and stock ownership, careers and business affiliations, and political giving history, can help you determine the appropriate size gifts to ask for as well as identify potential major donors.
  • Additional philanthropic indicators. Do some of your prospects volunteer regularly with organizations similar to yours? Are they vocal supporters for your cause on social media? Prospect research data can provide you with insights like these in addition to data based on giving histories and wealth markers.

Once your nonprofit has identified key prospects, you can use the information to reach out to them with more tailored communications. You can develop plans for approaching donors individually, especially those who are capable and likely of making major gifts.

Don’t forget that current conditions may impact a supporter’s ability to give. You may consider decreasing your ask amount or finding other stewardship opportunities to build relationships with your prospects until we experience steadier economic conditions.

In addition to helping you identify potential major donors and other important supporters to reach out to, prospect research data often provide the foundation for segmenting donors in your CRM system. Segmenting your donors helps your organization develop communications that better address different groups of donors’ interests in your organization.

3. Segment your donors to communicate effectively with each group.

Each of your donors has unique reasons for taking an interest in your organization’s work and supporting your mission.

While it’s not possible to take a completely individualized approach to communication for each donor, your nonprofit can personalize messages by segmenting your donors and developing different outreach strategies for each segment.

Segmentation creates more targeted communications, which you can then use to reach out to your donors more effectively through all of your online fundraising and outreach channels. Are you unsure where to start segmenting your donors or looking for new ways to do so? A few effective categories include:

  • Length of time engaged with your nonprofit. Your newest supporters are likely to be interested in different information about your organization and its work than your most dedicated, long-term donors. Keep all your donors engaged with communications reflecting their levels of familiarity with your organization.
  • Past campaigns supported. Understanding which of your campaigns different groups of your donors tend to support can help you send communications that will appeal to them more strongly. This can also allow you to separate supporters who participate in in-person activities or have volunteered from those who have only donated online. You can also segment your donors according to the average gift size you generally receive from them.
  • Preferred communication method. If you already know that certain donors prefer to be communicated with via email, text message, phone call, or social media, honor their preferences by using these channels as your primary method of outreach. You can personalize this further by also using their preferred method of giving to entice them to contribute to your campaigns.

In addition to segmenting your donors before communicating with them, you can engage them further with an automated email series that leads them to complete a goal, such as a donation or an event registration.

Email series are especially effective for driving donations. This is because email series establish an element of consistency in the communication with supporters. Consistency helps keep your organization at the forefront of your supporters’ minds and lays the foundation for an effective relationship.

Once your supporters make their gifts, you won’t want to lose track of any of the valuable information that those gifts contain. Make sure that you’re tracking all gift information and using your CRM’s reporting features to better understand giving patterns.

4. Track and report on all incoming donations.

Tracking and reporting on your nonprofit’s donations is essential for multiple reasons. Beyond tracking accounting transactions, donation details provide valuable insight into your donors’ giving preferences and can help you thank your donors more personally. Gratitude is especially important in tough economic times because it shows donors that you’re as committed to them as they are to your cause.

With the help of your CRM system, you can incorporate gift information into effective thank-you messages for your donors and valuable reports for your organization’s team.

Some types of gift data that your CRM can track and store for your reference include:

  • The donor the gift came from
  • The amount of the gift
  • The campaign or project the gift supported
  • Any additional information the donor included, such as whether they are giving the gift in honor of a specific person

Tracking information does more than provide your nonprofit with insight into your donors’ giving habits and preferences. This information is also important when you send annual acknowledgment letters to your donors, who need accurate and detailed gift information for record-keeping and tax purposes.

Planning your organization’s next pledge campaign? Tracking features can also help your organization stay up-to-date on your donors’ promised gifts, including outstanding pledges that they haven’t yet fulfilled. You can learn more about tracking features in this guide.

Equally important to tracking features are reporting capabilities. Using the reports that your CRM system generates from your stored data, your team will be able to recognize important trends in giving. You’ll also learn how your most recent fundraising campaign is shaping up, for instance, or be able to measure donor retention rates. Retention rates, in particular, are a key measure of the success of your organization’s outreach strategies.

When your organization uses tracking, reporting, and other features to understand your donors’ reasons for giving, their preferred methods of doing so, and the causes they want to support, you can begin building stronger relationships with them. You’ll be able to deliver a more strategic journey for your donors, addressing their concerns and interests to encourage them to give again in the future.


Comprehensive and well-organized donor data is central to an effective outreach strategy that draws new supporters to your organization and encourages your most dedicated donors to give again. With the help of your CRM and a complete nonprofit fundraising toolbox, you’ll have all the valuable information you need to reach out.


About the Author

Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization, and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.