What role does technology play in helping us build relationships with our constituents? In recent blogs I’ve discussed the importance of providing relevant information and understanding donor preferences when communicating. Segmentation, visuals, video and social media also enable stronger connections with supporters. In this blog we will explore how our Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems may also augment donor relationships.

The Ideal Donor

What do we really need to know about a donor? The power of a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system is that it can help us identify the common traits among our most loyal donors. These characteristics will be unique to each organization and a reflection of your donor population. Our relationships with donors start and pivot forward based on how we utilize the data in our CRM to define our ideal donors and then, using what we know, create the most appropriate personal outreach.

At a high level, when a development officer knows the needs of Major Gift supporters, he/she can determine the best-matched cultivation plan and giving opportunity. And, even when it’s not possible to reach every individual personally, such as during annual campaign solicitations, we can tag and automate activities to move our supporters towards more loyalty and involvement in our cause. 

Interests and Motivations

In all cases the more we reference and incorporate a donor’s “interest and motivations” including past participation, the stronger and more personal the relationship will feel to them. For example, when a donor makes a second donation or attends another event, their loyalty should be recognized with written acknowledgement. When we consider retention, a second gift is as big as the first and a donor deserves recognition, not a generic form letter that is sent to everyone. Are you with me? This type of data needs to be tracked and used to the benefit of the relationship.

Four Ways to Build Relationships Using Your CRM

  1. At a minimum, a CRM tracks basic data of multiple constituent groups such as board members, volunteers, major donors, foundations, corporations, legacy donors and event attendees. But we’re not collecting data just for the sake of having more information. We’re collecting it so that we can use it to improve our relationships.2
  2. Collect and track more than just basic data, go for information that will help identify patterns and define your ideal donor “persona”. Consider motivations for involvement. More and more Millennials rely on a referral as a reason for being involved. Where did the donor come from? Online, offline, or both?

Here are some additional attributes to incorporate into your donor profile:

  • Event attendance
  • Open emails; conversion from one communication channel to the next
  • Participation in social media
  • Volunteer

3. Integrate the data from multiple touch points to gain a deeper understanding. Although this requires teamwork from different departments working together, it can be transformative internally, and increase conversations, in addition to augmenting our understanding of your best performing donors.

  1. Automate so no one slips through. Every donor deserves attention no matter how small. Major donors, of course, require more personal touches.  Automation helps you achieve cultivation of large and small donors within the capacity of your organization.

Here are some activities that, if automated, will strengthen your donor relationships:

  • New donor packages for first time donors
  • Repeat donor letter (the more we acknowledge loyalty, the better)
  • Thank you, but not just a standard thank you, personalize it based on the preferences of the donor. Perhaps an individual would appreciate receiving a letter from a past volunteer or client, for example
  • RSVP to an event that reflects past attendance
  • Post event follow-up (send an email and/or letter shortly after an event.  Repeat your message while the event is fresh in their minds.  Share results.)

A CRM helps us understand the life-cycle of each donor as well as structuring the processes for moving your relationships forward.  Interacting thoughtfully with your supporters requires study and nuance of your CRM data. 

As recommended by a recent report on nonprofit digital engagement:
“…it’s the little picture, the details and nuance that really tells you how your program is doing, how your supporters are responding, and how your organization can thrive…(Understand) which numbers matter most and what your peers are experiencing – and then develop your own benchmarks to measure your progress, confront your challenges, and identify your best opportunities.”

Use your CRM to open doors to enduring relationships with all supporters.