What is Donor Management?

Through effective donor management, you can move your supporters through the donor lifecycle to keep growing your mission.

Building strong relationships with your donors takes time and knowledge. You have to get to know their interests, giving capacity, communications preferences, and much more. Donor management is the approach that helps you do this.

Donor management is the process of organizing information about your donors, including their giving history, contact information, and community connections, as well as your log of interactions with them. Donor management helps you better understand your donors and meet their needs to ensure their continued support of your nonprofit.

Below, we’ll orient you a little more to donor management by looking at:

  • 4 stages of the donor lifecycle in donor management
  • Data collection for donor management
  • How to pair donor data with donor relationship-building

4 Stages of the Donor Lifecycle in Donor Management

The “donor lifecycle” refers to the steps nonprofits take to identify prospective donors, encourage them to make their first gift, and then engage with them to promote additional support. 

Your organization might break this lifecycle down into smaller steps or add additional stages based on your specific stewardship plan, but typically there are four main components: 

  1. Prospecting. In this step, you identify potential donors. You can do this by reviewing past volunteers and event attendees. You can also look at the connections of your staff, board members, and current donors to see which you can tap into. For major donors, you’ll want to look into who the main supporters are at nonprofits similar to yours for ideas.
  2. Cultivation. Once you’ve identified your prospective donors, it’s time to get them acquainted with your nonprofit’s work and build your case for them to make their first donation. In this stage, you’ll invite them to events, connect with them on social media, send them updates on your work, and other activities to build your connection with them.
  3. Requesting. After you’ve established a relationship with your donor, it’s time to make your ask. Through the first two stages, you should now know what their giving capacity is so you can make an appropriately sized ask, and they should know about the great ways you put donations to work.
  4. Stewardship. This stage is similar to step two, but the aim is to keep their attention and encourage ongoing support. Continue to find ways to engage them with your nonprofit in personalized ways that appeal to them. Express your gratitude and include them in your future fundraising campaigns. Effective stewardship can turn one-time donors into lifelong supporters.

Within these categories, you can add additional steps. For example, you may want to add a step for re-engaging lapsed donors or for making connections with a new donor’s network. Additionally, you could add sub-categories to your stewardship plan for specific donors you want to cultivate for recurring donations, major gifts, or planned giving opportunities.

Data Collection for Donor Management

Data collection provides a wealth of information for your nonprofit to use for donor prospecting and stewardship. It allows you to get to know your donors better so you can make more informed asks and also provide them with the value they’re looking for as supporters of your mission.

There are two main categories of data to collect: donor information and campaign-specific information. Donor information pertains to individual donors, whereas campaign-specific information takes a larger look at how your fundraising and marketing initiatives perform.

Some of the donor data you may want to collect includes:

  • Name and contact information to help with your outreach and tracking
  • Age to better understand giving capacity, interests, and other related factors
  • Family members to who may also be involved with your organization
  • Employer to look for matching and sponsorship opportunities
  • Educational background to look for potential partnerships with their alumni networks or see if they have skill sets that could be donated in-kind
  • Giving history to see their engagement with your work over time
  • Hobbies and interests to better align your outreach efforts and events with what most appeals to them
  • Volunteer and advocacy participation to understand what topics are most important to them and how they like to be involved
  • Business and community connections to find opportunities to expand your network or ask for introductions

Some of the campaign data you may want to collect includes:

  • Event attendance to understand which are the most popular among your donors
  • Satisfaction levels from surveys to gauge whether your donor systems and communications are operating well
  • Donor acquisition costs to track how much you’re spending to obtain each new donor
  • Marketing engagement rates to better see how donors engage with your social media, email, and other marketing efforts

How to Pair Donor Data With Donor Relationship-Building

Donor data should inform your relationship-building efforts. With effective use, it can help to build new and stronger relationships with your supporters.

You can use data from your donor management systems to:

  • Better understand how donors like to be engaged
  • Understand factors that may be impacting retention rates
  • Expand your network by tapping into donors’ wider communities
  • Identify potential major donors or planned giving opportunities

The key to using your data effectively is to make actual changes based on what you find. If you learn from donor satisfaction surveys, for example, that donors don’t like receiving mailers, let that information shift how your marketing team conducts its outreach. 

If you find that a new donor has valuable connections to local businesses that could become your next event sponsors, take the time to create a stewardship plan that can provide you with a warm introduction to those companies.

Use Effective Donor Management to Keep Your Nonprofit Organized and Growing

Donor management is key for the financial sustainability of your nonprofit. It is what drives the cultivation of new donors and strengthens current donor relationships to become lifelong supporters.

Through effective organization and data collection, you can move through the donor lifecycle to keep growing your mission.

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