Studley Fundraising

“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Carpenter and piano maker H.O. Studley created an amazing tool chest which has become legendary among woodworkers. He crafted mahogany rosewood, ebony, and mother-of-pearl into an intricate design assigning a special place for each of his 300 tools. His creation includes flip up trays, hidden compartments, and multiple layers efficiently maximizing every space. It truly is a work of art. But Studley didn’t make his tool chest as an art project, he designed it to make his work more efficient so he wouldn’t waste time looking for a particular tool.

Like Studley, most fundraisers long to find their tools efficiently and make their work more productive. Your CRM/donor database software constantly needs attention to avoid garbage in garbage out. It can be your greatest friend or your worst nightmare. Consider these three strategies to retool your database so everything has a place with everything in its place.

Evaluate Your Records
How complete are your constituent records? Test a sample segment of fifty records of your key donors. If you have incomplete or inaccurate information for your closest friends, you most likely have many inaccuracies in your entire database. Review the contact information for each name. Do you have the proper salutation fields, spouse name, complete address, phone, and email? Do you know your donors’ relationship to your ministry and to other donors? Are gifts accurately recorded and soft credits assigned properly? Are campaign pledges and gift fulfillments clearly indicated? Are you aware of your donors who are deceased?

Establish Protocols
Once you see your weaknesses, focus on three areas to improve (a) Prospecting. Have you conducted wealth screening in the past two years? Do you have engagement strategies for your top prospects? (b) Tracking. Do you track appeals and solicitations? Understanding donor motivation is extremely helpful. Do you record any attachment indicators like event attendance or volunteer participation? These data are helpful when analyzing the likelihood to give in a campaign. (c) Contact Information. Run your data through a National Change of Address service to ensure your list is current.

Maintain Consistency
Your database is a living, breathing resource that needs constant monitoring. When a variety of staff members input donor information into your software, you risk inconsistency. Adopt a continuous improvement approach and update all donor information when you receive it.
It’s critical to keep donor contact information current, but it’s just as important to record the details of each donor visit in a meaningful contact report. Don’t just record you visited John and Mary. Share something you learned about their family, when they started giving, what connections they have, their giving interests, and what next steps you plan to take to draw them closer to a gift. Make the most of every donor contact by adding institutional knowledge about your donors’ passion for your ministry.

Think about this: We worry about being hacked because we don’t want to lose our data, but we should be just as concerned about populating donor information we are missing.

Response: Lord, please give us wisdom and understanding to maximize all the features of our donor software so we can serve our ministry partners more effectively.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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