How do you improve your solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems?

Chapter 1: What would help your nonprofit raise more money in 2017?

How do you improve your solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems?

While solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems may not seem like high priority to those new to fundraising, staff and board in the trenches know that speed, accuracy, and staff capacity is often determined by the systems employed by the nonprofit.

A good data management or CRM system includes tracking, a calendar, reminders, a place to write notes, and staff/volunteers to input information on a timely basis. Let’s look at three of the larger systems problems, and some solutions.

1 – You don’t use your software to its fullest.  Most people use a small portion of their software’s capabilities.  That’s true for everything from word processing to your fundraising software.  Invest in the time to learn the best ways to manage your prospect and donor relationships.  Without knowing what you use I can tell you that there are training guides, videos and opportunities to ask an expert that you could be using to create a better experience. Most people don’t because it takes time away from task and they think they know enough. Assume you don’t and learn the tricks that are unique to that system.

2 – Years of turnover in staff and volunteers have left your systems a mess. It’s an old story, a new person comes in, wants to hit the ground running and creates new codes in the systems that work better for him. Or he simply can’t understand why they would need codes A, B & C when he needs codes H, I & J. He starts working within his comfort level but doesn’t get rid of the old codes.  Next thing you know there are codes from various people that no one fully understands.

Now is the time to fix it.  It doesn’t mean you need a new system. You might, but first you should do a bit of forensics—figure out what is going on. Then, take time to get cleaned up.  The good news is that you can use this refresh to steward donors.  It is a great excuse to call a major donor asking to understand some of their history with the organization and initiate a new relationship.  Of course, if you do this multiple times, the nonprofit will seem inept.  In other words, fix what is wrong, establish protocols, document them, and then keep the system that way.

3 – Retrieving information takes too much time.  You have all this information, but if it takes you too long to determine who gave last year to the annual fund in December, 2015 but did not renew in December, 2016, how much those who gave increased or decreased their gifts and/or who solicited them last year, you should consider something new.  If it is too complicated to get the information out, no one will look for this data on a regular basis.

The ease of collecting donor and prospect information can be the difference between examining the data in late December and waiting until things settle down in January or February.  Those donors who did not give a gift to you in 2016 may have reallocated those funds or simply forgotten, but the result is that neither your nonprofit or the donor prioritized the relationship. Either way, your donations are down and those donors are now LYBUNTs causing you even more work.  Free and low cost software may seem like it saves you money, but not if it costs you donations.

If your systems are not what they should be, create a team to (volunteer and staff) explore and find an alternative and get working.  The sooner you have stronger systems, the easier it will be to raise more money in 2017. 

How did this series come about? Click here to find out.

Read Chapter 2: A Stronger Fundraising and Development Committee