Modern Database Management

Today, we begin our second group of posts in our Crossing Borders in Fundraising series – Modern Database Management; posts that will appear weekly through March.

Perhaps you are wondering why the image of Granny’s corner store market. The answer is pretty simple, for this simple shop symbolizes what a good database should be all about – to give your client the very best service through knowledge of their constitutiency.

This is the basis of every corner store, regardless of where situated. And every database built should be trying to recreate this. With every piece of information gathered, we aim to achieve better targeting and therefore request additional support.

The biggest drawback of every database is the impersonal nature. Millions of names and transactions, more than any one person or team of people, can possibly look at.

In the future, the best databases will be ones not just of data input, but have been put together with personal input through sourcing all points of contact, asking questions and providing a platform for your donors/stakeholders/etc to speak with and update you.

A true Web 2.0 version of the old corner store.

We are grateful to our friends at SAZ Marketing in Amsterdam for this content.

Different Views on Database Management

Database management is a term that is often referred to in fundraising. However, database management can be considered from a number of perspectives: technology, donors and fundraising. All these aspects make a contribution to successful database management. This article aims to promote awareness of each of these aspects to some small degree, and to help readers realize that there is more to a database than just simple, unrelated data.

Database management from a technology perspective

A database is simply a list of individuals. It can be very small and contained in a card index file or – more likely nowadays – it can be computerized. Computerized donor lists have come a long way in recent years and the technology now exists to enable highly sophisticated retention, selection and application of donor information. Many charities have bought software that will help them manage their donor data. This modern technology is vital since it underpins database management with features such as speed, ease of use, power and history. Moreover, it is very cheap compared to the former solutions. The application, however, should always support the fundraising process.

The goal of data management technology is to provide the infrastructure to transform raw data into consistent, accurate and reliable information. Its foundation consists of the three building blocks of any effective database: quality, stability and availability of data. Technology should always support the quality of the data, its stability and availability to provide the necessary marketing information. Only with this information is it possible to develop effective fundraising strategies.

From a technology perspective, it can sometimes be wise to outsource the management of your organization’s database. Perhaps because it requires special knowledge, or perhaps because it is a time-consuming task. In any case, it may be good to consider the option of outsourcing instead of keeping the management within your organization. And with modern ICT technology, it’s always possible to have worldwide, 24-hour access to your database over the Internet, no matter where the database is located.

Database management from a donor perspective

Database management is more than just software. A key element in database management is the interface between the charity and the donors. Database management focuses on creating lifetime donor value and is therefore the key element in the donor’s relationship with the organization. If you invest in a good relationship with your donors, you will earn their faithful support and commitment.

A well-maintained database allows you to get to know your donors and understand their motives in supporting you. To keep a track of a donor’s giving behavior, preferences and much more which can be used in your communication with the donor. Each donor would like to feel special. The miracle of the modern database is that it enables the fundraiser to talk individually to thousands of donors, sending unique messages to every one, all at the same time.

This is also known as one-to-one marketing. One-to-one marketing is an approach that concentrates on providing services or products to one donor at a time by identifying and then meeting their individual needs. The personalized interaction is supposed to increase donor loyalty and generate a better return on investment. The concept is not new; it started in commerce with remembering details about each customer’s preferences and characteristics and using that knowledge to provide better service. In fundraising, however, one-to-one marketing is quite innovative and rare. Although there are currently few non-profit organizations heading in this direction, it will definitely become more common in future.

Database management from a fundraising strategy perspective

Fundraising always focuses on donor acquisition, donor retention and donor upgrading. Your database gives you essential information about each donor and which stage of the donor life cycle he or she is in. Determining the best strategy for upgrading, reactivation, etc. all starts with analyzing your database.
The fundamental core of database fundraising is the creative use of your database. Your data itself will always be the most valuable part of your database and should always be treated as the golden asset that it is.

To keep proper records of your donors, you need to do a few things:

  • Choose an adequate system with sufficient information (split fields, data that you use)
  • Input data carefully
  • Monitor data quality
  • Update your records continuously to reflect all donor transactions
  • Add all new information from correspondence, mailing returns, research, the telephone or any other source
  • Use your data conscientiously and responsibly, abiding by whatever rules, standards or legislation might apply in your country for data protection.

* Sources:, Relationship Fundraising by Ken Burnett, SAZ Amsterdam