Keeping Info in Your Donor Database

June 30, 2008

Donor database systems are often only as good as the information we put into them (check out this post on choosing a donor database). Over the last couple weeks I’ve been working with a new donor database, building some crystal reports, and setting up a tracking system. Here are a few reasons that came to my mind why keeping information in your donor database is important.

  • Donor information is easy to forget, we can’t keep everything in our heads.
  • Information is available after you leave the organization. How will the organization continue where you left of it they don’t know where that is.
  • It’s searchable so you can find a donor based on little things about them. Find all the donors that live in a neighborhood where you’re starting a new project.
  • Helps in setting up an annual plan and in organizing the development process or moves management with hundreds (or more) donors.
  • It allows us to segment our donors so we can send an appeal based on location , program interest, or giving history.
  • Databases allow information to be shared throughout the entire development department instead of just one person. This allows donor development to be a team effort.

Feel free to fill out the poll below or add your own thoughts and reasons for using a donor database below.
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How to Find Things

June 26, 2008

I hope you enjoyed the information on people searching from the previous post. I want to stress again the importance of respecting people’s information. Today, I’m going to give you a few search techniques that I learned from, Web Search Garage. This will be my last post on using search engines I hope that it was helpful and I’d love any feedback you have.

Principle of Unique Language: We all used different vernacular when we search. Doctors have acronyms and phrases, fundraisers say things like “solicitation,” “cultivation,” and “planned giving.” When you are searching you will find more success if you can start to understand the right language to ask the question.

Principle of Reinvented Wheel: On a new subject try and find specialty sites written by experts on your topic. You can do this by searching for the topic in yahoo or google groups. Try and find blogs that talk about the issue and see what website they point you too.

Principle of Onions: Sometimes good searching takes multiple attempts to find the right information. Start your search as specific as you can then generalize more and more if you are struggling to find good queries.

Principle of Mass Similar: If you are having trouble finding information on your topic try searching using words/phrases that are similar. If you are trying to learn about candy bars search: Mars Snickers M&M’s or try: caramel, peanuts, chocolate.

All the information for this post on how to search come from the book, Web Search Garage, by Tara Calishain. If you want more details where to find this book or other resources that I am reading visit the Resources page.

Searching for People

June 24, 2008

There are a lot of ways to find information about people online. I talk about a few Prospect Research tools in my post, Prospecting New and Existing Donors. Before I go on I want to mention that the best information comes directly from the donor in the form of questions and answers. So don’t turn to prospect research as your main or only source for information or you will miss an enormous opportunity to build a relationship with your donor.

When looking for information on an individual I will often try and find a bio about them at their business or church. Using site specific searches can help here in a big way. Just use the person’s name and the site of their organization.
Jason Dick

Reverse phone look-up can be a great tool as well. Just enter
rphonebook: for residential and you can add city, last name, or phone number
This can help you get information about what neighborhoods they live in and using local county records can give you house values. This tool can be a good indicator of wealth to help you understand what level to make an ask for. You can also use reverse address look-up in to find who their neighbors are:
Go to, “reverse look-up,” [1234-1235] Address Road, City, State

These searches don’t work every time and when they do make sure that you are being respectful and appropriate about how the information is being used.

Another place where you can find information is through family genealogies. Here are a few sites you can use to help:
Cindi’s List (A gateway to other sites):

All the information for this post on how to search come from the book, Web Search Garage, by Tara Calishain. If you want more details where to find this book or other resources that I am reading visit the Resources page.

The Power of Searching

June 23, 2008

My theme this week for is not traditional thoughts regarding fundraising. A couple weeks ago I finished a book that has changed the way that I do online research. I thought I would pick up a couple tips on how to use Google and improve my prospect research but it accomplished so much more that I wanted to share it with you.

I will not usually review a book in such completeness but I found that I learned so many every day tools that I am now currently using I wanted to share them. Over this next week you will see posts on general searching and searching for people.

If you are looking for specific information on a website you can search only that website in Google. For example if you are searching my site for information on blogging:

You can use * to replace a word or phrase:
“there are * types of trees”
“John * Smith”

Google also has special search engines set up for.
US Government sites:
The Google Directory is different that the general Google site. The main difference between Google & Yahoo is that Google searches the entire website while Yahoo searches the domain name, title, and a brief description. This is called a searchable subject index (as opposed to a full text index). Google Directory is a searchable subject index just like Yahoo (

All the information for this post on how to search come from the book, Web Search Garage, by Tara Calishain. If you want more details where to find this book or other resources that I am reading visit the Resources page.

No More Org of the Month?

June 18, 2008

I’m thinking about suspending my Org of the Month column to be replaced by a new Fundraiser of the Month column. I’m am finding that I am not able to promote fundraising as strongly with each Org of the Month. Please fill out this survey to let me know what you think. If you really want me to keep doing Org of the Month I may do both.

What am I going to do? We have all worked with incredible fundraisers. Every organization I work for has an outstanding fundraiser who goes the extra mile and has great ideas. Fundraiser of the Month will be the chance for you to refer the very best fundraiser that you know (and yourself if you think you’re the best). Fundraiser of the Month will talk about great fundraising strategies and attitudes. I will interview a different fundraiser each month and talk with this person about what they have found to be successful, what they would change about fund development, and about their most memorable fundraising experience.

Please send me an email or leave a comment if you know of a great fundraiser you think I should interview.
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An Encouraging Word

June 12, 2008

I hope that you have enjoyed my posts this week focused on and inspired by Bill Somerville and Fred Setterberg’s book, Grassroots Philanthropy. Feel free to read my earlier posts A New Kind of Philanthropy and A Look in the Mirror. I am including a longer quote from the book than I usually would. I found this passage of great comfort and inspiration. I know that all of us in the nonprofit world have been confronted with the enormity of societal problems and our own smallness in our ability to respond to them.

I love Bill’s response because it comes from many years of seasoned experience. In Bill’s shoes I might have a cynical approach to philanthropic success and I know myself that I have asked the question sometimes, “Are we really making a difference?” Bill writes to grantmakers but I think the message is the same to all of us in philanthropy. I encourage you to read the following as if it were written to us fundraisers.

Initiative grantmaking [fundraising] is also tempered by matters of size and scale…We focus on locating outstanding leaders and giving them free creative rein in discrete pockets of the community that they know best…It does not transform the world utterly or overnight.

We [Foundation Bill works at] don’t tackle projects beyond the scope of our modest resources. Despite the temptations, we will never attempt to untangle the Bay Area’s nightmare commute by underwriting massive public transportation projects or launch bottom-up reforms to transform our national healthcare system… we do not suffer from delusions of grandeur regarding our ability to burrow into vast and intricate public policy issues and emerge with the answer.

Does that mean grantmakers [and nonprofits] of limited size must content themselves with treating their communities’ ills with figurative Band-Aids?

Not at all. We know our limits—but only because we’ve repeatedly tested them… We also admit to ourselves that we will not achieve all of our goals during our collective lifetimes, never mind within the course of a single career.

But instead of dwelling on what lies beyond reach, I often find myself reflecting on the prospect of social tipping points—the means by which small improvements on a continuing basis trigger widespread change… I believe that if we all keep working with the smartest, most dedicated people in our midst, then we’ll make progress. At any moment the odds are stacked against us as grantmakers [fundraisers or social entrepreneurs], but time is on our side.

A Look in the Mirror

June 10, 2008

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post, A New Kind of Philanthropy. Today I wanted to talk little bit about a reflection that has been on my mind for a long time. Author Bill Somerville highlights in a few places in his book, Grassroots Philanthropy, what I have seen as a huge disconnect in true philanthropy.

A question I have asked myself many times is, “Isn’t philanthropy only possible because of a flawed economic system where a very few wealthy people have more than many unwealthy people?” Bill Summerville quotes an individual by the name of Luther King, “‘Philanthropy is commendable,’ wrote King, ‘but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.'”

I’ve always struggled when people talk about “ending hunger” or “ending poverty.” I absolutely believe we have the ability within ourselves and the economic means to solve hunger, poverty, or an other significant global problems. However, I have found that I do not have the own means of personal sacrifice necessary to make this come to fruition.

“In the world as it is now,” asserts the philosopher Peter Singer, “I can see no escape from the conclusion that each of us with wealth surplus to his or her essential needs should be giving most of it to help people suffering from poverty so dire as to be life-threatening. That’s right: I’m saying that you shouldn’t by that new car, take that cruise… whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.”

Those thoughts have stuck with me very strongly as I spend my life in fundraising trying to make the world a better place. Bill’s response to Peter is, “That’s a stiff standard, one that few of us are willing to embrace. But its severity also puts philanthropy in perspective. Aren’t we obligated to make greater efforts to ameliorate the lot of people suffering in our midst?”

I’ve made a pretty bold statement one that I acknowledge I am guilty of myself. So what is your response and what should my response be? What kind of “greater efforts” can we make to “ameliorate the lot of people suffering in our midst?”