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  • Sharron Batsch

Data Collection: Dropping the Ball on Future Opportunities

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

The donor data is in good form; it’s clean, and standardized and duplicates have been removed. The next step is to examine what has been collected. This would qualify as relationship-building content and management/decision-making data.

Without going into unique requirements too deeply, let’s look at some of the basic pieces of information that create value for a fund development department. We all understand contact information. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, a home address for private donors, and a company address for businesses. Company contacts with their names and a Quality position to identify how they can support the charity is useful.

Full addresses are usually easy to collect, but phone and email can sometimes be elusive. Acquiring this information may be dependent on what is requested when the ‘Ask’ is being made, or when a donor turns up in person. When a donation is from a non-private donor, the opportunity exists to contact the organization for complete information.

An address lets you contact a donor for a donation, invite them to an event, or send a newsletter. With a phone number, we can contact them personally to say thank you, ask for their support, or invite them to participate in a focus group. Email provides the opportunity to send an eNewsletter, inform them about upcoming events and direct them to a website to further build their interest or send a donation.

How often is some of this information incorrect or simply non-existent? Opportunities lost are not the fault of the software, but the lack of a comprehensive plan to capture data necessary to build a fund development program.


Every business, association, foundation, church, or service club will have contacts that perform certain tasks. These contacts are people who interact on behalf of their organization, with the charity. One definitive list that identifies why these people are beneficial, needs to be built and used by all department members.

With one list versus multiple lists, contact information can be kept up to date. Staff members can move to new positions without leaving holes for the organization to attempt to fill. Contact information for organizations needs to identify ‘who and why and how’ a person or a position, is instrumental to the charity. Qualifying contacts makes access fast and accurate.

Information from the software can be exported to keep email tools and address books up-to-date. When you think about the contact information you collect, think about how this impacts your ability to keep your community informed by ‘telling your story’, advocacy opportunities, and donor support. Communicating with your 'audience' is important to keep their interest and maintain their commitment.

More Information is Required

This discussion represents only a small part of a much bigger picture when it comes to the type of information we need to ‘flesh out’ the database, making it a powerful entrepreneurial resource. The ability to run comparative reports on giving history based on business or personal demographics, or select groups of individuals or organizations based on areas of interest, all impact new opportunities and fundraising dollars.

Incomplete data collection is often supplemented by written notes, comments in emails, or saved in the memory of a staff member … all of these are inaccessible and inadequate as a method of retaining valuable organizational memory. As part of this project, we introduced the 15-second rule. Accessing what you need in 15 seconds can only be done through the software, the use of a system of coding, and a strategy to capture need-to-know information accurately.

Two areas expand the knowledge of our donors. First is the use of the Communications tab to record relationship-building information. Photographs, major gift plans, social networking sites, websites, web downloads, PowerPoint presentations and more can be linked directly to a private or corporate master record.

Second is Dickens, the contact manager. Dickens records important points of contact that need to be shared organization-wide without restriction. Think professional when you think of Dickens. It takes a moment to record a verbal or electronic transaction. The time is hardly an imposition when you consider the alternative … the loss of valuable historical contact data versus a comprehensive picture of contact activity.

This is the path forward-thinking charities are taking as they look at their not-for-profit organizations from a business perspective. Personally, we applaud the effort and commitment of the management team involved. It is no easy task to do a self-examination and make changes. The outcome is more time freed up for fundraising, less stress, and more enjoyment in providing the services they offer.

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