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7 ways an alumni foundation improved donor cultivation by moving from Excel to a donor database

Mariemont School Foundation didn’t really want to move from their Excel spreadsheets to a donor database, but their new development director said they needed to if they wanted to be more successful. “The people who were on the foundation board didn’t want to learn something new, but then they hired a development director who said in order to be a successful group, donor management software was something we needed to grow our organization. You start out as a grass roots organization and then you need someone to say, ‘to grow your organization this is something you need to do’.” says Ann Pardue, who is a Trustee on the Board of the Mariemont School Foundation.

Since starting to use the donor database, the foundation has seen great gains

According to Ann, Mariemont has been able to:

  1. to stay more current with its work
  2. increase membership
  3. increase general donations
  4. increase donations designated as scholarships for grads and seniors.
  5. know how much money is coming in
  6. know who is giving it
  7. stabilize fund drive results

Before their move to donor management software, the foundation was very slow growing. “Records were kept in notebooks and Excel spreadsheets. There were multiple Excel sheets. Nothing was ever carried over, so a new sheet was started every time,” says Ann. “Moving into FundRaiser Professional was the first time we’ve worked with donor management software," Although completely new to using donor management software, Ann says they were able to get up to speed in a short period of time.

Simple steps lead to big gains

To begin with, they kept things simple. “We mostly use it for tracking money that comes into the foundation and goes into the school,” says Ann. “We also use it for sending emails, generating letters, printing envelopes and reporting on the financial data.”

Better tracking of alumni classes leads to increased donations

The Foundation is also doing more segmentation with the alumni data for development, mostly by graduating class. “Representatives of specific graduating classes, wanting to hold reunions and the like, come to us for data. The more we can refine the data, the more they come to us and are motivated to donate,” says Ann.

Using it from home helps to pleasantly share the work load

Three other people on the Board also use FundRaiser from their own homes. This has worked smoothly, according to Ann. “We communicate with each other frequently, by email and by phone. We make sure that each other knows what the other is doing. We assign tasks by weeks:  this week one person is responsible and next week someone else is. Some people are responsible only for updating the alumni portion of database. Someone else does the receiving of product orders and inputting those. I do all of that and more.”

Increased donations coming in from many individual donors

Like all nonprofits, changes in the economy have impacted giving. In spite of that, they are experiencing an increase in donations. The increase is coming from many individual donors, says Ann. “We’re not getting as many big donors and they’ve cut some of their donations, but we’ve seen more donors giving smaller amounts.” Having a donor database makes the tracking of individual donors much more organized.

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