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Why I want the environmental organization I volunteer for to use a donor database instead of Excel spreadsheets

The environmental organization I volunteer for is important to me, so it followed that when I discovered they were using Excel spreadsheets to track the donors who help make it happen each year, I suggested that we use a FundRaiser Software program instead.

My co-volunteers were leery about moving from Excel to a donor database. They don't know me as any kind of expert on non-profit fundraising. They feared that using a donor database would simply complicate matters. Excel spreadsheets are free and everyone knew how to use them. Their questions led me to do some research so I could tell them more clearly why I was making my suggestion. Here's what I turned up:

Hard data on the advantages of a donor database over Excel spreadsheets

"Most organizations find that using a donor management system increases donations while reducing costs, stress, and frustration," says the NPower Network. It does this in three ways, says NPower,

  • Organized data maintenance. All information about a donor (name, address, phone, etc.) and pertinent donation history are easy to access. In addition, you can keep track of the information mailed to the donor, events the donor has attended, the reasons why donations were made to your organization, and other details of the donor’s profile.
  • Improve fundraising efforts with less time and aggravation. Whether it's simply automating the printing of thank-you letters, tracking the effectiveness of different variations of a mailing, or implementing a new funding program, donor management software will make it possible to evaluate your efforts and analyze the results.
  • Increase your productivity by tracking fundraising activity in reports. You can also increase your productivity by optimizing the methods of tracking volunteer efforts and Board member visitations by major donor.

In "Back Away From That Spreadsheet:  Why Excel Isn't a Donor Database", Robert L. Weiner, a leading consultant to non-profits, explains, "Excel is great with numbers, and can track small groups of prospects or activities. But it has some critical limitations.  Most notably, Excel stores information in what’s called a “flat file” database. This means it’s not designed to handle relationships between data, such as when one record (like a donor) needs to link to several other records (like gifts)."

In addition, to add any new piece of data to any one record, you need to add a new column of information to every entry. Even if only one person on your list has three email addresses, you will need three email columns. Over time this can make your spreadsheets unwieldy and ultimately less useful.

The satisfaction of meeting donor's needs

There is great  satisfaction in knowing that you can respond in a timely manner to donor communications; and that no donor from a previous year will 'fall between the cracks', and wonder why they haven't been contacted again. One event after another, you will build a solid base of data on your donors gifts and interests.

To learn more about using donor management software

Take a look at this short overview of how FundRaiser Software helps with your fundraising activities


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