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Customer Voice: Growing Your Donor Database

Customer Voice: blog post by Mitch Orlik, Executive Vice President, WISE & Healthy Aging

I have read with interest a number of blogs about “messaging” and how to best communicate with donors. Being a very small non-profit, I want to share our recent effort to use Salesforce and Wealth Engine to grow our database.

First a bit of background. Our non-profit social service agency, WISE & Healthy Aging,  specializes in services for seniors, particularly those in their 70’s and 80’s, who need support to remain living in their own home or apartment. While we have been operating for over 30 years, our old “Access” database was primarily a place for storing names, addresses and recording gifts associated with a “sometimes held” annual fundraising dinner. Over the period of several decades, the database grew to about 5,000 names but less than 10% had ever made a gift.

About two years ago, the Board decided that it was time to develop a more formalized fundraising program. I was brought on board to figure out where to put our limited resources which included myself and a terrific but part-time associate. The first course of business was to replace the Access database with a system that could both support and grow with the program. After evaluating various solutions, we decided to implement Salesforce. I was told that if we had someone on staff who was good with computers and software that we could handle the implementation ourselves. I am incredibly glad that we did not try! We interviewed a number of Salesforce “partners” and settled on Cloud for Good. They just seemed to “get it” in terms of what we were trying to accomplish in a short period of time, and they already had in mind some customizations that would improve our effectiveness. Conversion, implementation and training went incredibly smoothly. I know that this may sound like an advertisement but in reality, we were up and running within 10 business days. Cloud for Good’s responsiveness was amazing – they wanted us up, using the system, and satisfied!

That first year (2011), as we began to grow our program, we focused a great deal on foundations and corporations (we submitted almost 40 proposals that year!). We customized Salesforce so that it tracks each step in the process (LOI and proposal submissions and responses, payment and reporting schedules, as well as the necessary reminders). We particularly like that we can upload copies of any file that we want to keep as part of the official record. Everything is now in one place, without the need for an ever expanding set of file drawers.

In year #2, we began using Salesforce’s flexibility to create customized categories of prospects and donors which we could then segment for various activities – outreach events, fundraising events, email and direct mail communications. As we track participation, we can also “merge” categories or attendance at activities to create new lists and groupings.

Within the past 6 months, we have begun to use Salesforce and Wealth Engine to further understand and maximize the old database. This included having Wealth Engine run a scan of our Salesforce database, the results of which we then imported. We also had Wealth Engine scan a very large prospect list that we had acquired of seniors living in our catchment area. The end result – we are now able to target donors and prospects based on their prior giving and a projection of their overall giving capacity. This has been an invaluable tool in dealing with the old database.

Our year-end direct mail recently hit the Post Office. Even as we await results, we are pleased in knowing that we are now able to better target our best marketing and messaging material. Everything will be recorded and tracked in Salesforce so that we can refine things as we grow. Salesforce is actually much more robust than I first understood it to be. While we find that it sometimes requires more keystrokes than other programs on the market, it is  incredibly user friendly, very adaptable and enables us to work more and more independently as time goes on.

Mitch Orlik is Executive Vice President of WISE & Healthy Aging, A 30 year+ non-profit executive, he is responsible for fundraising, Board development and special projects.