Contact Us

The Need for a Database

By Chris Scroggin, Petrus Consultant

One of the non-profits I worked for didn’t have a database; they had an Excel spreadsheet for their donor information. It wasn’t very organized, and I had no idea how accurate it was. 


There was information everywhere - on spreadsheets, in the executive director’s notebooks, and in the heads of some of the Leadership Council. 


Running the usual reports to see the health of their development was impossible! 


We had to start from scratch, and making the case for donor management software was critical


It wasn’t easy since they had done things the spreadsheet way for some time. I had to help them understand that things like spreadsheets or Word documents were static. They didn’t keep real-time data on donors. 


Donor Management Software, like a for-profit’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM), would be more fluid and keep real-time data on donors. 


There are many advantages to investing in a database system. We’ll touch on some of the more important ones here.


1.  Easier to manage donors 

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: The most basic goal of a donor management software is to make it easier to manage your donors. 


It is designed to help you do things like organize contact information and track donations, as well as to integrate platforms and providers you already use.


Donor management databases have a profile for each donor, allowing you to see things like:

  • Donation history 
  • Contact information 
  • Interests
  • Interactions with your nonprofit
  • Relationships to others

Once you have all this information, you can segment supporters based on the data in their profiles to personalize interactions and build stronger relationships with them.


2.  Makes work more effective and efficient

It is precarious to store data in notebooks, spreadsheets, or staff members’ heads.  Databases provide a centralized location for tracking information and activity for both fundraising and communications.


That’s not all: You can even use your donor database to assign tasks among your team members and set due dates for those tasks.


  • For example, you might task Tom with making a follow-up call to thank a first-time donor for their contribution. Or, you can ask Sally to follow up about the grant proposal submitted last month.


3.  Shows trends and opportunities 

The better you understand your donor data, the bigger impact you’ll be able to make. When all data is in one place, you’ll be able to track trends and opportunities that would otherwise be difficult to see. In fact, most donor management systems have tracking and reporting tools built in to help you do just that. 


You can also create your own reports. 

  • For example, you could create a year-over-year report to determine which interactions most influence your donors to give or make a repeat donation. 


Easy access to this data will allow you to draw stronger conclusions and make data-informed decisions. This will help you create a more strategic fundraising plan for your organization.


4.  Central platform for integrations 

Think about the other tools you use to run your nonprofit. Those might include Mailchimp and QuickBooks. With donor management software, you can integrate these tools in one place and make sure that your data is updated across all the tools you already use. 


  • Consider your online fundraising tool, for example. You collect donor contact information, key data about the campaign they donate to, recurring donation information, and donation amounts. 


When you integrate this tool with your donor management platform, all this helpful data from your online fundraising campaigns will be automatically updated in your database and into those individual donor profiles.


5.  It will save you time 

Imagine the time you’ll save by having all your tools and data integrated with one platform. 


Now you can use that time you save to focus on raising more money!


A donor database is an investment—but, it’s one that will ultimately enable you to invest more time and energy in activities that help you raise more funds and carry out your mission. 


  • Plus, it allows your organization to efficiently manage your interactions with donors, personalizing your communications and building relationships to improve retention. 


When you manage those relationships and build deeper connections with your donors, you’ll be able to have an even bigger impact on your mission. 


There are many different databases out there so you need to do some research and see which one will best suit you and your organization’s needs. Don’t delay on this decision! Time is money and being a good steward of the gifts that come to your organization is something you owe your donors!



What do you need to consider when choosing a database for your organization?

Check out Petrus's list of the top 3 most important things to think about when selecting a database.  

Access the free PDF here >>



Sign up below to receive tools, ideas, and inspiration to take your development efforts to the next level.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.