Contact tab in a donor database software for nonprofits

5 Donor Database Best Practices to Keep Your Nonprofit Organized

If your nonprofit is relatively established, you may have migrated away from using spreadsheets to keep track of your donor contacts. 

Or maybe you’re in the process of migrating away from the age-old spreadsheets and you’re searching for the right donor database. 

Finding the best option for your nonprofit is a task in and of itself, so much so that we’ve created a guide on how to find the right software for your teams.

But what about once you’ve found the right one? How do you get the most out of it? How do you set it up so it can do its job of making your job easier? 

That’s what we’re covering here! We’re sharing 5 donor database best practices to help you keep your nonprofit organized.  


Contacts tab in a donor database for nonprofits


What is a Donor Database? 

A nonprofit donor database is a central hub for all of the important information about your supporters. 

You may know it by one of its many other names, including a donor relationship management tool (DRM) or a constituent relationship management tool (CRM). 

No matter what you prefer to call it, these powerful tools have the ability to organize and streamline your work processes so you’re not hustling to do daily, mundane tasks. Instead, you can focus your time and energy on making more impact for your cause. 

And if your curiosity is already piqued and you’re on the hunt for an incredible donor database for your organization, then allow us to introduce you to Bloomerang! It’s a database trusted by thousands of nonprofits worldwide. And we’ve got a free insider look for you: 

Watch the FREE Training of Bloomerang!


Why Do Nonprofits Need a Donor Database? 

If you haven’t yet invested in a database, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about them. What can these tools do that a normal Excel spreadsheet can’t? 

Don’t get us wrong – the spreadsheet is the classic, tried and true method of organizing donor information when a nonprofit is just starting out. But eventually, most organizations grow out of it. 

Then they turn to nonprofit donor databases to help them streamline their workflows. That’s because these tools have the ability to automate so many aspects of donor relationship management (hence the other name, DRM). 

From automatically populating new contact profiles when someone gives their first gift to reminding teams of when to follow up with lapsed donors, the possibilities are endless. 

If your nonprofit struggles with organization (even slightly), and it doesn’t yet have a donor database, then now may be the time to consider one! 


5 Donor Database Best Practices to Make the Most Out of Your Tool (and Keep Your Nonprofit Organized):

While these tools are incredibly useful, they’re only as good as the teams that set them up and use them correctly. 

Often, many teams will invest in one but leave the majority of its potential on the table. So we’ve gathered 5 donor database best practices to help you and your team make the most out of the tool: 


1. Choose the Best Nonprofit Donor Database for Your Organization

First and foremost, your organization needs to choose the best tool to fit its needs. Sure, it’s easy to take a look at what other nonprofits are using and jump on that bandwagon.

But many times, doing so does a disservice to your organization. The best way to choose the most appropriate tool is to look inward. 

Talk with your team (and anyone else who will use the database) and determine what will make their daily tasks easier. 

Discuss budgets with the accounting department, as well, so you can get a better understanding of what you can invest in a donor database. 

Then, start your research process, including attending software demos with companies that offer nonprofit DRMs. 


2. Automate Donor Contacts and Profiles

One of the worst things your team could do with a new database is to continue updating it manually at all times. 

That’s one of the biggest advantages of having a DRM! It can automatically populate donor contacts and profiles whenever someone supports your mission. 

But your team needs to set the tool up to do that, first. 

If you need to, view the tutorials that the donor database comes with. Or work with a representative with the company so they can help you set it up. 

While it does take some front-end work, setting up your DRM to automatically populate contact profiles will make your life so much easier. 

Think of it this way – after a major fundraising event with new donors who attended and donated… Do you want to manually implement all of those contacts? Or would you rather your DRM do it for you? 

That’s the magic of this kind of tool! 


3. Only Collect the Information Your Nonprofit Needs

Sometimes, it’s easy to ask for all the information, just in case. But you need to know that if your nonprofit collects any information on your donors, your organization is responsible for keeping it safe. 

So, when you sync up your online donation forms and pages to your donor database, be sure to only use information fields that are necessary.


4. Set Up Standard Operating Procedures for Your Team of Staff and Volunteers

Staff and volunteers may come and go all while your organization continues to use the same donor database. 

Your team can save plenty of time by creating standard operating procedures (or SOPs) for any new team members. 

Map out your exact workflow within the donor database. Then, either through a working Google Doc or even a video tutorial that records desktop monitors, walk your new team members through using the tool. 

This will save you so much time since you won’t have to always repeat your training sessions with new teammates. 

Plus, if an established team member ever has a momentary lapse in how the process works, they can refer back to the SOP, too. 


5. Segment Your Donors Early On to Create More Personalized Donation Experiences

Many nonprofits are quick to put segmentation off until they “grow their contact list.” But, eventually, they often put it off for so long that when they get around to it, it’s a massive task to take on. 

Besides that, segmenting your donors into appropriate lists allows your nonprofit teams to create a more customized and personalized donation experience for all of your supporters. 

Doing that right off the bat will communicate to your supporters that they’re in great hands when it comes to your community! They’ll see that you care about the relationship between your organization and them. 

You can segment your donors into lists based on just about any distinguishing characteristic. But some of the most popular ways to do so are: 


  • By donor capacity. Create segmented lists for those who are considered “major donors,” “micro donors,” and “mid-tier donors.” 
  • By donor interests. Some supporters care more about one project than another, and they want their donations to be allocated accordingly. 
  • By donor type. Supporters don’t have to be monetary donors. You can have segmented lists of supporters who offer their time, skills, and even different types of monetary donations. 
  • By preferred communication. Your nonprofit may appeal to donors who prefer to receive direct mailings. Some others might only want emails. And others don’t mind receiving texts! Separate these donors accordingly. 


You can see right away how segmenting lists keeps your donors at the forefront of their experience! You can tailor all of your marketing and communications based on what they want to see. 


Using these donor database best practices can do wonders for your nonprofit’s organization! And with them comes a more streamlined and personalized experience for your supporters. 

If you’re ready to check out one of the most-trusted donor databases available, then grab a seat in the free training of Bloomerang! 

Watch the FREE Training of Bloomerang!

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