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As an emerging artist or company on the make, if you’re going to take your fundraising activities anywhere near seriously, you’re going to need backup.
Collecting relevant information about your donors and communicating with them effectively is one of the most important things to get right. And that heap of comments slips, dog-eared receipts, email lists and half-finished spreadsheets piled up on the corner of your desk do not constitute a database.
What you need is a donor management system – and you need the system, or software, that’s right for you.
Only 20 percent of your communication with your supporters should be about asking for money. The rest should focus on sharing the love of your project and taking your supporters on a journey.
That means you need relevant data on your supporters so you can have meaningful and targeted conversations, not bombard them with random updates, appeals, cat videos or whatever. And you want to make life easier for yourself, so you can concentrate on the thing you do best, making the art.
You need a system which will help you remember who people are, where they live, which project they are interested in, what work of yours they have seen, and whether they have been supporters of yours or similar work in the past. Ideally you need a 360-degree view of your contacts of what turns them on.
Get your community thinking about you by sending them relevant email or snail mail and interesting content to keep them engaged and involved. This might include links to your website, embedded video and links to your crowdfunding and social platforms. It is also an opportunity for them to write back to you, and give you feedback about your ideas and work.
If you have more than 20 contacts, you’re going to need a system. This way you can remember how and when to contact people, what communications or requests you have previously sent them, and their response.
A donor management system could be a list of names and addresses on an excel spreadsheet, but once you get past 20 names and you plan on doing this more than once, you should consider something better.
Work out what you need and compare it to what’s out there. First question – how big are you? A lot of the major performing arts companies use software called Tessitura, which handles box office, fundraising, reporting, marketing and customer relations data.
This behemoth packs everything into a single database so that relationship managers can click on one name (or constituent, as they’re called) and access their purchase history, giving history, preferences and all previous contacts with the institution. It’s the Ferrari of donor management software, allowing the admin person to concentrate on their smooth delivery.
But not all of us need – or want – a Ferrari. Especially if you have to park it in the back alleys of an indie arts precinct. As a small to medium business or individual artist, a more powerful and complicated system may be harder for you or your staff to use, and be a waste of precious time and money. So, look at what you need:
You want a good, and simple, database, that does what you need.
Databases software can be hosted (packages that work over the internet for a monthly fee are a great option if you are short on cash or staff), or local.
A local solution is installed on your own server or desktop. You need someone with enough nerd juice to install it, create backups and do the updates. You own the software, which costs more upfront but can save money over time.
Technology is changing so fast these days you need to check out the web for what’s available, and often now its free. At the time of writing, Airtable is the latest free hosted database and it is awesome in terms of functionality and usability – it even has a donation tracking module you can copy.
Yes! Or at least large elements of it. As a not for profit, it’s pretty much your responsibility to keep your IT costs as low as possible, so you have more money to spend on the actual thing you do.
Email and social scheduling
The obvious email, of course (Outlook is everywhere; Gmail has heaps of storage and good spam blockers), and social media management tools (Tweetdeck and Hootsuite lets you schedule posts, Google Analytics analyses your social media, GrabInBox lets you manage multiple FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts).
Fundraising specific: Some of these, while free, are in fact modules that work with commercial databases such as MS Access and Filemaker: Ascent(UK); Donor Express (USA); Donor Management (Donman) (Australia); Donor Strategy (UK); Easy-ware Software Solutions (USA); FileMaker Donations (Australia); Sage Software (USA); Basic Funder (USA); Ebase (Open Source); Infocentral (Open Source – Linux); Metrix (USA).
People far wiser than us have thought this through and boiled down all the potential horrors of selecting a donor database to some common mistakes.
Yes. Understand what you need and follow through. The software is just the tool to let you get on with your real job of making the art. Have clear goals, a realistic budget, a solid selection process and good communication.