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6 Tips for Streamlined Nonprofit Relationship Management

Nonprofit Relationship Management
Ablorde Ashigbi

Ablorde Ashigbi

is the CEO of 4Degrees, a Chicago-based technology company, building relationship intelligence software for relationship driven industries. Before 4Degrees, he was an investor at Pritzker Group, and a consultant at Bain & Company.
As a nonprofit, you have to keep track of countless relationships. In this article, we offer tips to keep your nonprofit relationships healthy and lucrative.

As a nonprofit, relationships are at the heart of your organization. The power of your relationships drives everything from donor engagement and fundraising to event management and everything in between. Therefore, knowing how to best leverage relationships is crucial for the success of any nonprofit organization.

If you fail to nurture your relationships with constituents and donors properly, you risk having issues with donor retention and attracting new donors. Therefore, it is imperative to implement a well-thought-out nonprofit relationship management process coupled with the correct technology pieces, including a CRM system.

Relationship management is the process of tracking ,cultivating and leveraging these relationships. The goal is to maximize your donor base’s retention, engagement, and donations while nurturing relationships with your partners, vendors, and affiliates. Implementing this process requires relationship intelligence and communication tools that meet your nonprofit’s specific needs and workflows. Managing relationships with outdated tools or excel spreadsheets will result in neglected relationships and money left on the table.

Merely implementing a generic customer relationship management (CRM) tool such as Salesforce or any other software solution designed to manage a traditional sales process is also not ideal.

Your organization’s donor relationships are more profound than a simple commercial transaction; instead, they stem from a donor’s devotion to your cause and what it stands for. You are in the business of building genuine, meaningful relationships, not managing transactions.

In this article, we offer some tips to develop and keep your nonprofit relationships healthy and lucrative.

1. Use Relationship Management Software

Relationship management software includes more functionality than traditional donor management software designed to manage donor databases and donor profiles. Instead, it is created from the ground up to help you and your team engage with your constituents, manage the donor stewardship process and oversee your prospective donor pipeline.

Introducing new technologies to a nonprofit goes beyond just replacing antiquated processes. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to change how you create new relationships with constituents and empower them to become more engaged with your mission.

When looking for relationship management software, you need an all-in-one system that will:

  • Segment contacts into groups (segmentation is the crucial for effective marketing)
  • Track all of your email and phone outreach
  • Set tasks and automated reminders
  • Mine your network for introductions to helpful people or major donors
  • Provide you with updates of notable events to tailor your approach to high-value donors
  • Leverage data to track metrics and analytics via easy to use dashboards
  • Integrate with your email marketing software, marketing automation and other tools.

Nonprofit Relationship Management

2. Segment Your Donors

You probably already have segments for donors, partners, vendors, and other groups. But you can get more value out of your donor list by further segmenting it in different ways. As a result, offline campaigns such as direct mail and online campaigns, like webinars, can be more successful and generate a higher return on investment. In addition, by adequately segmenting your donor base, your recipients will feel you have taken the time to get to know them.

The way you segment donors will vary accordingly to what is more important to your organization’s overall mission.

Here are just a few ways you could get started segmenting your donors:

  • Donation amount: How much they donate on a monthly or yearly basis.
  • Engagement level: How often do they engage with your nonprofit in some way.
  • Communication method: How do people like to communicate with your organization? (email, mail, phone, social media, etc.)
  • Preferred giving channel: How do people donate? Do they mail checks? Go online? Cash?
  • Geography: Where do they live? Very useful if your nonprofit organizes in-person events.
  • Social reach: How influential they are in their communities.
  • Volunteer status: Whether they have or are willing to volunteer.

Segmenting your donors can be time-consuming, but it opens new opportunities to reach out with the right message, make connections, and entice them to take action.

For instance, you might put together and offer special packages to people from a specific location who donate substantial amounts every year. Or you might reward specific donors who have unique social reach and can help grow your organization.

Before undertaking a donor segmentation project, ensure your data is clean and accurate. By having inaccurate data you risk hurting your relationships with your donors.

3. Gather Contact Data

As previously mentioned, data accuracy is of paramount importance since your CRM solution is only as powerful as the data you feed it. So once you have a relationship manager in place, make sure you upload all the data you have (we recommend auditing and cleansing it beforehand).

The most common reason why CRM rollouts fail to meet expectations is the quality of the data in the system. Data problems can slow you down and erode the value of your nonprofit CRM until you need to start over (not the best situation to be in).

If you want your investment in CRM to pay off quickly, you will need to upload the right kind of data. The first step is to gather your data from your prior system or multiple sources (spreadsheets, calendars, emails, etc.) Once compiled, we recommend creating a central spreadsheet to audit the data and decide what will be uploaded to the new CRM.

We recommend you get rid of unresponsive contacts and check for duplicates. Again, a framework or criteria of what constitutes an unengaged contact will come in handy during this stage.

These are a few of the data points or “fields” you would like to have for each contact you upload.

  • Demographic information (age, gender, income, education, marital status, address, etc.)
  • Motivations (why they give)
  • Gift type (money, volunteer service, in-kind donation, etc.)
  • Donation method (check, credit/debit card, cash, etc.)
  • Affiliate methods (blogger, social influencer, socialite, etc.)
  • Partner offerings (collaborations, cross-promotions, etc.)

By having visibility into the various touchpoints of how donors interact with your organization, you can deliver the correct information at the right time to increase their involvement and devotion to your nonprofit.

Nonprofit Relationship Management

Additionally, you can learn more about your donors by using web analytics and other data points. For example, by having visibility into what pages they visited on your website (mission donation pages, etc.) and how they interacted with your online fundraising emails, you can understand their online behavior, preferences, and how they prefer to interact with your organization. Having this information in your CRM can help refine your approach, building stronger relationships with donors.

4. Determine Engagement Amounts

Not all of the contacts in your network are equal. Some play a larger role for you than others. For instance, the valet service you contracted for one event is obviously less valuable than the marketing consultant you work with every week. The donor who donates $1 million/year is more valuable than the one who donates $50/year.

Rank your contacts in terms of value. This will determine the amount of attention or time that your team devotes to them. For instance, that $1 million/year donor deserves a personal touch and maybe a few in-person visits, whereas the $50/year donor just needs exposure to the automated emails you send once a month.

Recurring donors who give every month or year cost less to acquire than one-time donors, so ensuring you have a strong relationship with them is key to your organization’s success.

Most high quality relationship management software, include scoring features to identify which contacts are more valuable than others.

5. Serve Targeted Communications

Once your relationship management tool is in place and data has been uploaded, you should focus on creating personalized communications. Don’t worry! This is a lot easier once you have added and properly segmented all of your data.

Craft communications (email, text, etc.) that align with your segments. Sort and filter by all of the data points you collected earlier.

For instance, you might send one message to all of your donors who gave $100 to $500 at an in-person event but send another message to donors who donated the same amount via your website. At this point, consider creating multiple email templates that speak to each specific segment.

Leverage the full power of your nonprofit CRM software to keep an eye on special occurrences or notable updates that deserve your direct attention.

For example, if one of your long-time donors joins a new company, that may present an opportunity for new sponsorship. Armed with this real-time intelligence, you can reach out to the contact, congratulate them on their new job, and begin a conversation.

6. Automate Repetitive Tasks

Automation is one of the most powerful ways to streamline your relationship management and increase productivity. The more you can automate, the more efficient your team will be. According to HBR, knowledge workers spend up to 41% of their time on low-value tasks. Automation can mitigate this. Let’s use email as an example.

After rolling in your CRM, you get an alert that one of your long-time donors has joined a particular organization. After calling to congratulate him, he introduces you to a group of colleagues interested in learning more about your nonprofit. Instead of spending time crafting individual welcome emails introducing your mission, advocacy, etc., you create profiles on the CRM and enter them into a “new member” email automation. This simple automation can save your team hundreds of hours each year.

7. Track Your Deals Thoughtfully

At any given time, you’re probably working on a dozen tasks. You’re negotiating contracts with event planners, planning promotions with your team, working with your partners, and – of course – schmoozing your big donors. It’s a lot to manage.

Quality relationship management software puts all of these donors in a visual pipeline to help you stay on top of your work. You’ll know exactly where you stand with each project, at a glance. There’s no need to dig through your emails, wondering “Where did we leave off?”

Nonprofit Relationship Management

Once your projects are organized into a pipeline, you can see what needs to happen next. You can use it to create tasks, set reminders, and even delegate work to your team members. If a project or task starts to lag, everyone will know right away.

Going Forward

As a nonprofit, your relationships are your greatest assets. You need strong, lasting relationships with your donors, vendors, partners, and affiliates in order to serve your organization’s mission. Take those relationships seriously, but streamline them using the tips we outline above.

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