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Developing Data on Donors

Updated on April 8, 2011

Donations Come from Donors

 Anyone in the nonprofit field can attest to the fact that donations are a blessing.  The donations that come from corporations and individuals make a huge difference for everyone from thrift shops to youth programs.  Donations come in all sizes and at various times throughout the year.  In fact, donations may come from all sorts of sources.  The truth is that donations come from donors.

Donors can be corporations, community groups, professional networks, or individuals.  These are a sampling of the various ways that nonprofit organizations receive unrestricted funds to do good work.  In essence, the donations come through the generosity of the donors themselves.

Discover Who are Your Donors

If you are in the market for donations, you need to discover who gives and to what causes. Essentially, you want to match up your needs with a list of concerned people who would most like be in favor of providing some level of support towards your cause. You want to put some feelers out there and discover who are your potential donors.

A simple Google search may get you started, but you most probably will have to dig deeper than that. One suggestion is to utilize local directories that may be of assistance. Visit the membership lists of your local chamber of commerce, rotary club, or business network. These should provide you with some potential donors who might support your cause. Usually, these types of networks also have a board member or committee chair who is designated to handle community relations as well as membership. Get in contact with that person and get to know their network through that person. They most probably will have some insights into the organization's giving practices as well as some of its members. If you find some larger businesses, you may need to identify each business' corporate giving program guidelines. For instance, if you apply for funding from Target, the corporation wants to ensure that Target employees support your local cause and are aware of your organization's work.

Another helpful practice is to contact local fraternities and sororities. Typically, these organizations have an aspect within their mission or creed where they vow to support their fellow man and their community. Key in on such organizational statements and make contact with either the local chapter president or their community liaison. In most cases, you can find this information on local college websites under sections like "Student Life" or "Campus Clubs and Organizations." These organizations are usually broken up into undergraduate and graduate/ alumni chapters. Undergraduates can usually provide you with sweat equity like volunteers for your program or a service project, while the graduate chapter is more likely to offer a scholarship fund or monetary contribution.

Thirdly, you may want to check out a list of local social and community-based networks.  Jack and Jill, Veterans of Foreign War, Masonic Lodge, and other groups gather and do more than socialize.  Many of these organizations sponsor and support other community and faith-based organizations that do good work with everyone from pregnant teens to senior citizens.  Each group has its own parameters for requests.  Some require a proposal, while others take mailed requests by letter.  In some cases, you may have to have a member submit it for you due to certain restrictions.  It can come down to who you know in such situations.  Find out what each group requires for requests for support.  Follow the guidelines to the letter.

These are some possible donors that you need to get to know.  They provide a balance of social, business and educational entities.  Therefore, if the stock market goes belly up or the local real estate market takes a dive, you are not left wondering where you will get donations from like many others who only depend on singular sources for support.  You want to discover a wide breadth of donors so that you can sustain your programs and services.

Develop Your Donor List

Once you have identified some potential donors, you need to develop a donor list. It is called a list, but it is more like a data-sheet or database. I suggest using a program equivalent to MS Access or MS Excel. In most cases, a simple spreadsheet from MS Excel will suffice for what you are trying to do. As you go further and collect more data, you may feel moved to expand beyond that, but you should be okay with MS Excel for now.

You want to track your donors with some key information. this information will serve as the headings for your columns within your database.  Here is a basic list of information that you will need:

  • Organization/ Business Name
  • Mailing Address (Address, City, State, zip code)
  • Web Address
  • Phone #
  • Fax #
  • Contact Person
  • Contact Person's Phone # + EXT
  • Contact Person's Email
  • Type of Support (Volunteers, Donations, In-Kind Services)
  • Supported Us in Past? (Yes/ No)
  • Giving Priorities
  • Notes/ Comments

You may find that you need other information that suits your needs, but this is a short list to get you started.

Also, another helpful suggestion is to categorize your sheets or sections on your sheets by Social Organizations, Corporations/ Businesses, and Fraternities/ Sororities.  This will help you discover and develop a balance in your support.  You want to be able to identify what types of donors are truly supporting your programs and services and how they are doing so.

Armed with your list, you will be able to set the stage for approach and ask for support.  An assembled list will allow you to easily identify which potentials donors were a hit and those that were a miss.  this will help you as you continue to raise funds and generate support for your organization's good work.

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