How to Use Your Database to Identify Your Best Donors

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By Amy Eisenstein

Your donor database can be a great resource if you know how to use it to identify your biggest and most loyal donors.

How to Identify Your Largest Donors

Finding your largest donors can be trickier than you think. You’ll need to open your donor database and look at three key reports:

  1. Run a report of the largest single gifts given over the last year.
  2. Run another report to identify the largest cumulative givers for last year.
  3. Lastly, run a report of your largest lifetime givers (those who have given the most over the last 10 years or more).

Looking for cumulative giving in a year is important because you may have one donor who gives $1,000 per year in December and another who gives $100 monthly. The second donor would never surface if you didn’t run the report on cumulative giving and instead only looked for your largest one-time gifts.

Of course, in this scenario the monthly donor is clearly a larger donor than the annual giver and you don’t want to miss them when searching for your best donors. That’s why these first two reports are so important.

You’ll also want to look at lifetime giving to capture those donors who may not have given a lot recently, but have supported your organization generously over the years.

How to Identify Your Most Loyal Donors

When looking through your database for your organization’s most loyal supporters, you want to look for the people who have consistently supported the organization over a long period of time, regardless of their giving level.

Assuming you have the data, look back for those individuals who have given every year for five or even ten years — even if they give only twenty-five dollars (or less) per year.

Long-time, loyal donors are the most likely candidates for planned gifts, as well as major gifts, as they have clearly demonstrated a commitment to your organization over a long period of time.

Loyal Donor Caveats

There are a few additional important points about loyal donors:

  • Donor acquisition and retention is a major issue for most nonprofits. Therefore, you should know who your loyal supporters are and treat them like VIP’s.
  • If you do not already know these people, you should find out who they are, why they are so loyal, and whether they are interested in getting more involved with your organization. If they give a little without any attention, imagine how much they might give with some serious cultivation and engagement.

Narrowing Down Your Donor List of Donors

Once you have lists of your best current donors, select the top twenty individuals that you believe have the financial capacity and inclination to give a bigger gift. Capacity is the ability to give, and inclination is the interest in your organization or mission.

TIP: Do not choose these names in a vacuum!

Ask staff and board members if they know the people on your lists and make educated decisions about who to keep on your final major gift prospect list.

It’s super-important to narrow your “A” list down to 20 individuals, which is a manageable number to start with. Once you solicit all twenty people on the initial list, you will be able to expand to a longer list.

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