shredder Stefan-Schweihofer via pixabay 71775_640Stefan Schweihofer via pixabay

I’m a philanthropist. Yes, I’m also a fundraiser, but long before I started sending donations to nonprofit organizations, I was offering gifts of my time, talent, and treasure to family, friends, the church I attended, and the groups I participated in.

In both philanthropy and fundraising, I believe it’s absolutely essential that nonprofits “get it right, from the start” after receiving a gift from a new donor. In this era of rampant data-hacking and fears of identity theft, besides the safety of your donor file, the accuracy of your donor information is paramount.

It’s been reported that the average active Catholic in the U.S. contributes to five to eight organizations in addition to the donations they make to their parish. This means their mailing information is likely being rented or exchanged on a regular basis, and their mailbox is chock-full of prospecting appeals from organizations to which they’ve never contributed.

Every week I receive acquisition appeals from nonprofits that misspell my last name. Somehow, at some time, my information was placed on rental lists that incorrectly identified me. They changed the spelling of my last name (I was no longer of Italian heritage), or they placed an apostrophe between the first two letters of my last name (which really aggravates me). Those acquisition packages – unopened – are routinely tossed into my recycling box.

May I suggest that if you’re not doing it already, you establish a multi-step checking process to be followed by everyone who’s entering new donor information into your database? This is particularly necessary if you’re scanning your new donor data from a finder’s file supplied by your list broker. We all know, “junk in, junk out.”

1. Check to see if this new donor has crossed-out, changed, or corrected any of the information that was laser-printed on their Reply Card.

2. If the donor has sent their gift in the form of a check, verify the new donor’s information with every piece of information that’s printed on their check.

  • Be sure to input their phone number if that happens to appear on the check.
  • If the record is “Mr. & Mrs. John Smith,” and Mrs. Smith’s first name is on the check, add that information into your database in the informal salutation field.
  • If Mrs. Smith signed the check, place her name first in the informal salutation field, i.e., “Mary & John.” If Mr. Smith signed the check, make the informal salutation “John & Mary.” At some point it may be very helpful for you to know who’s signing the donation checks your organization receives.

3. Verify the accuracy of the information on the Reply Card vs. an address label provided on the donor’s Reply Envelope or their written return address info there.

I realize this takes a lot of time, but speed should not be the top priority! There are so many errors in rented data that this multi-step checking process is essential to ensure the accuracy of your donor file information.

Yes, this will certainly add time to your new donor data entry process, but one of the major complaints donors have is “Organization ABC doesn’t know who I am. They can’t even get my information correct.” Spending the necessary time and attention to get their name/address information accurate is important, and worth it.

Let’s face it, you’re not going to establish a positive relationship with a new donor if you’re annoying them from the very beginning by misspelling their name or inaccurately recording important information.

Paul Daleo is Senior VP of Fundraising at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For help with data accuracy, compelling appeals, and 24-hour acknowledgments, contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.