Lewis Pugh, a famous endurance swimmer, said it best when he said: “If you get the basics right, everything else falls into place.”

That quote applies to so much in life, including fundraising. It is important to check all your systems and procedures to make sure you’ve got the fundamentals of your program down-pat.  

While the basics aren’t always the most exciting part of your job, few things are as important. When you execute on these fundamentals, you will see higher results and, more importantly, happier donors!

Clean up your data

Cleaning up your data is like cleaning up your room. You never want to do it, but it makes a big difference when you do. Clean data is always worth the effort. It will not only save you significant amounts of money, it will also help make donors feel as important as they are to your nonprofit.

Here are some things to fix:

  1. Undeliverable mail

Undeliverable mail means you’re paying money to send a piece of mail that will never reach its intended recipient. Until you fix these records, you will continue to waste money. Both CASS and NCOA will help you in these efforts. 

CASS, or Coding Accuracy Support System, is a certification system from the USPS for address validation. It will standardize your mailing list, update outdated addresses, and verify that addresses are valid and complete.

NCOA, or national change of address, is just what it sounds like: It updates the addresses for people who have recently moved. The USPS requires that all first class and standard mail lists are run through their NCOA database at least once every 95 days to receive automated postal rates. 

  1. Duplicates

Invest in a system that can identify duplicates and merge the records correctly. You want to make sure you don’t lose any information when the records are merged. Different databases offer different solutions and many can be run automatically each night. 

Donors can be passionate about making sure nonprofits are using their money wisely. They tend to get quite frustrated when they received duplicate mailings from your nonprofit, so do your best to avoid the problem.

  1. Names and Salutations

Finally, you want to have systems in place so that donors’ names and salutations are correct. All donors pay attention to their names- it just human nature to do so! Consider setting up a system where you regularly checking the names and addresses of your top donors to ensure they are correct. This is an easy way to show donors you care. 

Thank you letters

Spend time making sure your thank you letter process is running smoothly. Getting thank you letters out the door within 48 hours of receiving the gift can make a big difference. You don’t want a donor to be worrying if you received their contribution. Instead, you want them to immediately feel appreciated. 

The thank you letter should be personalized with the donor’s name and gift amount, and sent to all donors, regardless of gift amount. Don’t try to do too much in the thank you letter. Keep it simple and straightforward, and get it out in a timely manner.

A good way to ensure your thank you letter process is running smoothly is to periodically make a donation to your own organization. Monitor how quickly you receive the thank you letter, and any other touchpoints you may want to improve upon. Experiencing things through as a donor is always insightful. 

 Donor-friendly customer service

In this day and age, donors expect to receive excellent customer service. Your competition here is not just other nonprofits, but also other companies. Donors have come to expect a top rate experience.

You want to think through things such as:

Who answers the phone and are they trained to properly answer frequently asked questions?

Who responds to donor emails and how quickly do they reply?

Are questions or comments written on a reply form being answered or responded to in a timely manner?

Make sure you are able to monitor your customer service. And be sure to test it every once in a while, by calling, emailing and writing in yourself.

You owe it to the people who give their hard-earned money to your cause to get the fundamentals of your direct marketing program right. While there may always be more exciting tasks to tackle, nothing is as important as doing the basics correctly.