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Top Ten Ways Technology Can Help Your Fundraising

Technology has the potential to improve every aspect of your operations, but if your technology doesn't allow you to grow and explore new methods of fundraising, it's not worth the investment. At a minimum, your technology solution should help you in the following 10 areas.

1. Single, holistic view of supporters
How many different ways can a constituent interact with your organization? Immediately, donating funds comes to mind, but there are other ways constituents support our organizations. Within your database, you are likely to find board members, volunteers, and employees. Then there are prospects, patrons, members, advocates, alumni, attendees, and vendors. It's pretty likely that many of your constituents fall into more than one category. The ability to see a holistic view of all the ways an individual interacts with your organization is vitally important. The proper technology will allow you to carefully manage all the day-to-day details and interactions with your supporters and help you build and maintain institutional knowledge within your organization.

2. Relationship management
Successful fundraising is centered on the ability to cultivate and manage relationships with your donors. Good communication is important both when you are initiating contact and when you are building the case for a donor's long-term support. Technology can help you with everything from tracking valuable biographical information to ensuring each touch you have with your donors is helping the cultivation process by monitoring staff and donor interaction.

Each person from your organization who comes in contact with the outside world is working to brand your organization. Sharing professional best practices among the group, such as successful e-mail or letter templates, will help ensure they are working together. More importantly, you'll know that your constituents are being treated in a way that reflects positively on your school.

3. Analysis reporting
What makes your school successful? Which areas can be improved? Capturing and accessing the information you need to demonstrate the effectiveness of your organization is critical. You will enter a lot of important information into your database, and getting it back out should be a breeze. Once you have the information, you want to be able to share it with others. The right reports can help you take a flood of data and turn it into insight and action.

4. Accountability and stewardship
There's no hotter topic in the nonprofit world than accountability. Your ability to ensure that designated funds are managed correctly is critically important. Being able to easily share information between your financial and fundraising systems, and then present it, will help you demonstrate the impact of every gift you receive. Your technology solution should allow you to share timely, accurate information, ensure that donated funds are accounted for, verify to your donors that the gifts were used for their intended purposes, and satisfy both internal and external reporting requirements.

5. Online donor service
In 2003, online donors contributed $2 billion, and recent studies have shown that online gifts average two to three times the amount of those from alternate fundraising methods. With the average American spending 11 hours each week of personal time on the Web, you cannot afford to function without an online giving program.

Your Web site is often the first impression your school will make. It's a great tool for catching the attention of new potential donors and providing them the opportunity to give online. Actively using your Web site as a tool to learn about your supporters will result in an expanded loyal network of supporters with a lifelong connectivity with your organization. Your technology should support all of these, as well as efforts such as integrated advocacy and "team fundraising."

6. Direct mail
Direct mail not only makes up a large portion of the communication you have with your supporters, but it also takes up a large portion of their time and resources. Add up all the appeals and thank-you letters that you sending out every year. Chances are, the sum will amount to a whole lot of mail, time, and postage. The good news is that managing it doesn't have to be as challenging, costly, and time-consuming if your technology solution allows you to automate the process.

7. Pledge management
Being able to offer donors the ability to pledge gifts is a boon to nonprofits. By allowing your donors to pay over time, you are setting yourself up to receive more major gifts. However, with the benefits also come challenges. A good technology solution can help you successfully set up payment schedules, keep track of when payments come in, and report on who has missed a payment.

8. Recurring giving
Recurring giving provides amazing opportunities to attract and retain a new generation of donors. It is one of the most cost-effective, long-term fundraising methods available, providing you with a predictable revenue stream, with little ongoing staff involvement. Donors commit to a donation to be paid regularly over a period of time with no specified end. Organizations of all sizes across the world have turned to recurring giving programs to combat falling revenue and high donor attrition rates.

How can technology help? A solution that can handle recurring gifts from end-to-end should be able to report missed payments, protect against lapses by reporting soon-to-expire credit cards, reduce donor attrition by tracking trends in donor activity, process multiple gifts quickly, and serve your donors better by providing modern, convenient giving methods.

9. Matching gifts
The promise of a matching gifts program is that it can greatly increase the contributions your organization receives. The problem is that many of your donors don't know that their company will match their gifts. That part is up to you. Can you easily identify who, among your donors, works for a matching gifts company?

Technology can help ensure that you get your share of the matching gifts pie. The ability to track where your donors work is pivotal. Once you know who their employers are, getting information about their companies is easy a variety of matching gifts databases is available. Technology can help you target your constituents more effectively in order to cultivate larger gifts.

10. Saving time
Technology should improve your daily processes and drive efficiency within your school. Everyone must be committed to working in the most effective manner possible. The efficient use of time, money, and staff allows you to better deliver on your mission.

Technology is an investment that can help ensure your school is operating efficiently. Clearly, success in fundraising requires more than technology, but if your technology doesn't allow for process automation and easy management of data, you can expect more work in the long run.

This article is courtesy of Blackbaud, a leading global provider of software and related services designed specifically for nonprofit organizations, www.blackbaud.

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Christian School Products