Investing in systems and processes makes a difference

Do any of these sounds familiar? A fundraiser that complains about data quality, uses the database differently, or not all. Reporting that cannot be trusted or takes far too long and can only be done by one person. Process documents which are pages and never get followed, if they were read in the first place. Endless Excel sheets with names and lists.

Advancement operations are too often overlooked as a critical factor to fundraising and engagement success. Without being intentional in your operations strategy, and investing time and money appropriately, it is likely that you are negatively impacting your current performance and undermining future success.

But we invested in a CRM?

A CRM is an important first step to having a properly maintained fundraising operation, but it is simply a tool. You need to be thoughtful on how you set up the processes in which you use this tool to ensure the processes support your activities. This often means hiring someone with the right technical skills to manage the system, or partnering with a technical specialist to design simple-to-use processes that fit your organisation’s needs. This investment will pay for itself when your fundraisers can effectively find and track donors through cultivation and easily report on gifts.

Keep processes simple

A database manager once shared the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ when it came to discussion on the limits of what we could discover from a database. The point was blunt but very valid.  The need to establish and sustain processes that ensure staff are putting in the information that is needed for reporting, tracking, etc, is vital, and you can expect nothing but disappointment from any process if this isn’t the case.  Whether you are in start-up mode or moving into a comprehensive campaign and hiring more staff, keep your processes as simple as possible.

Moves Management

If there is one system that we at Graham-Pelton have seen help elevate fundraising, that is investing to develop a tailored moves management system that tracks your organisation’s prospects through cultivation. We are all familiar with the cultivation cycle, but having this integrated in an easy-to-report process on your database is a game changer.

Train and Maintain

Once you have invested and built your easy-to-use processes, the key to success is providing, or sourcing externally, substantial and dedicated training on the system and how your organisation specifically uses it. Whether a new staff member has used the specific system before elsewhere or is a complete novice, spend the time to create a proper training programme that brings them up to speed about what they are expected to do. Otherwise, you will (over time) have users begin inputting information in different ways that they think makes sense or is ‘how I did it at my last organisation’. This will lead to issues around reporting and being able to get the most of your information.

Ultimately you want to build a culture that values the infrastructure that supports the work you do. It might take time to shift this as you get started but, in the long run, it will pay off in making your work more effective and successful.

This article is part of a series providing our analysis and key takeaways from the 2016-2018 Graham-Pelton/IDPE Benchmarking Report. Read other articles or sign-up for our email list to have the latest news on the benchmarking report and other fundraising tips sent straight to your inbox.

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