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Know Your Data, Know Your Donors

Lisa Lujan, Online Giving Coordinator

My heart sank as I read the thank you letter. It was addressed to me, when I had hoped it would be addressed to my four-year-old who had specifically chosen an organization as  “her” nonprofit to give to on Colorado Gives Day. I had even left details in the special instructions section detailing my daughter’s involvement and her name. She would’ve been so excited to get mail addressed specifically to and thanking her! Talk about a great opportunity to begin a life-long relationship. Alas, that is not what happened. Which brings me to the point of this blog: do you know your donors’ data?

The ColoradoGives program at Community First Foundation has declared 2017 “The Year of Thanking Donors.” You can take donor appreciation to the next level by intimately understanding every donation you receive. In the Donation Information section of your ColoradoGives profile, you can pull an Excel report 45 columns worth of  information. Here are the sections you shouldn’t miss (although I would argue all of the columns should be looked at):

  • Special Instructions or Comments: simply put, donors can literally type anything here, from where  they  want their money directed to whether another donor is associated with the donation (say, a daughter). If you read nothing else, read this column.
  • Campaign Name: this column tells you who gave through certain fundraising pages, a critical piece of information for growing a relationship (is the donor a friend of a staff member, a board member or a volunteer)?
  • Recur Every: if there is information in this column, then this donor has either scheduled a one-time donation or created a recurring donation to your organization. Be sure to look at the details in the subsequent columns, including the starting and ending parameters.
  • Donation For: here you can see if a donation was made in honor or memory of someone; this is especially important if the donor wants you to send a physical note to that person (which can be found in the columns “Donation for Note Sent” all the way through to “Donation For comment”). If it says “Physical Note” in the “Donation for Note Sent” column, it means that the donor is asking you to mail a physical letter indicating a donation was made in honor/memory of someone. If it says “Email,” that means our system has automatically sent the person an email.
  • Consider This Donation for Child Care and/or Enterprise Zone Tax Credit: these critical columns only apply to organizations offering  Colorado State Tax Credit(s) that have also elected to present questions related to tax credits on their donation form. Unfortunately, these columns are sometimes ignored or missed (you might be surprised by the number of calls we get from donors about this). Here, donors indicate interest in receiving a tax credit for their donations. Even if their donations do not qualify for the tax credit(s), it is imperative that you follow up on this information. (If your nonprofit has selected any response other than “None” to the question “Does Organization qualify for a tax credit?” on its profile,  tax acknowledgment letters must come from you, regardless of whether you display additional questions related to tax credits on your donation form or the determination your nonprofit makes with regard to whether a particular donation qualifies for the tax credit(s) or not).

If the old adage “knowledge is power” has any truth to it, then knowing your donors and their donations is certainly worth the effort. In a recent survey to nonprofits, we learned that 93% of nonprofits receive gifts from first-time donors on Colorado Gives Day – what a perfect opportunity to help those first-time donors become second-time donors by not only thanking them, but by using the information they provided to thank them to the best of your ability.


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