Nonprofits: keep your database clean

April 25, 2023

A charity generated solicitation letters from a computerized database. One letter addressed to a state Humane Society stated: “Dear Miss Society.” Whoops!

On the surface, donor database management may seem like a trivial function. But a thoughtfully managed donor database can have a profound impact on your organization’s relationship with donors. You may not have met many of the people listed in your database, but these faceless members and potential donors deserve to be valued, respected, and protected. You certainly don’t want to drive anyone away with careless database management. Here are some tips to prevent problems:

  1. Review your policies and processes related to database management. In times of constricting budgets when it’s essential to connect with your donors, database management is often neglected. Is database management a systematic and routine part of your organization or attended to only when a donor calls to complain? Whether you assign database operations to a volunteer or an employee, there needs to be a systemized approach and an expected attention to detail. Understand and document procedures for inputting and editing data. Implement security and access permissions to your database. Establish policies for complaints and inquiries. This work is critical to solicitation of new donors, maintaining current donors, and communicating important organizational events or changes.

  2. Update physical mailing lists. When someone receives a letter from you addressed to a former resident of their home or one that contains misspellings, it negatively affects your reputation. The recipient may think your organization is careless and wonder if that lack of attention spills into the way you handle your finances. To avoid disorderly donor mailings, you should regularly have a licensee of the National Change of Address process your lists to find the names of people who have moved or passed away. This will ensure optimal results of donor cultivation via the mail.

  3. Turn complaints to your advantage. When a member makes a request or complaint, follow up with a phone call or e-mail to confirm the issue was corrected. This is an excellent way to connect with a stakeholder of your organization or to rekindle a waning relationship.

  4. Respect their wishes. If donors ask to be removed from your mailing list, inactivate the file but don’t purge their names and addresses. You certainly don’t want to send them communications that go to current members, but there’s always a chance they’ll support you again in the future. Records pertaining to past support are as critical to your financial goals as current support.

Relationship building is one of the most important functions of member database management. Implementing a few simple processes to ensure that you have accurate and updated information will have profound benefits. VonLehman offers full outsourcing for all your accounting and human resource needs. For any questions related to this article, contact Kristin Perviz at or 859-547-1580.