CRM Meets NPO, a love story


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What if not-for-profit organizations (NPO) thought more strategically and mirrored their marketing efforts to those of most for-profits in terms of customer relationship management?

Donors and volunteers are the lifeline of all nonprofit organizations. Yet few NPOs maintain a reliable database to extract such valuable information as age, gender, marital status, demographics, participation activity, etc. Information collected and stored by nonprofits most often pertains to fundraising events (eg. donations generated) and not the participants themselves.  Any information relating back to volunteers and donors are often limited and cannot be analyzed over a historic period because most not-for-profits haven’t properly ‘married’ such data with the proper CRM tools (See ‘Selecting Your Marketing Automation’).  Although it would make this a different kind of love story, the same is true for NGOs. But for the sake of all that is wholesome, we will not digress.

A fully functional database would give NPOs the ability to segment their population of donors and volunteers to appropriately target individuals based on marketing initiatives.  For instance, based on research conducted by Baby Boomers are the most active volunteers but are the least sought after demographic while college students, many of whom prefer temporary volunteer assignments, are often heavily targeted by NPOs because they are perceived to have fewer commitments outside of school. This is a classic case where an analytic tool could have invalidated this assumption and marketing dollars for recruitment initiatives could be better allocated.

Donors are also a fairly predictable population, provided the data collected is reliable, detailed, relevant, and accessible. During my stint as an intern for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO), I discovered donor hubs, i.e. affluent neighborhoods in the Atlanta area where a statistically significant number of ASO donors resided. Much could be inferred about these hubs’ interest in charitable organizations as it relates to the fine arts. However, we could not do any more than label this area as a potential ‘hot spot’ because very little information existed at an individual level.  In all fairness, many NPOs do a phenomenal job at maintaining relationships with major corporate donors and families.  However, the bread and butter of every not-for-profit are the medium to small donations and savings accrued from volunteers, especially during an economic downturn when many corporations tighten their belts.

Ever open your mailbox and receive a direct mail piece from an NPO that includes complimentary return labels with your address information conveniently listed?  I have consistently received this type of mailing from the same not-for-profit even though I have yet to donate to their cause. To the best of my knowledge I have never had an association with the organization or any of its partners, yet I am targeted at least twice a year. Is it a case of intentionally indiscriminate marketing or poor targeting? I choose to believe the latter.

Donor and volunteer data is an underutilized resource that could lead to the uncovering of trends and behavioral predictions that would help most non-profits survive during trying times and flourish during better days. Perhaps this is more a CRM solutions pitch for NPOs than it is a love story. Either way, I’ll continue to hold out hope that the two will meet someday.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Candice Narvaez
Formerly a database marketing professional, Candice Narvaez serves as an Applications Specialist on the Quaero Operations Team.


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