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More effective management of donor database
The RWJ University Hospital Foundation Inc. has improved the efficiency of its fundraising operations by switching to new software that allows more effective management of its donor database. The foundation is the fundraising organization for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ, one of the nation’s leading academic health centers. The software it now uses allows the foundation to carefully select donors by their areas of interest, giving history, geographic area, and many other parameters.
RWJ University Hospital Foundation uses resultsplus! software from Metafile Information Systems Inc. of Rochester, MN, to track the response of every fundraising activity and generate targeted lists used for direct mailing and teleprospecting. It has found that these appeals are far more effective than the untargeted kind, because they reach the right people. In addition, by tracking pledges against actual contributions received, the software helps the university hospital send reminders that ensure each pledge gets paid, without bothering those people who already have paid.
Querying the database makes it easy to create tailored invitation lists for the foundation’s various events according to the interests and history of the invitee. "Resultsplus! helps us organize nearly every aspect of the fundraising process to the point where our results have been substantially improved," says Jill Kolakowski, accounts manager for RWJ University Hospital Foundation.
Kolakowski says that donations to the foundation come from a wide range of sources — from large pharmaceutical companies and foundations to individuals who are simply grateful for the treatment they received at the hospital. Foundation staff members quickly recognized the importance of moving donor information from the filing cards and spreadsheets typically used by most foundations in the start-up phase to a database specifically designed for the fundraising task.
"The donor database is the lifeblood of any fundraising operation. The problem with keeping this information in paper files is that as the files grow, a foundation’s staff have to spend a considerable amount of time sorting through them to find files and record information," she explains. "It’s very easy to overlook or misplace a file, which means you will probably forget to contact that donor. The donor, in turn, might very well think that you have lost interest in them. And if a donor calls with a question, you have to tell them you’ll get back with them after you have located their file," Kolakowski points out. "This [paper file] approach also makes it very difficult to generate mailing lists. Selecting specific names from your donor database that would be likely to respond to a certain appeal takes so much time that it is not very practical," she adds.
Foundation managers evaluated a number of different fundraising software packages. They selected resultsplus! primarily because they felt it was easier to use than the other packages they looked at.
"I came from a nonprofit using a different software package," says Debra Miller, special events manager for the foundation. "When a new person joined the organization, it usually took them a considerable period of time before they became productive. With resultsplus!, on the other hand, all of the most common things you need to do on a daily basis are connected to icons that are always right in front of you on the screen. This makes the program very easy to use," she notes.
While user-accessible and easy to use, the software offers a full range of advanced features. For example, doing an advanced mail merge makes it possible to target mailings to specific individuals within corporations. And the product allows you to attach gifts and pledges to either an individual for separate giving histories, or to a household or corporation for combined giving histories. Resultsplus! can process any gift, including tributes, split gifts, matching gifts, on-line gifts, and soft credits, as well as in-kind and effective value donations.
All standard reports can be tailored to the needs of an organization or users; staff can start from scratch and create their own reports while accessing all of the information stored in the database.
The foundation configured the software to track donations to nearly 100 separate funds, such as the emergency department, community outreach programs, hematology/oncology, cardiology, nursing education, medical equipment, pediatric programs, and so forth. "Every gift that comes into the foundation is entered into resultsplus!, making it possible to go to one source to track every contribution and donation that has ever touched our organization," Kolakowski says. "One of the most important benefits is that we can focus our fundraising efforts on people who have proven interest in the area that we are targeting.
"Most of our contributors identify with one or several particular diseases or medical specialties and are primarily or exclusively interested in contributing to them. For this reason, nearly all of our appeals are targeted to a specific field of medicine. Resultsplus! lets us very quickly generate lists that target any particular specialty in a matter of minutes," she continues. "I simply query the database for a list of people who meet certain criteria, such as having given a contribution to a particular fund in the past or having given a certain number of contributions or a certain dollar amount," she says.
"The software instantly pulls up a list of everyone in our database who meets my criteria. I can then merge a letter to that list of people or export a file for an outside telemarketing firm to call. The big advantage is that we now spend our resources only on communicating with people who are likely to be interested. At the same time, we protect our contributors from feeling they are being bombarded and ensure that they pay attention to the few targeted appeals they do receive from us," Kolakowski explains.
The foundation also receives lists of prospective donors from affiliated institutions such as the Heart Center of New Jersey, she notes. "The first thing we do is to enter them in resultsplus! and filter them against our existing contributors to make sure we don’t contact a donor as if we are talking to them for the first time.
"By the same token, we have the telemarketers send us their pledge lists on a daily basis so we can update our database and make sure we don’t send a reminder to someone who has just made a contribution. The bottom line is that we avoid annoying our donors by contacting them as few times as possible while also saving money in the process," Kolakowski adds.
Having a detailed record of every contribution also makes it easy to give recognition to your contributors, she observes. "We generate a report at the end of each year that lists the contributors for our annual report. All we have to do is export the list to a Microsoft Word format and send it to the people who lay out our annual report for us."
Miller says the new software is very helpful in planning the foundation’s special events. "We sponsor golf outings and participate in the Auxiliary’s Charity Ball. We use resultsplus! queries to generate an invitation list for each of these events. The lists are based on a variety of factors, such as whether or not the person has previously attended the event, their level of giving, and their interest in the specific area. We can be almost certain the names and addresses in the database are correct because they are checked every time we contact each donor. Generating these lists manually would be a nightmare, but with resultsplus!, it is a breeze," she adds.
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