JCamp 180 Mentors and I have developed recommended changes to an organization's Donor Management System (DMS) to effectively track and report on Legacy Program prospects, pledges, and gifts. The resulting document includes general recommendations that can be used for any DMS, as well as specific changes for those camps using DonorPerfect Online (DPO).
But there are many more ways organizations can fully leverage their DMS to make their work more efficient and effective. A few are described in this article: Customize, Store, Integrate, and Improve.
Years from now, do you plan to be in close contact with your donors? Will you be able to send a birthday card to each of your Legacy donors…for the rest of their lives? Be sure your stewardship of Legacy and other major gift donors sticks - by making your DMS work for you.
Most DMS allow users to add new fields, create new reports and queries/filters, and modify the values available in existing fields. The changes in the Legacy Program Technology Support document mentioned above are all customizations to the existing functionality. Is there data about your alumni you'd like to be able to report on? Do you want to be able to compare donations given to this year's annual fund vs. last year's fund? Are there reports that your Board is requesting that don't currently exist in your system? If so, you may be able to customize your system to meet your needs. First step? Define your requirements so that any changes you make will help you meet your needs.
Have you ever found yourself searching frantically for a major donor or Legacy pledge card? Need quick access to a copy of a personalized thank you note that was sent to an important donor? You may want to consider adding file storage functionality to your DMS.
The base version of many DMS do not have any file storage capabilities. However, some offer user's the ability to purchase a new add-on that will allow them to store files with each constituent in the database. For example, Herzl Camp recently purchased the file storage add-on to their DPO system. It has been extremely helpful to them, mainly because they first determined specific requirements the add-on could help them meet:
1) Track all major gift pledge cards received (and copies of large gift checks) in an organized way (their auditors request these cards)
2) Be able to access a copy of these files from any computer (since DPO is a hosted solution)
3) Keep important files in an easy to locate place in case there is staff turnover
Holly Guncheon, the Development Director at Herzl Camp, added that this service (which costs an additional $20/month with DPO) gives her piece of mind that the files are available where and when they need it.
Do you struggle with managing multiple databases of similar data: camper registration, donor management, bookkeeping, alumni databases, etc.? Some DMS allow you to integrate with other databases to reduce manual double-entry of data.
For example, DPO has an add-on to allow users to integrate their DPO system with Quickbooks. For an extra monthly fee, donations can be entered in only one place, but still tracked in both DPO and Quickbooks. This ensures fewer data entry errors and accurate financial reports in both systems.
Unfortunately there is no simple integration of data from various camper registration system with DPO at this time. However, check with your DMS provider: other vendors might have developed add-ons to integrate camper registration systems or other databases with your DMS.
Does your DMS frustrate you more often than making your work easier? Do you ever think, "This system MUST be able to do this!" but can't figure out how to do it? There are other ways to improve your DMS (adding integrated online giving or prospect research functionality, for example), but the most important is training.
Take the time to master your DMS. We recommend regular refresher training to make sure you are taking advantage of the functionality available in your DMS. Consider your needs (how can the technology support your business processes?) and ask your vendor to cater the training to exactly what you want to accomplish. For our DPO users, don't forget that I can help you learn the functionality of your system as well.