Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mastering the Donor List (Part One)

So, you've signed on the dotted line and committed to your event, and now you're looking at that large figure on your Team in Training fundraising page and wondering how you're ever going to raise that much money. Where do you even start? The figure can be so overwhelming that you put off thinking about it for a few more days, but deep down you know you've got to get started sometime.

First things first, you should assemble your list.

The list is your foundation for raising money. Professional fundraisers will tell you that their success depends on high quality, complete information. If you expressed any interest in a presidential candidate last fall, you probably were placed on someone's list. You may have gotten emails, letters, or targeted phone calls based on whatever data the campaign had about you. President Obama shattered fundraising records because the quality and vastness of his "list" was breathtakingly huge.

Fortunately for us, our list will be much more simple.

Some people prefer to keep their lists on paper, but the most successful list is one that's easy to update and can be viewed anywhere at any time. I recommend that you use a spreadsheet to track every name on your list, and as much information as you can about that potential donor. Here's a link to a Google Spreadsheet that I've created that's based off fundraising lists I've used. If you'd prefer, you can export this spreadsheet into Excel:

View Donor List Example

Some tips to help you assemble your list:
  1. Write down everyone you can think of. Don't worry about sorting or ordering anyone's names yet, you can do that later. Roughly group each person into a "Contact Type", such as Facebook (or MySpace, or LinkedIn), Home, Work or Business (not shown in this example, but you should include it). Use your imagination and use as many Contact Types as you can think of.
  2. Brainstorm for each Contact Type. When you've done your first pass, go through each Contact Type and brainstorm again. Think about every person and think about someone they might know. For the "Facebook" group it's easy, you can just look at your friends list. But what about other groups?
    - Work: Go through your email Inbox and folders, including archived folders, to find and add new names. Check out your IM list and add names from there. Actively brainstorm through your company directory for more names of people you might have inadvertently left off your list.
    - Home: Go through your home email and look for names. Do you have an aunt or a mother who sends along emails and never hides the address list? Look through her old emails for friends or relatives you might have overlooked. Check your sent folder for any names you might have missed.
    - Business: Look through your checkbook to make sure you've added every local business that you have written a check to. Look through your online billpay service for the same information. If you use Angie's List, log in and look at your past reports on companies and add them to the list as well.
  3. For each contact, write down whatever contact information you know about that person. Either their email address, or their home address. Or if neither make a note. We'll delve in finding contact information in a later entry.
  4. Once you've assembled your list, keep it up to date. Remember the phrase, "Garbage In, Garbage Out". Whenever someone donates to you, update the list. Copy their address from your eTools fundraising site into your donor list spreadsheet. Check your data against what your donor entered in eTools to make sure that your information is correct.
Once you've created your list and gotten into the habit of regularly updating it, you'll be able to move on to crafting your fundraising letter, and brainstorming the best way to reach and consistently interact with your potential donors.

Good luck and Go Team!!

Coming Soon: Mastering the Donor List (Part Two) will cover how to find information, including addresses, of people on your list.

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