The Goldie Company

Parley: September 2014 - This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Liz Rejman

Liz Rejman: Step 7: Identify your Key Stakeholders

Liz is about efficiency and consistency. Spending her entire career in healthcare, education and the arts, Liz Rejman’s professional focus has been on database management and prospect research for large and small fundraising initiatives. Always on the cutting-edge of technology and using resources to its fullest potential, Liz is interested in social media, media monitoring and the effect of the internet on balanced research. Liz is a frequent speaker for the Association of Professional Researchers in Advancement.

We spoke to Liz on the importance of data management and technology and its place in an organization.

How do you identify your key stakeholders?

I always say “look internal before you look external”. Look at those who are the closest to your organization and have an affinity to it, such as board members, volunteers, current donors, those who attend events, and so on. These people have a first degree relationship or connection, either through participation and events, volunteering, or donating.

From there, take a look the connections your board members and volunteers have within the community. They may be willing to be ambassadors or door openers to those who have yet to engage with your organization.

How important is data management to an organization?

It’s like when you look at home renovation, it is not the pretty and frilly things that truly matter; it’s the structural integrity of the foundation. If you don’t have a solid foundation on your house, the décor and furniture won’t matter because there will be leaks and cracks – ruining all those beautiful things.

The database should be the single source of information for your interactions with your key stakeholders. A database with minimal information guarantees missed opportunities. Great data that is accurate will help you be efficient and effective in your fundraising. I always tell frontline fundraisers “If it’s not in the database, it didn’t exist.”

What sorts of data should you keep track of? What information is important or relevant?

You want to think about a database as the “institutional memory” for your organization. You need to think about the unique pieces of information about your key stakeholders that you should be tracking in order to have meaningful relationships with them. This would include interactions with a donor such as a meeting, conversation or customized document. You also want to think about what you want to report to donors and key stakeholders to demonstrate impact –that will guide what data points you will want to track in a consistent way. Lastly, especially in the context of gifts, the database needs to comply with the CRA regulations who monitor and audit charities to ensure that they are compliant with the law.

How do you ensure that the data is consistent with little error?

It requires planning and questioning of what you want to do with the data and how it will be used. I always like to work backwards – what pieces of data do I need to easily export a mailing list or prepare a report to the board. Data can tell some great stories about your organization but it take front end work to set up how you want to track the data and what story do you want to tell based on the data kept. From there you have to be ever vigilant about data entry – a database is dynamic and will always require monitoring to ensure accuracy. There is no cookie cutter answer or formula, what data you track and how you track it is unique to each organization. The key is to plan ahead.

What is the biggest mistake one can do when inputting data?

Inconsistency. You need to ensure that where and how you enter data is the same format for each stakeholder within the database. As long as it is consistent, you can extract it. You need to think of “how can I reduce manual manipulation and make it consistent?”

How can organizations use social media as a research tool?

This is a tricky answer because within social media there is a lot of noise. You have to try to differentiate the noise from what is real and that takes time.

I think LinkedIn can keep the organization up to date on business information of key stakeholders. LinkedIn, Twitter and sometimes Facebook can highlight where someone’s interests are which can be used to find volunteers down the road. With all social media: “reader beware”, just because you read something doesn’t mean that it is true.

Should every organization use social media and new technology?

It depends on the organization and staff resources. For instance, having Instagram and Facebook to post artwork would be appropriate for a museum, but may not make sense for a women’s shelter.

Social media is becoming more systematic. There are some organizations that do it really well, and others that don’t. If you’re going to be active on social media, make sure you have an editorial calendar and engage with people. There is nothing worse than collecting a lot of likes and going silent.

What does it mean to be a ‘vigilant fundraiser’?

A ‘vigilant fundraiser’ means that you are constantly learning, thinking about how to move your organization forward in a positive way..

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Liz Rejman for her thoughts on creating a functional database.