In my last blog I highlighted the importance of smaller charities investing in raising their profile, whether through print and social media, or the personal networks of staff, volunteers, trustees and beneficiaries.

What happens though if some of the people who find out about your charity start to get involved, perhaps by coming to an event, volunteering or giving? Do you have the right systems and processes in place to make sure you ‘capture’ their involvement, and start planning how to develop it further?

Many people find it hard to get their heads around databases, and there is a definite glazing-over when I start talking about the joys of having comprehensive and accurate data about supporters.

I happen to be one of those people who conversely get very energised by the topic. That’s not because databases are intrinsically interesting, but because of the amazing things you can do with them, if you have set them up well and are managing them effectively.

Your success as a not-for-profit depends on you being able to connect with people and build relationships. That means knowing as much as you can about your supporters interests, preferences and involvement with your organisation, so you can respond in the most personal way possible.

Without systematically collecting information on everyone who expresses an interest, and most importantly, anyone who gives to your charity, you are throwing away one of your most valuable assets.

There are a myriad of different tools available to help you with capturing and using this data, from a simple Excel spreadsheet to sophisticated packages like Raiser’s Edge, and everything in-between.

My belief is that it doesn’t really matter what tool you use, but how you use it. Without careful planning and knowledge of what you want out of a system, as well as what you put in, any database can end up as a junkyard of inaccurate and redundant information.

Charities looking to develop more income from individual donors also face a double squeeze at present. Not only do they need to put in place the right systems to manage their supporter data, but also need to anticipate all the new regulations coming out on data protection, opt in vs opt out, and new bodies such as the forthcoming Fundraising Preference Service.

So it’s a complex world out there! But with a little planning and preparation, some training and the right tools for the job, every charity should be able to maximise the benefit of their supporter data, and see the results through increasing numbers of donors and growth in income.

To find out more about and keep up to speed with the new fundraising regulations, see

If you would like help with how to structure and use your supporter data, set up or improve your systems and procedures, or understand the implications of recent legislation on charity data and fundraising, please get in touch with me.