Standardizing Entry Points for Data Collection

Take a moment to think about the entry points for data collection within your organization.  Is the data that you need to operate effectively being collected consistently?  Are you hindering your work by not standardizing the entry points for data collection?

It is easy to overlook the value in collecting multiple pieces of data.  Are you working on generating email blasts or an e-newsletter?  You can be up and running in no time – all you need is email address, right?  Not so fast.

Taking the time to think through the key data that will help you market to and segment your constituents and it can also help you apply the knowledge gained in other applications.

Some useful data to collect from all constituents includes:


We have come a long way from beginning our communications with “Dear Friend” and the more you can personalize your constituent contacts, the more effective your messaging will be.  Make certain that your data entry is accurate here and use the constituent’s preferred name if you know it.  If the name is unusual or difficult to pronounce, note the pronunciation in your fundraising database so any potential callers will make a good first impression on the phone.


The better your data entry with this one, the more likely you are to reach your constituent through direct mail.  Having an address on hand will also allow you to better understand the concentration of your prospect pool as a whole.  Using hard data from address information can help you plan for new programs or services, events, or even justify the need for a new staff member.

Email address

The least expensive and fastest way to connect with your constituent pool is through email, allowing you to reach a large audience in a minimal amount of time. Accuracy in data collection is of the utmost importance here, but it is also crucial to respect the wishes of your constituents by emailing only if they have told you this is their preferred method of contact.  If you use an email marketing program to generate your messages, be sure to learn from the reports it provides.  With e-newsletters, are certain types of articles more popular?  Track them and work harder to tailor the content of your newsletter to match what is most popular.  Do you have a large number of bounce-backs? Regularly work to address this by contacting your constituent for a more current address.   Are a large number of people asking to be removed after an e-newsletter is sent?  It is possible that you are sending the e-newsletter to frequently.  The more you stay on top of the information garnered from these software tools, the more successful you will be with using the technology to enhance your relationships.

Telephone number

As is true with email address, respect your constituents’ wishes by calling only if they have expressed that this is their preferred method of contact.

Connection to your organization

This data is so valuable to understanding who you serve and why constituents have reached out to you in the first place.  Knowing that someone is seeking out the services of your organization versus supporting the services of your organization can help you tailor which events you invite someone to and which fundraising markets you pursue.  It is very possible that your constituents can fall into both categories, but depending on your mission, it is entirely possible that they are completely different populations.

How did the constituent heard about you

This data can help you better understand which marketing efforts you have put forth are working and which are not.  Are you advertising in a newspaper, on television, or a billboard?  Are you participating in fairs or community events?  Are professionals referring people to you?  It might be time to give up on the community event you have participated in for the past 5 years and it might also be time to beef up your online presence.  Understanding this information, especially when it is taken together with Connection to your organization data, will help you better shape your outreach and marketing efforts.

Birth month and year

Not every constituent is willing to or interested in doling out this information, but collecting it can help you when they are willing to share.  Most importantly, the data will help you understand what stage of life your constituent falls into.  Understanding someone is in the age range where they would draw up their first will is immensely important in terms of marketing, with the main message being to remember your organization when they do so.

Preferred method of contact

With the advent of improved technology, merge fields have enabled organizations to truly personalize communications with their prospects.  The sky is the limit on how much you incorporate and tailor your content using merge fields.  Channel marketing is the next technological tool to increase your level of sophistication.  Working to communicate to your constituents in the way they want to hear from you really shows them you listen to their needs and care about them.  Do not offend them by calling during the dinner hour, flooding their inbox, or killing another tree.  Be conscientious and manage your communications so they reflect the values of the recipient, particularly if a constituent takes the time and effort to share their values with you.

These data points alone can help you establish, build, and maintain relationships by showing your constituent pool your relationship is not a one-way street.  The effort you make now will more than reap the rewards in enhanced organizational loyalty in the future.