- Consider processing when you design forms—online and offline
Whether your staff will be processing information over the phone and need to fill out an online form, or you’re planning your direct mail campaign, it’s worth considering the end-to-end processing requirements when you design your forms.
What data do you truly need to capture, and how can you arrange it in the most useful way?
Although it is good to have as much complete data as possible, you should still aim to strike a balance between brevity and completeness. Try to avoid formats that might require a lot of scrolling online or turning over pages if you’re using print media.
- Use a single source of data truth
A single source of truth will mean that when data gets entered, it only has to be entered once, correctly, and then the information is propagated out from the source of truth to all required fields that refer to that record.
This means that, for example, when a donor updates her surname to her married name via her donation form, that the update is copied across to all necessary places—from the addressee fields when you send her a receipt, to the greeting fields on the next email she may receive. This can eliminate a great deal of double or triple-handling and reduce the potential to introduce human error into your processes.
- Make it easy for donors to turn a one-off donation into a recurring one
Often what non-profits really need isn’t just one-off donations during peak times throughout the year. The needs of your organisation and the communities you support are constant, so you need consistent financial support. As a non-profit you need to know that you can rely on funds consistently coming in, so you can hire staff and support expanding infrastructure to drive your valuable work while you keep the lights on. That’s why most non-profits already have a system in place for automatically processing recurring donations.
Make sure you have added the option to your online and paper donation forms for your seasonal appeal, too, so you give supporters an easy way to commit to a recurring monthly donation instead of a one-off donation at the end of the year.
- Streamline processes in the back office wherever possible
This might seem obvious, but it can have a huge impact.
Ensure that as many donations as possible can be processed in exactly the same way. The more donations your team have to pull out of the flow of regular processing and put aside to escalate, or provide special attention, the less efficient they’ll be. This will make your donations take to process and your processing will subsequently become costlier.
The more straightforward and streamlined you can make your processes, the cheaper and easier it will be to complete them.
- Integrate your systems where possible
In an ideal world, you could generate a report from your CRM that exactly matches the money deposited into your bank account and tells you who it came from line by line, and you could download a file of accurate, complete and automatically generated receipts that you could send to the printer with a single click.
In reality there can be time and expenses associated with integration that makes it prohibitive for some organisations—but you should still aim to integrate your systems where you can. Reducing the manual intervention required to, for example, perform a mail merge, can save your staff a lot of processing time and help you avoid human errors.
- Check that you’re properly aligned with your privacy and security obligations
This might not appear to drive efficiency at the beginning of your appeal—but it’s the ounce of prevention that will save you a pound of cure.
Make sure that your organisational policies align with your obligations for privacy and data security, and that the way you communicate with your donors reflects those policies and obligations. For example, it will be important that you have unambiguous consent and opt-out options clearly available to your supporters. You may also need to ensure that you meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (if you’re handling payment card information).
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is the national regulator of charities and non-profits. It’s a great resource for information on your obligations in this area.
- Make sure your data is clean and optimised before going forward
Data cleansing means making sure that your data is as complete and correct as possible so you can put it to work for your organisation. We recently posted about the ways in which clean donor data supports a successful seasonal appeal, but it bears repeating.
Over time, your supporter database can become cluttered with duplicated or incomplete supporter records, invalid email addresses, donors who have moved to a new residence or passed away, or incorrect phone numbers. Attempts to contact supporters using dirty data costs your organisation money and returns poor results—and when communications made with dirty data do reach their intended recipients, they then have to correct their information. Your donations team is left to manually input these changes during processing which is time consuming and costly.
Dirty data can make the costs of your appeal balloon while reducing its revenue. But by making sure your data is clean before you use it, you can tighten up your operations and ensure a greater ROI on your seasonal appeal.
- Make sure your website is accessible and your donations page is easy to find and sharable
There are some things you can do to optimise your website to make donations easier. Your website itself should be designed to be as accessible as possible to disabled and aging people, to ensure that all people can understand your mission and support your cause—the WCAG is an internationally recognised standard which can help you with this.
When potential supporters arrive at your website, they should be able to see how to donate immediately. Make it as easy as possible for anyone on your website, anywhere, to get to a page where they can make a donation. Consider adding a link at the top of each page that can be easily seen. When donors click and arrive at your donations page, it should also include options to share on social media. This is an easy way to encourage people to broaden your reach and provide social proof.
- Ensure your staff are prepared for your seasonal appeal
Empower your staff to hit the ground running when seasonal appeals begin by ensuring you’ve adequately communicated all aspects of their responsibilities to them. They should have plenty of opportunity to review processes and ask any questions.
Make sure all necessary staff and volunteers have adequate access to step-by-step documentation that will enable them to perform the tasks you’re expecting of them. This might include information on processing, campaign codes, storage, security and privacy, reporting and reconciliation, banking and more.
- Consider outsourcing your processing during peak times
The volume of donations outstripping your capacity to process them is a good problem to have for any non-profit, but it’s still a problem!
Growing non-profits do not always have the capacity to adequately resource their donations processing, and sometimes it can be both more convenient and more cost effective to outsource. During the pandemic in particular, we’ve seen that the combination of pressures such as PCI-DSS obligations and working from home have made it challenging for many organisations to keep processing with the same level of effectiveness.
At DCA, we worked with the International Women’s Development Agency to help them process donations effectively when restrictions associated by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that their ability to use their office space was limited. Find out more about how we provided streamlined, effective, scalable donations processing services to IWDA.
You can learn more about DCA’s flexible, end-to-end donations processing services here.