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What is a Donor Management System?

By | July 29, 2019 | | Fundraising, Nonprofit, Nonprofit Cloud, Nonprofit Technology

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By Patrick Bryden, Marketing Manager, iWave

Picture this: you’re the executive director of a small but fast-growing arts and culture nonprofit organization. Things are going well! In fact, you had two new employees start over the past month. It is certainly an exciting time at your office. And though everything appears wonderful on the outside, inside, things are getting hectic.  With new employees starting, exciting projects kicking off, and donations coming in like wildfire, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep track of everything. In order to create calm out of chaos, your nonprofit organization needs a fundraising solution to keep growing. And fast!  Overwhelmed, you collapse onto your desk, out of ideas, at the end of your rope. And it’s only Tuesday! If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time you implement a donor management system or DMS. 

I know what you’re thinking – what exactly is a DMS? Well, I’ll tell you. A DMS is like a really big filing cabinet that lives in the cloud and tracks everything about your organization. Names, emails, tasks, deadlines, gift asks. You name it, a donor management system (like Salesforce) tracks it. A DMS is one example of a CRM, or constituent relationship management system, but specifically around donors. Does this sound like the solution your fast-growing nonprofit needs?

Before you buy one, consider the following as you do your fundraising technology research.  A few key components include:

  • The ability to track detailed contact information, including constituents history with your organization and their complete interactions with your staff.

  • The capacity to monitor individual campaign metrics, including donation sources and gift sizes, and any information regarding the specific donor.

  • The ability to segment information in a manner specific to your organization’s overall strategy as well as individual campaign strategies.

Here are a few use cases to help highlight how a donor management system can help your nonprofit fundraise with confidence.

Image of fundraising intelligence

Donor Management Systems Help You Manage Potential Donors

For nonprofit professionals, event management is an important facet of day-to-day operations.  
For example: After hosting an awesome event complete with awesome attendees, you have awesome big dreams to take their awesome names to follow-up for awesome donations. Everything appears to be on track… until the realization dawns that you can’t find the list of attendees. Your awesome dreams and aspirations quickly fly out the window. Let’s reimagine the same situation with a donor management system.  Host an awesome event. Take your awesome attendance sheet. Upload it to your awesome donor management system. Leverage your awesome attendees and collect awesome donations. See how easy that was? With a DMS, you can be confident that pertinent donor information won’t be misplaced. This means you can focus on making the most of your events!

How Fundraising Intelligence Powers Donor Management Systems

Once you have a donor management system, such as a CRM, the next level of awesomeness is… getting results! That means going from data to intelligence. So what is fundraising intelligence?

 Fundraising intelligence is the processes and systems which provide nonprofits with information on the affinity, capacity, and inclination of prospective and current donors. This information is assembled into a prospect’s score which is customized specifically to your organization. Pretty neat, right? 
When you choose a donor management system, you should be able to gain fundraising intelligence that allows you to:

  • Prioritize prospects based on scores and ratings for propensity, affinity, and capacity to give

  • Cross-reference any contact with billions of wealth, biographic, and philanthropic records

  • Score and segment hundreds of records at once with batch scoring right from Salesforce

  • Improve your communication with prospects and donors by understanding their complete profile

  • Generate comprehensive scores for any prospect or donor — all within the contact record

Are you starting to see the possibilities? When your organization can combine the power of fundraising intelligence with a CRM like a donor management system, you can do more with less. 

A Donor Management System Helps You Be Strategic in Fundraising

When past donors, current donors, and even prospective donors’ data all exist in a central location, your organization is able to think and operate strategically. This centralized data lets you segment and sort both potential and current donors in order to leverage them strategically.  Let’s look at this example of an example donor named Julia. 

Julia attended your wine and cheese night last year. Not only did she attend, but she purchased three tickets for her friends. With each ticket costing $100, Julia seems to have the financial capacity and appears to be very generous! Next time you host a wine and cheese night, Julia should be the first to get an invite.  Image about financial capacity to give Without a donor management system tracking this information, you may have lost out on valuable details like Julia’s behaviour and financial capacity. Because it was tracked, however, there is no need to worry about recording attendee information.

 To go even deeper when looking for opportunities, pair a segmentation tool with your DMS.

For example, iWave Insights automatically sorts your database into four distinct segments. Each of these segments will provide you with actionable takeaways specific to your nonprofit organization and fundraising strategy.  Using Insights, your fast-growing nonprofit may find the majority of your database falls under Hidden Gems. These are prospects which have great potential to become major gift donors, as they have the financial capacity and are already giving to other nonprofits, though they are not giving to you…yet! With this information, you will be able to better engage and direct your small-but-mighty development team to make the most of their research and fundraising efforts. 

What’s next?

Salesforce has the world’s #1 CRM, and a complete platform for nonprofits with Nonprofit Cloud. Nonprofit Cloud brings the best CRM for nonprofits to you, too. And by adding in apps for donor management to Salesforce, you can customize your technology to suit your nonprofit. No need to make your processes fit your technology – with Salesforce and fundraising apps, it can be as flexible as you want.  Learn more about fundraising with online courses and other resources from

  • Take the Nonprofit Fundraising trail

  • Learn how to manage contacts, accounts, relationships, and affiliations with the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP)

  • Watch a demo of NPSP

AppExchange partner image iWave is a AppExchange Partner. Find their app, iWave for Salesforce, on the AppExchange.

About the Author

Patrick Bryden

Patrick Bryden helps drive iWave’s target market awareness as well as increase both new customer acquisition and client retention. Prior to joining iWave, Patrick worked in a variety of roles, which included creating pitch decks for Nike and Coca-Cola and starting his own water bottle company. With a strong interest in strategy, creative problem solving and finding efficiencies in everyday processes, Patrick enjoys helping iWave provide nonprofits with the tools to fundraise with confidence. Follow him on LinkedIn.