CRM database management – for Alumni activities

Annie Manning

Annie Manning is a qualified NLP Life Skills Coach and Counsellor including; spiritual healing, bereavement and cognitive behaviour therapies. Annie fully values the importance of a student’s wellbeing, positive intervention and uses these additional communication skills to help coach tutors, parents and students. She runs a blog with tips on mindfulness, avoiding exam stress and promoting support charities in mental health, bereavement and anti-bullying.

She is an experienced freelance report writer, marketing and quality consultant working within Commercial and IT markets, Health, Education and NFP Sectors. Her quality projects have included speaking with schools, universities and researching protocol and purchasing patterns within the LEA nationally. As a marketing manager within IT she dealt with, schools and IDPE members on a daily basis for many years.

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Value your database

Proper planning and management of any fundraising activity will culminate in better results and managing your alumni database is no exception. What many schools often fail to recognise is that their Database is a vital business tool and it is also a core alumni fundraising asset. Regular maintenance will enable you to ensure that the correct data is retained and all relevant history and information to your supporters is easily accessible to your staff.

Your alumni database is also the driver for any PR or marketing campaign. Consider what actions are required to be carried out by various personnel which need to be taken into account. Ask yourself have I incorporated their role into my follow-up procedures? However, if you have the right IT hardware and software many of these administrative dilemmas can be eliminated, or, at the very least, be managed efficiently.

Getting to know your supporters

It is imperative for schools to maintain support of their donors by opening communication lines and maintaining regular contact. For school business managers, or, development directors (as they are often known) - raising awareness and increasing profile is just as important as the fundraising aspects of their every day tasks.

By maintaining contact on a regular basis you will:

Keep it cleansed
Make new contacts
Retain existing support
Obtain repeat support

Suppliers and Software

Identify your needs to match your budget

In identifying a system please don’t forget to involve all the users at your school and if appropriate have an IT specification drawn up to discuss those needs with suppliers. I.e. does it need to integrate with your website? If you are not sure which one to opt for ask around, go on recommendation from a school or organisation with similar requirements to that of your own or speak to an independent consultant.

It is not necessarily the case whereby investing in the most expensive or sophisticated system that you will achieve best results. There are various software systems on the market which are designed ‘to grow as your organisation grows’. Many offer maximum functionality for a minimum cost with tailor made training to suit all budgets and requirements. Identify an alumni product that encompasses complete fundraising solution, including donor care/relationship management, donation processing, gift aid, legacy administration, pre-tax payroll giving, in-depth marketing analysis and of course membership management.


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Selecting the right supplier and product

Invite more than one supplier to visit your school and to give a demonstration of their product – ideally three and ensure each one knows that you are doing so. Demonstrations should be free as part of their wanting to secure your school’s business. Whilst you don’t need to necessarily reveal the names of their competitors they will usually have a rough idea.

Maybe visit a technology exhibition and have demonstrations on stand with several suppliers before writing your tender document or IT specification and avoid possibly making the wrong decision for your school.

Ensure that you choose a supplier that will give you proper support via a competent helpdesk. Opt for the one that will listen to your evolving needs and one which takes their own product development seriously. Ask your suppliers to put you in touch with schools that are using their products. Ask for local reference sites and if possible see if they will organise a visit to see it up and running in action.

Maybe suggest that your own school could become a case study and see how you can negotiate your financial package.

Finally, don’t opt for the cheapest solution either and always think long term.

Database Software & Training

Staff must be able to record, update and utilise your database and choosing the right database software is as important as choosing the right staff. If you have the right staff then you owe it to them to provide the right type of marketing tool to enable them to use their time cost effectively –whether paid or volunteered both have a high value with the latter, unfortunately, often being taken for granted and left off the balance sheet.

Installation of a software package which will ‘deliver a real fundraising advantage from day one’ is a high priority but so is the training of your staff to drive it to full capacity.

Many schools think short term and fall short by not looking at the bigger picture. Think twice before re-investing in new software - train new or replacement staff to drive the system which you have invested in and please don’t waste your original investment.

Remember - invest in staff and the school’s profits will speak for themselves and with many schools achieving academy status this is vital.

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