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Safeguarding Donor Data in the Nonprofit Donor Database

Accurate donor data is a critical component of any fundraising effort. Nonprofits need data to find donors who believe in their causes and may support them based on various factors.

Accurate donor data can help any nonprofit reach its fundraising goals.

Prospect research can help fundraisers segment donors for different engagement opportunities and specific campaigns. Donor data helps go beyond phone calls and sending emails to the donor base. It can help identify donors who may give a major gift or whose companies offer matching gifts.

Donors also must be able to trust the nonprofits they support will keep their information secure. Trust is an essential element of donor relationships.

Nonprofits must establish clear rules on what donor information to store and who can access it before collecting data for their database. Policies should also reflect good data hygiene practices.

Clean data will positively impact fundraising campaigns from direct mail to capital campaigns. Clean donor data can help build relationships with donors, improve decision-making, increase efficiency, and save time and money. Having information can help establish personal connections with donors and move prospective donors to make their first gift.

Every team member, from database administrators to board members, must understand the importance of safeguarding donor data. Create a document of frequently asked questions about donor data your team can refer to.

What data should nonprofits store in the donor database?

Nonprofit organizations need donors’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses to raise money successfully. It is essential to keep track of information like gifts given, gift amount, campaign or fund, and date given.

Past gift information can be used with tools such as AskGenius to set personalized ask strings for future direct mail appeals or to suggest gift amounts for major gift officers. This information can maximize fundraising efforts.

Some nonprofits may conduct prospect research and wealth screening to focus efforts on major donor fundraising. This may include data points and wealth markers, such as who owns real estate. Carefully consider which team members can access this personal information and who can help collect data.

Beyond demographic information in donor profiles and gift history, nonprofit organizations may choose to keep data such as events attended information and other actions for each donor. Staff who help with communication and marketing strategies may want to track email open rates.

Other useful information is who gives online donations versus by check, donor-advised fund, or gift of stock.

Fundraising teams should work together to determine what donor data needs to be collected, how it will be used, who has access to it, how to ensure data hygiene, and how to secure data. Consider whether data is stored only electronically or if physical files or items like response cards need to be kept in a locked area.

Consider limiting administrator privileges in the donor database to the database administrator and one additional staff member. Restrict permissions based on job role and pay special attention to sensitive information.

Understand the Security Measures of Companies You Partner With

Establishing good data hygiene and donor data security practices for your organization is an excellent first step. Fundraisers, executive directors, and board members should also understand the security measures and data compliance of companies they contract with.

When working with any partner who has access to donor data, carefully read and understand their security statement and data storage policies. AskGenius’ security statement clearly outlines their security practices to clients and offers a way to contact them with questions.

Include donor privacy as an educational topic at the board level, and consider sharing items like the AFP Donor Bill of Rights and Code of Ethics with board members and staff. Include donor information security in board expectations and conflict of interest paperwork and review these policies yearly.

How to Collect Donor Data

Good security practices must also consider how donor data is collected. Remember to think about security offline, too, like who handles mail and pledge cards, not just online security.

For the ultimate guide to pledge cards and what data should be collected, visit The Ultimate Guide To Fundraising Pledge Cards.

If your organization works in healthcare you may have additional security considerations as it relates to HIPAA.

The CRM customer relationship management software you choose should provide education and resources on their security measures. Blackbaud offers webinars on this topic, like one presented by Bill Connors, for users of Raiser’s Edge and Raiser’s Edge NXT. Connors states, “The #1 responsibility of a database manager is security.”

Learn More

For additional insights into simplifying donor data management, check out Nonprofit Donor Database Management: How to Simplify Tasks ( For regular fundraising insights and resources delivered to your inbox, sign up for the AskGenius newsletter today.

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