Mushrooms On The Menu: How Donor Data Morphs Into Trust Reservoirs
We made the reservations the week before, but wanted to check the entree selections one more time. Was the stuffed portobello mushroom still on the menu? The last time we had lunch with them, his wife raved about it. That's what we noted in the couple's file. If it's not on the menu, we could call ahead and make a special request.
They would be delighted to know we remembered.
He was an engineer who founded his own company. Now retired, he had recently picked up the hobby of baking biscuits for breakfast. She was a garden club enthusiast and a connoisseur of vegetarian cuisine. They were generous supporters of several veterinary science initiatives at a prestigious university. And they were also generous supporters of our nonprofit.
Our rapport with the couple had evolved over time. As they disclosed more information about themselves, we knew it was another deposit in the trust reservoir between them and our mission. After each lunch visit, email correspondence or phone conversation, our development team took extra care to integrate any new information gleaned into the couple's constituency files. Even down to the details regarding their preferences for dining.
We stewarded these details as a sacred trust. Because this information was important to them, it was important to us. Important for us to remember, to take notice, to keep updated on their interests. To learn more about what led them to enjoy their hobbies and rally around their causes.
In the process of filling the trust reservoir, it was evident that some of their affinities and aspirations matched the aims of our organization. Issues of mutual concern eventually led to meaningful funding partnerships blessing our mission in multiplied ways. But even where there was no evident match, we still respected the details that defined the sensibilities of this couple.
Visits with them were always well-rounded. Part business focused on their support of our nonprofit's projects and programs. Part pleasure of a continuing and ongoing conversation. About biscuit recipes, garden club excursions, vegetarian dishes and veterinary science. With each new and nuanced exchange, another layer of data was deposited in the trust reservoir.
Donor data as a trust reservoir expands the spectrum of record keeping, from generating reports on giving totals to documenting the motives of a donor's participation. From monitoring trends to mining the value of a sustained donor relationship. From measuring philanthropic returns and results to mapping the contours of a deepening and retained trust.
When all is said and done, trust is the greatest deposit donors make in a nonprofit. Trust is inherent in every financial gift they make. In every hour they spend volunteering. In every conversation or idea they share. In every detail they disclose about what inspires and informs their philosophy of life. A trust like this deserves a system that manages the multiple dimensions of donor data with integrity and intentionality. One that archives and assimilates these multiple aspects for the greater good.
That's why, over the years, our donor data system morphed in multi-faceted ways. Numbers, names and nicknames were notated, filed and kept along with information outlining donors' giving histories, their hobbies, honors awarded, and held beliefs.
These were reservoirs brimming with glorious data to decipher, translate and interpret. With seemingly incidental details waiting to be woven together. Information, insight and intuition coalescing on purpose. Available to steer that next idea-exchange of substance and consequence. Aligning to indicate the more favorable, most likely moment to broach and explore that next funding opportunity.
Here was a donor data system designed to account for the reasons---and to accommodate the rhythms---behind our rapport with this couple. Records yielding a testimony of their investment of time, talent and treasure in our mission. Records with room to catalogue the latest biscuit recipe discussed. To document a philanthropic venture in advancing veterinary science, at that prestigious university. Reminders in the file that, whenever we met them for lunch, there should always be a stuffed portobello mushroom on the menu.
Reminders of the benefits, the blessings of a filled trust reservoir.