Nonprofits and Data

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This group is for those interested in learning and sharing about all things data-related for nonprofits. The Nonprofits and Data group is for people using data to serve a mission, either directly or by improving nonprofits and the nonprofit sector. That includes everything from collecting data and managing databases to analytics, data visualization and data mining. Here are some examples of topics we discuss: using data to improve organizational effectiveness, measuring impact, using data for storytelling, tools for data management and analysis, figuring out the “right” data to collect, and learning skills to help us use data better.

Categorizing Action Records in a Database

  • 1.  Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 27 days ago
    Does anyone have an "Action Type" list or hierarchy that they're pretty pleased with or does anyone know of any best practice or other sharing type publications for this kind of thing? My particular use case is for fundraising (tracking the actions of staff with donors and prospective donors), but since I can't find anything, if there are other Action Type/Category lists published somewhere, I'd take that too.

    We're trying to clean up and incredibly messy Action Type list and I'm not finding any other models or best practices online to refer to. Thanks!

    Mike

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    Mike Fischer
    Director of Philanthropy Operations
    The Trust for Public Land
    San Francisco, CA
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    Tech Accelerate


  • 2.  RE: Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 26 days ago
    Hi Mike, 

    I can't point you to a list, but share with you our very simple action type table (we are an RE shop) that has worked well for us.

    Cultivation
    Qualification
    Pre-Visit
    Solicitation
    Stewardship




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  • 3.  RE: Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 26 days ago
    Are you looking for something to categorize the actions eg call vs letter vs meeting, etc. ? Or are you looking for a stewardship matrix that shows different stewardship actions and gift benefits so different levels of giving?

    My main advice in the of decluttering the DB is to connect the DB tracking capabilities to the stewardship plan as closely as possible.

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
    ------------------------------

    Tech Accelerate


  • 4.  RE: Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 26 days ago
    Thank you both, Dan and Isaac.

    Here's what I'm at so far:
    Category Action Type Substantive?
    General Reminder N
    General Report - Due/Sent Y
    Communication Communication Sent - Phone/Email/Text/Mail (no response) N
    Communication Communication Exchanged - Phone/Email/Text/Mail Y
    Visit Brief Interaction/Greeting/Event Visit N
    Visit Visit - Qualification Y
    Visit Visit - Cultivation/Stewardship Y
    Solicitation Prospect Plan/Strategy N
    Solicitation Solicitation - Due/Sent Y
    Solicitation Solicitation - In Person Y
    General Miscellaneous Action N

    We do the "Report - Due/Sent" and "Solicitation - Due/Sent" that way because we can put in an action dated in the future and show it as 'not completed' which infers, 'report due' and then once it's marked as a completed action that infers 'report sent'.

    I'm not thrilled with the language "Communication Sent - Phone/Email/Text/Mail" and it's 'exchanged' counterpart so we're still trying to come up with something more elegant there.

    Mike

    ------------------------------
    Mike Fischer
    Director of Philanthropy Operations
    The Trust for Public Land
    San Francisco, CA
    ------------------------------

    Tech Accelerate


  • 5.  RE: Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 26 days ago
    Mike, it seems like part of what you're struggling with is the elasticity between tasks, milestones, and stages of engagement. How you track will depend on your size and scale, your management style, and more, but basically, here's how I advise clients to think:

    If you're trying to make sure that work gets done on time, you want to track tasks. Think about it like a ticketing system at a help desk. Tasks are created in response to certain triggers, and are routed and assigned, etc. Tasks are cataloged by the type of action someone needs to take: make a call, send an email, etc.

    If you're trying to move prospects through an engagement and stewardship funnel, you need to have a clear delineation of when to move someone to the next stage, and you need to have appropriate statuses so that you know when to give up on a prospect, or when you've closed a gift and are entering a cool-down cycle.

    I'm also concerned about labeling moves as substantive or not on a programmatic basis. It sends a negative message about those activities, even though many of them are crucial.

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
    ------------------------------

    Tech Accelerate


  • 6.  RE: Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 26 days ago
    We have a system more like what Isaac is referring to, which distinguishes between tasks and stages of engagement.

    We use Salesforce Classic (we're not using the Nonprofit Success Pack yet), and don't track as intensively as what you're describing, but my department is working towards improving our tracking systems for major donors now.

    We use fields like "Donor relationship Stage" (Prospect, Cultivate, Solicit, Steward, Unlikely, Declined) as well as Donor Prospect Level (Low, Medium, High, Ultra) in our donor information/ donor prospecting section of a contact record.
    Activities are simple Call/ Email/ 1:1 meeting/ Event invite, and each activity can be linked with both a contact and a fundraising record.
    Reports are tracked on the fundraising record only, and we use a date field for "report due".

    I'm curious how your team analyzes the activities completed for KPI/ goal tracking. Is the goal to get a certain mix of activities completed in a specific timeframe? (e.g. the rule of thumb that it takes 7 touches to get from intro --> solicitation)

    ~Leslie

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    Leslie Proudfoot
    Philanthropy Operations Coordinator
    GRID Alternatives
    Oakland, CA
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    Tech Accelerate


  • 7.  RE: Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 26 days ago
    Thanks again, Isaac, and thanks Leslie,

    We're using a fundraising CRM (ClearView) so we have a module/specific object types for tracking 'proposals' or 'opportunities' and those records have the stages of qualification/cultivation/solicitation/stewardship that y'all were referring to and those records are how we track and report on where a prospect/donor is on the continuum.

    Actions, then, are how we record a wide variety of things that might take place with a donor. Some that correspond to those donor life-cycle stages and some that do not. Very much appreciate your thoughts, Isaac, but I'm not trying to solve the 'how' do I track and report as much as I'm trying to think about all the types of activities and determine which are worthy of getting their own 'type' and which should be aggregated under a broadly encompassing 'type'. So, again, not trying to solve data architecture issues here, which I think would be hard to do in a forum, as much as see if others had a refined list they'd share that would help me calibrate my ideas. (I'm coming from a list of over 300 action types. An action record requires a 'type' to be selected. So, obviously bad data management/user-experience design to suggest that a tier 1 end-user should know which type to choose from a list of 300 every time they just want to copy an email they sent to a donor into the CRM.)

    Appreciate the thoughts on whether a category should be 'written off' in whole as not-substantive. The perspective is reasonable. But, functionally, it's less about 'judging' or disparaging a kind of action and more about helping categorize and 'count' things that are known to have a notably larger impact on moving a donor closer to a gift. We aren't saying the other stuff isn't important. It's still recorded and counted. But there is a ton on less-substantive actions and a few very substantive actions so it's useful to benchmark the substantive stuff and report on it separately.

    Leslie, as to your last, excellent, question - here's a sample model that I've seen used in widely regarded major gift fundraising:
    Position Portfolio Size # of Visits Per Month # of Solicitations Per Month Closure
    Principal Gift Officers
    50 5 1.5 75%
    Experienced Major Gift Officer (2+ Yrs. in Position)
    85 15 2 40%
    Less Experienced Major Gift Officer (<2 Yrs. in Position)
    75 12 1.5 25%

    We've adapted this model a little further to address our own position names and seniority, etc. but you get the idea. Does that speak to your question? This sort of speaks to the substantive thing too. So, I 'ran into' and 'greeted' ten donors at the recent cocktail reception - those are 'non-substantive' visits and therefore not counted towards the '# of visits per month' benchmark in this table above. Not that the greetings aren't valuable. But getting to lunch or coffee or a meeting in a donors house, or a personal hike with them, etc. is generally vastly more valuable at moving the relationship forward then the meet/greet at an event. So, we track and report and 'value' both - but with a weighing that helps us keep focused on the kind of activity that we know actually moves the needle on 'enhancing relationships' which 'enhances revenue'.

    Thanks again to you both,

    Mike

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    Mike Fischer
    Director of Philanthropy Operations
    The Trust for Public Land
    San Francisco, CA
    ------------------------------

    Tech Accelerate


  • 8.  RE: Categorizing Action Records in a Database

    Posted 25 days ago
    Mike, you've added a lot of helpful color and detail to clarify your issues. Can I ask one more question? What's the goal, from a reporting perspective, of the types of contacts? You can readily grab a list of contact types from the base configuration and documentation of most CRMs. But when you indicated that there were 300 options you were trying to combine, it made me wonder about what level of specific really matters to your organization. 



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