First steps

In our previous article, we made it clear that your organization will most certainly have at least a rudimentary database. So before you start thinking about how you can swell your database with new contacts, take stock of what you have so far!

What resources do you have that you might not have thought of?

  • Volunteers: leafleting, stallholding, helping out at events, long-term partnerships - any volunteer who has joined your cause can be a valuable contact. Volunteers are already an inner circle, members of your social base, if they can't give their time, they may be happy to donate to your organization.

  • Newsletter subscribers: a very important resource, if you don't have it on your website, make sure you do! Mailing systems offer insertable forms for this purpose. The word "newsletter" is not everyone's cup of tea, so you can use phrases such as "contact us" or "receive important news."

  • Donors: occasional or regular contributors

  • 1% of your donors' details (To find out how to get this, see this article.)

  • Event participants: participants registered for training, workshops, talks and other events

  • Association members

  • Ambassadors of the organization, people with close high reach, opinion leaders who can be contacted

  • Staff and other contacts of the organization: direct contacts, collaborations, contacts accumulated through joint projects and other activities

  • Corporate partners

  • Other contacts of the organization: direct contacts, collaborations, contacts accumulated through joint projects and other activities

It may take some time and effort to organize the various lists, but in the long run it is a good investment, as it may even form the basis of the future support base for the organization.

What can and should be collected?

One of the basic principles of data collection is that you don't collect data "just for the sake of collecting data", you can and should only collect data for a purpose. The question of exactly what data can and should be collected, and for what purposes, is set out in the GDPR Regulation. (For more information on GDPR rules affecting NGOs, see here.) Under the Regulation, you may need to obtain additional consent from the contacts mentioned above to use your data for other purposes than the previous ones.

However, it is very important to always think ahead and allow for data collection and consent. Events should have the option to register online in advance, sign up sheets should be available on site, always ask for name, email address as minimum data to be collected in all contact situations. This forward planning, this new way of thinking is the foundation of database-based fundraising.

We wrote in our previous article about what database building is good for and what purposes it can serve for the organisation, and it is also worth thinking about these, as it is not always necessary to keep track of all the data about everyone.

In general, however, the data that are worth collecting are:

  • Name: this is basic data! It is worth collecting first and last names separately, this will make it easier to personalize messages and organize the data.

  • Email address: also basic data!. Fortunately, people are more willing to provide it.

  • Place of residence: you may wonder why you need this data, but it can also be useful for segmenting programms, making appeals, or even surveying your target audience, or if you want to thank a donation, a 1% tax donation with a small gift or a personal message

  • Phone number: this is one of the most sensitive pieces of information people are reluctant to give out

    • a solution to this is to have the possibility to specify, for example, how often and with what kind of notifications you can be contacted

    • or not making it mandatory, but asking for it after the other details have been provided, because this is where having your phone number helps us

  • Date of birth: this data can also be very useful especially if we want to assess or even increase our current audience, but like the phone number, many people are reluctant to provide it

    • if it is still very important for some reason, we can ask for year of birth only, so that we seem to ask for less data, but we have information that is important for the database

    • or if we need to know roughly what age group we are addressing, we can just ask for the date of birth

This is also worth thinking about because it can help to ensure that data are received in a well-structured and organised format for future data collection. Also, alongside the data we hold on each individual, we may want to add additional notes to help us segment the data according to the different purposes we want to use it for - for example, if we want to filter for large donors, a note on the amount donated, when requesting a new donation, the date of their last donation, etc.

How can this data be collected?

If you've collected everything and found that your organization hasn't been collecting data purposefully or systematically enough, we'll show you some ways to expand your database. Of course, only after you've thought through what data you might need based on your goals and GDPR options as outlined above.

  • Collecting contacts on social networks

Having a presence on social media platforms will help interested parties to find your NGO more easily and learn more about its activities, but social media platforms also provide increasing opportunities for your organization to collect data that is relevant to them. Of course, a prerequisite for this is to have at least a Facebook page, which is still quite popular among social upstarts in this country. Here, one easy and popular tool for collecting contacts is the use of instant forms. The advantage of these forms is that they can be personalized to fit in with your branding, and you don't have to leave the social media platform to fill them in. Also an advantage of this format is that it can be linked to CRM or other email management systems so that contacts are automatically transferred to our system. (For a tutorial video on how to do this, you can search YouTube, for example this one)

And having our own Facebook page and some available budget also allows us to create a lead-generating campaign, where we can attract new visitors to our page who have not yet come across our activities. As with the forms, there is also the possibility of linking with the CRM system. An advertisement promoting the completion of the form will appear on the users' message boards.

  • Community and online events

For a non-profit organization, it is a great advantage to be able to gather data at public social events. For example, you can collect emails from signers of various petitions, participants of your events.

For online events, all participants will probably need to register and use their email address. You should take advantage of this and include these contacts in your database.

However, when collecting data in this way, it is important to remember that every participant who gives you their contact details must be fully informed of the purposes for which you may process their data, so when signing up, don't forget the GDPR issues mentioned above, the consent to data processing policy (which states what the organization can contact you about and how)! Always make sure to include a link to the policy or a brief summary of the policy, as well as an opt-out option for processing your data, next to the forms and sign-up options.

  • Technical tips for contact collection

Web forms are a very simple form of contact collection. There are three types to choose from:

  • the pull-down bar type form is suitable for communicating content similar to a pop-up, but not as "aggressive" as a pop-up, as the latter prevents the customer from continuing to browse the site until the offer window closes. The bar simply appears when the site visitor clicks on it. By default, the form is displayed in the bottom right-hand corner of the page (you can of course set it to the left or center). It is often used, for example, to download an e-book or other brochure.

  • Static forms are most often placed at the bottom of the site or below a blog article, but for organizations we recommend that they are prominently placed on the main page. They are usually used to subscribe to a regular newsletter or to download interesting content "in exchange for an email". Static forms do not pop up and the visitor does not have to click on anything. However, an important tip: it is much better to embed the form of the mailing program into the website and collect the data that way, for automation reasons. In these mailing systems it is very easy to create such a form, and with this solution you will have the data listed immediately and can handle the reply/confirmation in an automated way.

  • the pop-up form automatically pops up on the web based on user behavior and our preferences. Pop-ups can appear either immediately after the page loads, after a few seconds, after viewing several pages, or when the user tries to leave the page. The choice of display is entirely up to us. You may not want it to pop up immediately, but only after they have looked around your site for a while. If you choose this format, you should make sure that you combine it with a static form in mobile view, as pop-ups do not appear on mobile. You should use this type if you want to inform your users about something new (e.g. a publication is published and sent out). However, it is not very popular nowadays as users quickly opt out of it, so we do not recommend it either.

If you need help setting these up, ask your website developer or editor what options are available for your website!

Watch out for this!

Whichever method of data collection you choose, there are a few basic principles that should be followed.

  • GDPR

Privacy is important not only to comply with all legislation, but also to be trustworthy and transparent in the eyes of your followers and supporters. Make sure that any data you collect is done with the consent of the users and think carefully about how you want to collect it.

  • Confirmation and confirmation

Basically, in the mailing system you use, you can configure the system to automatically ask for confirmation or confirmation when someone subscribes and enters their details. This is called double opt in, which is becoming more and more common and can be very useful, as everyone has made a mistake with a letter or entered .hu instead of .com. This very simple step makes it much easier to filter out these mistakes. However, it can also have its drawbacks: the extra link and request can cause some subscribers to unsubscribe, so it's worth considering which risk you'd rather take. A newsletter sign-up might only just catch the interest of a potential supporter, but if a confirmation email escapes their attention, it is possible that our contact will be broken at the beginning, as they are not as consciously waiting for our letter as they are for information on how to proceed after, say, ordering a service.

  • Give something in return!

If it's difficult to make contact or you just want to increase motivation a little, a good way to do this is to offer quality content, such as an e-book, video, quiz, questionnaire or useful guide, that will get them to give you their email address.

Be aware of GDPR so that you can not only give the gift, but also have consent to send a message afterwards :-)

  • Be given a choice

As already mentioned for the phone number, it can be useful to have preference options for users. These choices can relate to what topics they are interested in or how often they would like to receive emails. Based on this information, you can then send them content that they are really interested in, and also avoid them receiving emails too often and getting saturated, or the opposite, too infrequently and forgetting about you. Offering such opportunities is more feasible once you have a well-developed system in place, but be aware that you may want to pay attention to this in the future when tailoring your communication with your audience.

This article is part of our series on database communications, in which we'll take you through all the ins and outs of building and using a database so that you can use it as effectively as possible when fundraising or even recruiting supporters.