I’ve been helping nonprofits build databases for over a year now. I’ve worked with about 10 orgs of various sizes–the largest being about 20 staff. A big part of my work is mapping out how these groups do fund development. Tracking donors, members, grants, and payments is a big part of what all nonprofits do. I sit down with each org and talk about how they raise money, so that I can understand the work in enough detail to be sure the database I build will support them in that work.

Turns out, these groups raise money in pretty similar ways. What I’d like to share today is some process maps that describe donor management at these orgs. We’ll start with two maps that focus on taking a new donor prospect through the ask process. There are many other processes that go into managing donors, but we’ll start here.

These process maps aren’t about technology at all–they’re about work and how it gets done. We’re creating a snapshot of how orgs work, and who does that work. It’s not about Salesforce.com, or even about databases. All this work could be supported by post it notes and phone calls. Taking the technology out of the picture gets us to focus on the work, which is the real point.

OK, now some vocabulary about process maps. Circle is the starting point, rectangles are things that happen, diamonds are where decisions need to be made, rectangles with a wavy bottom are documents that fit into the process, and the last shape on this first page is a link to another page. Arrows show you the direction of the flow, which is generally left to right.

Activities are put in a “lane” for the person who is responsible for that work. On these maps you’ll see lanes for Donor Management and Solicitor–if things are happening in their lanes, those folks are the ones doing that work.

So let’s look at our first process map:


Fig 1. Process map taking a new donor prospect through the steps necessary to move them to an ask for money (PDF)

This first map (Fig. 1) starts with a new donor prospect dropping in our lap. We then bring in an outside solicitor (i.e. board member) if that makes sense. Some initial communications brief the prospect as much as necessary, leaning on key collateral that already exists. We can have as many informational touches as necessary before we hit the end of this map and head off to the ask, which is on the next page.


Fig. 2. Process map taking a new donor prospect through the ask process, getting them to a yes/no decision (PDF)

We start where we come in from the previous page. You’ll see that most of the activities in the ask process are in the center lane, which is whomever is leading the donation, either donor management staff or a solicitor. Sometimes the ask occurred early on (like if the prospect is the ED’s sister) otherwise we create a team of folks for the ask meeting, brief them, have the meeting, and thank the prospect. Then we act on the donation if they’ve pledged by recording it and looking into corporate matching opportunities. If they didn’t commit, did they say no or do they just need more info? We can have more meetings to get to a yes or a no. Then we’re done!

Checks sometimes are written at the ask meeting, but sometimes not. The next process in the flow deals with handling donations as they come in. I’ll post that process in the future and take us through processing donations and thanking the donors.

The rest of the series: