The Importance of Good Note Taking

About ten years ago, I worked as a customer service representative for a company that prided itself on the stellar service we provided our clientele.  Whenever the customer placed an order, the information was automatically was entered, but every time a customer called in to complain, to ask about the specifications of items that we sold, or to check on the status of an order, we were required to note the conversation in the customer’s account.  This information was very important to record because if there was an issue in the future, we could go back to the records and confirm that the individual was informed whether the item would arrive on time or would fit correctly, and that would determine whether the company would take responsibility for paying for the return of the item sold, or if the customer should be held responsible for paying the shipping fees for the return.  It was a way to protect the company interests and to live up to promises made to the customer.  If a promise that was out of the ordinary was made by another representative, it could be confirmed by checking the notes.

Detailed notes are just as important when working in the development department of a nonprofit organization.  Every contact made with a donor should be recorded in the organization’s donor database, whether it is recording a donor’s gift, answering a donor’s question, or recording information collected when researching a donor online or in person.  In my opinion, the more detailed information you collect the better off your organization will be.  Detailed notes can help determine the best strategy when trying to move your donor to a higher level of giving or getting them to make a planned gift to your organization.  Information kept in the database can help you determine the proper size of gift you will ask your donor for.

Accurate information should be added by anyone with the authority to work on the database.  Because donor information is proprietary, only trusted staff should be entering the necessary information.  Depending on the size of the department, these people should include the Development Director, any assistants, Major Gifts Managers, Planned Giving Managers, and even the Executive Managers.  All should be responsible for the integrity of the data entered and need to be responsible for keeping that information safe.

The accuracy of the information is vital.  Make sure you have the correct spelling your donors’ names.  Double check the addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.  Find out how the donors want to be contacted and how often they want to hear from your organization.  Nothing turns off a donor like spelling their name wrong or sending them information too often if they prefer to be contacted on a quarterly basis.  If it is important to the donor, then it must be important to your organization.

I cannot stress how important accurate notes and safe storage of personal information is to your fundraising department.  It can help your relationship with your donors grow to greater gifts, or it can sour the relationship with your donors causing you to lose potential support. Regardless of the donor database you use, keep accurate and detailed notes.


About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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