Having worked or volunteered in small development shops or even small research shops we know that we carry many hats. It is hard to find a non-profit professional that does multi-task on many levels. Tracking important data is one of those key functions that all non-profits should be doing at some level. I believe there are certain questions you need to ask yourself before beginning.
What is the realistic time that I or we can spend on tracking with all of our other duties? Determining the amount time you can devote to this is essential and will keep you from being overwhelmed. I think it is important especially for small colleges and small development departments on minimizing that overwhelming feeling. Once that has been determined, ask yourselves who will be participating and what responsibilities lay with each participant?
Now the tough questions begin… For those who are already tracking data, ask yourselves what is this data providing me? Is it key information that is furthering our staff in the fundraising cycle? Are we simply tracking it because we have always tracked it? Is it being used in an effective matter? If your answer to any of these questions is no, then reconsider the time and effort that is being done to track that specific data. Be choosey on what you are tracking. For those who are in the infant stages of tracking internal data on your alums and prospects, start asking yourselves what is a factor of increased affinity to our school? For some schools it may be reunion. If you have not been tracking reunion then start. In about 5 years time you are well on your way to gathering great data on your alums who attend. What are the other factors that either represent a sign of affinity or affluence that provides assistance in meeting your friend-raising and fundraising goals?
Some other possible variables other than reunion could be where students lived while on campus – this can help in fundraising for particular upgrades for dorms. Season ticket holders for athletics, and the performing arts will help define affinity for not only alums but friends of the school. Gala events, extracurricular activities of students and service on boards and committees are all possible items you may want to track. Once again in closing, only track those items that will help further your fundraising causes and it is never too late to start!