Donor Database Management: 3 Tools Data Managers Should Know About

Apr 25, 2018

Data is justifiably a hot topic for nonprofit organizations, especially if they don’t have the right donor database management tools to help make sense of their data. 

Over the last decade, nonprofits have been presented with the challenge of demonstrating results to their donors, foundations, and government agencies.

The proper collection and analysis of data about constituents, donors, and the organization as a whole, can help prove the need to continue fundraising in order to further the organization’s mission. But, with so many sources collecting donor data, it can be difficult to paint a clear picture of what’s working, what’s not, who is a constituent and who is not.

No matter who has been designated data manager at your nonprofit, the donor database is one of the most valuable data sets to your organization. While this is still where these staff members should be most concerned in their daily duties, there are several tools for donor database management that these individuals should become extremely familiar with to get a better handle on data that may live in other places or require some manipulation to glean true insights.


While there are new tools for data managers launching all the time, the best tools are the ones that have been around for some time and still provide amazing utility. There’s a reason why Excel is ubiquitous with businesses and organizations the world over, but it’s easy to overlook just how useful some of its core features can be.  

The VLOOKUP is probably one of the best parts of Excel when it comes to combining data from multiple worksheets and documents. This function performs a vertical lookup by searching for a value in the first column of a table and returning the value in the same row.

VLOOKUP is afantastic tool for nonprofit database managers.

For this to work, there needs to be a commonality of the same value, or index, present in both tables. For example, if you are provided two spreadsheets – one with a list of donor last names and addresses, and another with a list of donor IDs and last names, VLOOKUP can be used to merge the donor ID into the spreadsheet that contains the donor names and addresses.

As many nonprofits continue to use a variety of applications and programs to house their donor data, VLOOKUP becomes a useful tool to help bridge information from multiple systems in the realm of donor database management.

2. Pivot Reports

Excel proves its value again in the form of pivot tables as a useful skill your team will want to improve upon to get a better grasp of your data. The pivot report is another function in Excel that allows you to reorganize and summarize selected columns and rows of data in a spreadsheet or database table to obtain the desired report.

These reports are different from pivot tables in that a table doesn’t actually change the spreadsheet or database itself. Oftentimes, built-in data functions within your fundraising database don’t summarize data the way you need it to. Exporting the data to Excel and running a pivot report is a great way to do summations and analysis outside of your nonprofit fundraising database.

Pivot reports are another way nonprofits can see their data more efficiently.

Pivot reports are also a fantastic way to compare results of reports that are built into the database itself. Looking at data more than one way ensures your output and results are accurate or even provide new insights you would not have gleaned otherwise.   

3. Microsoft Access

Although this exists outside of Excel, Microsoft Access is another powerful tool that can be used to summarize data. Microsoft Access is a pseudo-relational database engine that is part of the Microsoft Office suite of applications. As a database, Access was built to support most database features, such as referential integrity, row-level locking and multi-user support with up to 255 concurrent user connections.

While this is a great tool to summarize data, there are a couple of things Access does quite well. For example, if the data is extracted from your nonprofit database in a way that cannot be used, say to import, for example, the data can be reconfigured in Access using the query function.

Microsoft Access is a powerful database engine which nonprofits can use in managing their data.

To demonstrate this, let’s say that you have a list of soft credits which are attributed to certain donors in just one Raiser’s Edge database, but they need to be imported into another Raiser’s Edge database. The original file lists one donation per row in Excel, and contained many columns that listed Constituent IDs of donors and amounts for which those donors were to be soft credited.

In order to import, the file needs to contain one row per soft credit recipient. By importing the Excel file into Access, querying the data should result in one row per soft credit recipient, with one column each for Donor ID, Gift ID, and Soft Credit Amount.

Just imagine trying to achieve a similar feat with Excel alone, so Microsoft Access should most definitely be on your radar if it isn’t already.     

Maximize Impact with Better Donor Database Management

Although there are many more tools to assist data managers in accessing and analyzing their data, VLOOKUP, pivot reports and Microsoft Access represent just a few to get you started. Combine these donor database management tools with your current technology stack to maximize data management efficiency for your organization. The more time you save, the more time you can spend uncovering invaluable insights within your donor data.

Omatic Software
Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.