Are you respecting the wishes of your donors and prospects by observing their rules or preferences for communicating with them? This can include not phoning them at work, not calling them too late in the evening, or only soliciting them once per year.
Are you making the most of the tools within The Raiser’s Edge (RE) by using the system to exclude some constituents from communications based on their preferences?
Over the years, I have been involved in numerous data cleanup projects and they almost always include cleaning up the solicit code table. In many cases, the table contains bad data due to a conversion, but in some cases, it is due to a lack of understanding of this field.
For that reason, let’s take this opportunity to define the purpose of this table and discuss best practices for using it effectively. Please note, as with most things in RE, there are many ways to accomplish the same result.
What is a solicit code?
A solicit code is a special condition for communicating with a constituent. The condition is often at the request of the donor or prospect, but could also be set by your organization.
For example, the donor may request not to be phoned or sent direct mail. The following is a list of special conditions of the donor:
- Do not mail
- Do not phone
- Do not solicit
- Do not call after 9:00 PM
Conditions may be set by your organization to avoid over solicitation of a donor or ensure that you are targeting the donor when they are most likely to give. The following examples are conditions set by the organization:
- One solicitation annually
- Spring appeal only
- Fall appeal only
- Parent appeal only
Solicit Codes & What to Avoid
Solicit codes can be used to exclude event attendees from regular solicitation letters or only invite them to the event they participated in the previous year.
The following are examples of event-specific conditions:
- Golf invitation only
- Auction invitation only
- Gala invitation only
Solicit codes should NOT track conditions that are repetitive to other fields in the system. The following are examples of ineffective solicit codes:
- Bad Address
- Fall 2012 Appeal Letter
Addressing Solicit Codes & Multiple Variables
Another thing that should be avoided if possible, is creating solicit codes that encompass multiple variables.
For example, a solicit code like “Do not call, email, or send newsletter” complicates their purpose. One of the great things about solicit codes is the ability to apply multiple codes to the same constituent. Therefore, you can have separate solicit codes for calls, emails, and newsletters and apply each as needed to your constituents.
While this may seemingly lead to more solicit codes, I assure you that a few years of creating “personalized” multi-variable solicit codes will do much more to complicate your donor database in the long run.
In The Raiser’s Edge, solicit codes are found on the Bio 1 tab of a constituent record. It’s always best practice to make your customizable solicit codes easy to understand by anyone who may read them now or in the future.
I encourage you to take a step back and review the solicit codes being used by your organization.
- Do they make sense?
- Are any outdated, confusing, or unnecessary?
- If it is time to revisit your solicit codes or do any type of database clean-up, help is available.
The following are some additional general guidelines for good Solicit Codes:
- Codes should be focused on a condition for communicating with the donor
- Concise codes make excluding and querying easier
- Solicit Codes should not track information that should be tracked in other fields, i.e. Deceased, Invalid Address, Appeals, etc.
Solicit Codes & RE’s Mail Module
When solicit codes are used effectively, they enhance the functionality of RE’s Mail module. All tasks within the Mail module contain functionality to exclude records with certain solicit codes; see Tab 3 Filters on any mail task.
It only takes a few clicks to exclude records that should not receive a particular mailing. In addition to tasks in the Mail module, solicit codes are easily queried. Constituents with certain codes can be grouped together and mailed to, reported on, or exported out of RE.
What’s the best number of solicit codes to have?
Another question that often surfaces is determining the right number of solicit codes for a given organization. While this is a fair question, it is difficult to pinpoint a particular range for the right amount of solicit codes because they can depend on lots of variables like the number of events, appeals, or campaigns.
Having said that, my advice is always to limit the number of solicit codes (along with other things) to what is absolutely necessary to be effective. Your queries and reporting are more easily managed with fewer variables but, at the same time, you may not be fully leveraging The Raiser’s Edge if solicit codes are not being used properly.
The bottom line is that effective use of solicit codes in The Raiser’s Edge creates a win-win situation for your organization and your constituents. At the least, you will save time and resources by not making unnecessary or unwelcome solicitations.
More importantly, you’ll gain the trust of your supporters by communicating with them in the manner in which they prefer to engage with your organization!