This post was originally published on our sister site, Third Sector Today

Jamey Heinze, Chief Marketing Officer at CDS Globalrecently spoke at the 2014 Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference on the topic of how nonprofits can utilize certain marketing techniques more effectively than for-profits can. The full discussion can be found in a brand new white paper: “The Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Marketing Approach: Ten Techniques Your Organization Should Consider.”

In this blog post, Jamey talks about technique number 5 – collecting “too much” data on your constituents. Read about the other techniques here.

I realize that for-profits have taken quite a bit of flack lately for their unfettered tracking of all us consumers in this era of Big Data. We’ve constantly got to think about getting “cookies dropped on our machines” and geolocation on our mobile phones. And don’t even get started on the bombshell that Edward Snowden dropped about what the NSA is tracking.

That said, I’m definitely not suggesting that nonprofits stalk prospective donors and pop-up retargeted advertisements in every internet location they visit. What I am advocating is collecting, aggregating and using all of the data you currently have about your existing donors so that you can build and strengthen legitimate relationships. Personalization is crucial, and frankly, according to past SmartMoney CEO Andrew Siebert, results in communications with 3x higher conversion rates.

The first step is looking at all of the data sources that your organization has about your donors. And typically in a sizable nonprofit organization, there are several. Ranging from online donations, to offline donations, to advocacy databases, to customer care data, to eCommerce information and membership data, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to tie it all together, get it normalized, get it de-duped and get it into your CRM. Not even considering figuring out how to glean meaningful and actionable insights from the aggregated information. But you need to try.

In the spirit of taking baby steps, think about the data you should be capturing online. It’s easy to ask people for feedback in the form of free text fields or checkboxes or drop downs. It’s easy to see what other contributions they’d be willing to make and easy to ask them to provide additional information to their own profile/record. You can also make it easy for them to “share” your site with their friends. All of this data should be captured and fed back to your CRM. And the same goes with offline information that comes back on pledge forms and response cards. People can not only be asked to check boxes and provide information, but they often write in, by hand, additional bits of key information like preferences and address changes. All of this should be captured. In fact, there’s precedence of nonprofits getting in trouble when donations have not been used the way the donors specified, so you really need to be capturing (and paying attention to) this info. Overall, unlike with most for-profit relationships, your donors want to be involved with you and your cause. When you learn about them and offer personalized opportunities to engage, you simply make the entire process easier.

As an example, Operation Smile Canada recently took a step towards incorporating these best practices by centralizing their offline donations processing and data capture, as well as their telephone donor services center. The secret sauce is how they regularly aggregate all of the offline donations data and telephone generated customer care information, normalize, dedupe and then re-upload to Operation Smile Canada’s Raiser’s EdgeTM CRM. As a result, they have much closer to a 360 degree view of their donors and the ability to maintain and grow relationships.

About the Author: Jamey Heinze, Chief Marketing Officer at CDS Global. You can follow Jamey on Twitter @jameyheinze