Importance of Data in Succession Planning

Thursday, March 7, 2019

So you went through the interview process and got the job of your dreams! You’re going to be working at a nonprofit where you have a deep connection with the mission and will be surrounded by other like-minded colleagues. You walk in on your first day and think to yourself, where do I start? You ask your colleague for a login to your database may receive one of the following answers:

  • What database?
  • Do you mean QuickBooks, Constant Contact, EventBrite and SignUpGenius?
  • Haha! Here is a zip drive of all of our Excel Sheets.
  • Here you go, but a) no one has used it in years or b) it’s a mess.
  • Here you go—and here is our policy guide on how we enter all of the data in order to keep it pristine.

Sound familiar?

Your database is your organization’s history book. It’s the place where all of your institutional knowledge is stored and can be passed down from one colleague to the next. However, it’s only valuable when used properly.

Here are two facts we need to accept. 1) No one expects you to remember every donation and every conversation you’ve ever had with a donor/member/volunteer. 2) You will most likely not be in the same position at your organization in 50 years. Maybe not even 10. Do you think your organization will still be thriving at that time, so what you’re doing today will be important?

The data you track today will impact your organization tomorrow.

So what kind of data is essential for a smooth transition?

  • Up to date contact information and at least one way of contacting your constituents. There is no point of having a constituent in your records if you cannot reach them.
  • Complete donation information – including donor name, donation date, donation amount, gift type and direction.
  • Touchpoints – records of conversations you’ve had with your major gift prospects to see how their relationships with your organization have evolved over time. It would be very helpful to know that a donor refused to support a certain initiative when you go to make your first ask. Or, rather than ask for a meeting too early, it would be nice to have a record that the donor requested follow-up for a specific time of year. Proving you’ve done your homework and come prepared with that history shows them your respect.
  • Mailing preferences.
  • Pledge balances.
  • Membership date ranges.

And what is nice to have?

  • Event and volunteer participation.
  • Relationships – how different constituents are connected to one another.
  • Task lists for events, volunteer opportunities or grants. Succession planning does not just apply to fundraisers.

Making these different data points as specific as possible, and using as many different tags as possible, allows you to run reports more easily. It also allows your successor to dive right into the data and start making appointments or strategies as soon as possible.

But Samantha, you say, I don’t have TIME to enter all of this data! I’m only one person! If you are able to delegate to anyone else, I would recommend handing off anything besides the touchpoints. Those are best from your point of view and best completed immediately after your meeting. Then, think back to when you walked into that dream job on your first day—what kind of resources do you wish you had?


Written by Samantha Shirley, Director of Business Development