[VIDEO] Retaining Your Donors: How to Use eTapestry for Annual Giving

Category: Best Practices

We all know it’s supposed to be easier to renew an existing donor than to acquire a new one. But does it feel that way for you? If you diligently enter new accounts and gifts in eTapestry, your database is packed full of data that can help you to identify lapsed donors and maintain a strong donor base. But what tools and features should you be using and where do you start?

If you missed the live version of this webinar, you can watch the recorded version or read the webinar transcript below. Learn how to report on your lapsed donors and take action to sustain year-over-year giving.



Webinar transcript (not including Q&A):

ALLY: Welcome to today’s webinar on eTapestry Donor Retention tools!

My name is Ally and I am an eTapestry consultant with Sidekick Solutions. We’re an independent consulting company that makes eTapestry easier to use and more effective for organizations of all sizes. I’m here with my colleague, Jeff Haguewood, Owner and Founder of Sidekick Solutions. You want to say hi, Jeff?

JEFF: Hey everyone! Welcome and thanks for joining today. We’re excited to be able to share some of our expertise with you on the best ways to use eTapestry for fundraising. There are plenty of ways you can use eTapestry to make more strategic decisions and save resources when renewing donors, and we’re excited to share our favorites with you today.

ALLY: Jeff’s going to stick around and make sure we address all your questions today. We’ll be wrapping up a few minutes early and taking any questions you have at the end of the presentation.

I’m connecting with you all today from Seattle, WA, where I live, and work remotely with organizations that are looking to improve how they use their eTapestry database.

In today’s webinar, we will discuss the top eTapestry features and tools you can use to identify and renew your lapsed donors.

Specifically, we will cover the top tools to:

  • Identify lapsed donors that need follow-up
  • Send renewal reminders and targeted appeals
  • Collect donations online while tracking the success of your appeals
  • Report on renewal progress and benchmark renewal rates

So, how can eTapestry help you retain your donors?

If you’re looking to improve your donor retention, there are many eTapestry features and tools that can help you focus your fundraising efforts for better results.

Today we will explore how you can use eTapestry’s core features to inform, manage, and implement your fundraising strategy to retain your donors.

We’ll discuss the best ways to use….

  • Queries: to segment your data into lapsed donor lists;
  • Reports: to track progress toward your renewal goals for the year and to export data to take action;
  • Communication Templates: to send personalized renewal reminders to your donors with letter or email templates; and,
  • DIY Forms: to direct donors to make gifts more easily online, while tracking key details that help you make smarter decisions on how you go about renewing your donors in the future.

The first step toward improving donor retention is knowing where to focus your efforts.

You want to get started by using eTapestry queries and reports to identify and assess next steps with your lapsed donors.

Every eTapestry database comes out of the box with a set of standard LYBUNT & SYBUNT queries that you can use to report on your current, prior, and lapsed donors.

You’ll find these queries in a category called LYBUNT & SYBUNT in eTapestry, right here in the Queries tab.

LYBUNT, if you don’t already know, stands for Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year.

While, SYBUNT stands for Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year.

These queries are based on donors who have received transactions of anything greater than zero dollars. They are standard, so they can’t be modified. But, as is, they are incredibly helpful. They are also underused.

Be sure to take advantage of these queries to identify and report on all lapsed donors this year, whether you want to see just donors that gave last year—you have a query for calendar and fiscal year—or all donors that have yet to renew this calendar or fiscal year.

If these standard queries aren’t specific enough for your needs, you can build your own custom lapsed donor queries.

Building your own queries will allow you to identify lapsed donors based on their…

  • Giving to a specific fund or strategy, instead of all of them;
  • Giving during a non-standard time frame (like donors that gave this time last year but not this year); or,
  • Giving that includes other transaction types like pledges or soft credits.

But, how do you go about building a custom query of lapsed donors?

In eTapestry, in order to query on lapsed donors, you actually need three different queries, so this is a pretty common question.

You can build a lapsed donor query in three steps.

  1. First, set up a query of donors that are current, in other words they have already given in the renewal period (usually, this means a query of donors this year)
  2. Second, set up a query of donors that gave previously who you want to renew this time period (usually, this means donors last year)
  3. Finally, set up a compound query to exclude donors that gave already (your first query) from donors that gave before (your second query), so you are left with only the donors that gave before but have yet to give in the current period.

This is your lapsed donor query.

You can see this setup modeled in eTapestry’s standard LYBUNT query.

This query, a compound query, takes a query of donors that Gave This Year and subtracts it from the query of donors who Gave Last Year so you are left with only the donors who Gave Last Year But Not This Year—your LYBUNTS.

To build a custom lapsed donor query for a different time period or donor group, your goal is to replicate this structure with new custom queries for the specific donors or time frame you are interested in.

Now, my favorite custom lapsed donor query is Gave This Time Last Year But Not This Year.

This is a query that can be used to identify donors that gave around this time last year so that you can follow up with them a year out from when they last gave.

Setting up this query in eTapestry takes three separate queries.

  1. The first query you need is “Gave This Year.” Build this query to include all donors with a received transaction over zero dollars and a dynamic date range of this year.
  2. The second query you need is “Gave This Time Last Year.” Build this query to include all donors with a received transaction over zero dollars and a custom date range of “this time last year.” I am defining this as this month last year, or June 1 to June 30 2016.
  3. Finally, you need a compound query for the two initial queries to give you “Gave This Time Last Year But Not This Year.” Build this query by setting up a new compound query and subtracting your Gave This Year query from your Gave This Time Last Year query.

The resulting list can be exported for review, used to send annual renewal reminders, or otherwise used to follow up with these lapsed donors.

But, a list of lapsed donors is only so useful if all you have access to is their name and contact information, as we see here.

So, once you’ve identified your lapsed donors with eTapestry queries, you can use custom reports to export giving history data for donor analysis and follow-up.

Now, there is no one standard eTapestry report that will give you detailed giving history for your lapsed donors.

But custom eTapestry reports can be used to report on summarized giving data, allowing you to…

  • Analyze lapsed donor giving tendencies over the last 5 years
  • Report on their last, first, and largest gifts
  • Prioritize and assign next actions, and
  • Develop a personalized call, email, or mailing list for your lapsed donors

Use “Summary Fields” in your custom eTapestry report to include summarized giving data for each of your donors so that you can export giving totals to Excel and review and analyze the list for largest donors, last gift, and more.

You can set up your custom lapsed donor report under Reports and then Manage Reports.

We’ve built ours in a Donor Retention report category and called it Donor Report with Contact Info & Giving History.

You’ll see we’ve added columns for:

  • Five years of received giving totals by calendar year;
  • Last gift amount and date;
  • First gift date; as well as,
  • Largest and lifetime giving details.

You can add these and other similar columns under the field section for “Summary Fields.”

And, if you want these for household giving, rather than account giving, you’ll find giving history options under the “Household Fields” section.

When reporting on your lapsed donor queries, you can include any account or summary field.

We recommend at least including columns for:

  • Name and salutations;
  • Contact information;
  • Last gift amount and date; as well as,
  • Mailing Status and any other key constituent field that tracks communication preferences.

The priority when building your lapsed donor report is to include any and all fields that you may need to identify, analyze, and take next steps to renew each donor on your list once you have it in Excel.

Now, identifying and analyzing your lapsed donors is only step one, step two is soliciting them for the next gift.

And for this, you can use eTapestry’s communication templates to create personalized and targeted renewal reminders or appeals.

eTapestry communication templates can be used to send emails or generate documents by merging in data from any field in your database.

This means that you can easily personalize a renewal reminder or appeal with the donor’s name, contact information, and even the amount of their last gift or the combined total of their gifts last year.

With custom queries of lapsed donors, you can also generate targeted letters based on the date of a lapsed donor’s gift in the previous year.

For example, you could use the query Gave This Time Last Year But Not This Year to send an annual reminder asking the donor to renew their support.  

Generating documents or sending a mass email to a group of donors requires you to:

  1. First, build a communication template with relevant merge fields;
  2. Second, build a query of recipients; and,
  3. Third, generate the documents or send an email to populate the template with the data in your query.

You can set up communication templates from the Communications tab in eTapestry.

I’ve created one here under Appeal Letters for an Annual Renewal Reminder.

You can add eTapestry merge fields like Last Received Amount or One Year Ago Received Amount by editing a section, selecting the Insert Merge Value option, and choosing the field you want to include from the field options.

When you send your letter or email, you also want to consider providing a link or reference to an online donation form.

eTapestry DIY forms allow you to set up custom online giving forms that you can link to or embed on your website, that process and add donations directly to your database.

So, make renewing easy for your donors, and data entry easy for you, by setting up custom DIY forms to collect online donations.

Since you also want to track the performance of your renewal efforts, you’ll need to be intentional with how you set up your online forms.

In eTapestry, in order to track what fundraising strategy caused a donor to make a gift online, you’ll need to use a unique online form for each fundraising appeal you send to your donors.

Have you ever marked a contribution envelope before you include it in a mailing so that when you get a gift in the mail you know which mailing the donor is responding to?

Yeah. So, you can do something similar with DIY forms by creating a separate form for each appeal, customizing the settings in each form so that transaction are coded with a unique approach value, and sharing each form’s URL only through the related appeal’s mailing or email.

If you set up the DIY form settings with a custom Approach value, you’ll know from the transactions that are created when a donor completes that form which appeal the donor is responding to.

DIY forms are created through the Management tab in eTapestry, and transaction codes like “approach” are defined in the settings of each form.

You’ll see here that I have two online giving DIY forms created: one for an end of year appeal, and one for donor renewal reminders. This was intentional, because I want to code donations made through each form differently, just like I mark my physical contribution envelopes differently for unique mailings.

When I modify a form, I can access the settings here.

For each appeal-specific form that you create, be sure the Approach value you add here identifies the appeal through which donors are gaining access to the form.

For this EOY appeal form, you’ll see I have an Approach specific to my EOY appeal. But, if we go to my Annual Renewal Reminder online form, you’ll see I have a different Approach code to identify gifts that come through that solicitation method.

Now I know that creating a unique DIY Form for each appeal may be more complicated than directing a donor back to a general Donate Now form on your website, but the data you collect will help you determine which fundraising strategy is the most successful. This will ultimately help you make smarter decisions in the future so you can renew your donors more easily.

In general, when you build an eTapestry DIY form, you want to keep these tips in mind:

  • First, it’s best practice to embed your DIY form on your website if you can. This will allow you to keep your donors on your website and direct donors to a URL that’s familiar.
  • Next, you want to keep your form as simple and as easy to use as possible by modifying the settings for each question on your form to label them more clearly, require them if necessary, and modify the options a user sees to only those they need to see.
  • You also want to use hidden fields in the DIY Form settings to add data to your database without requiring input from the online donor; this is most helpful for required fields like Account Type where you don’t want to ask the donor what kind of donor they are, you just want to define it for them.

Finally, you can use eTapestry standard reports to keep track of your donor renewal rate and fundraising progress to date.

Our two favorite eTapestry standard reports can help you track your progress toward 100% donor retention by calculating your donor renewal rate as well as the total amount of revenue that is left to raise from lapsed donors.

Our number one favorite report for donor retention is called the Giving Dynamics Report.

The Giving Dynamics Report is a standard report that comes with eTapestry out of the box.

It will take any query of accounts and identify new, recaptured, same, upgrade, downgrade, and lapsed donors and their giving across two consecutive time periods.

This is an incredibly valuable report that can help you analyze and inform your fundraising strategy. If you do not use this report yet, I highly recommend you start doing so.

You can run this report under Reports and eTapestry Standard Reports.

I like to run this on all constituents in the database so that I’m looking at giving dynamics across all donors. But, you may choose a query of any accounts to focus on a subset of your donors, if you prefer.

This report must be run on consecutive time frames, meaning the second date range must follow directly after the first without a gap. For our purposes, I will compare giving dynamics for this calendar year against giving last calendar year.

I recommend running this report every month on the same time frame to keep track of:

  • How many lapsed donors are remaining for the current year (for me, that’s 11 donors); and,
  • How much they gave last calendar year, and thus, how much you will raise if you manage to retain all donors from the prior year (for me, there’s a little over $1,000 that I have left to raise this year).

If your goal is to renew all your donors, you want to see your total changed for lapsed donors nearing zero by the end of the year.

Our second favorite report for donor retention is the Donor Renewal Rates Report.

This report analyzes transaction data over 2 to 5 different time periods to identify which donors gave in what period and calculate donor renewal rates for new, established, and all donors.

Another standard eTapestry report, this is available in all eTapestry databases out of the box. It is best used to:

  1. Identify your current year donor renewal rate;
  2. Compare renewal rates over multiple years; and,
  3. Identify trends and set goals.

This report is accessed under Reports and eTapestry Standard Reports.

You can run this report with any query of accounts or journal entries. I generally run this report on all constituents in the database so that I’m looking at donor renewal dynamics across all donors and all gifts. But, by selecting another query, you can also generate renewal rates for particular types of donors or areas of giving.

I recommend running this report with at least three consecutive time frames, including this year, for the best results.

You can see here your donor renewal rate, which shows the percentage of donors from the first time frame that gave again in the second. You can also see specific renewal rates for new versus established donors.

I recommend running this report every month or so to keep tabs on your renewal rate to date and how it changes, compared to last year, and throughout the year.

Use these reports to stay informed about the status of your donor retention throughout the year and make strategic decisions about next steps in your donor retention strategy.

If the things we covered today are systems or reports you wish you had access to but you’re not sure where to start, get in touch.

As eTapestry consultants, we are here to help you get the most from your eTapestry database.

So, don’t hesitate to reach out to get support with custom donor retention systems or to talk through your options.

We can help you reach your goals by building custom reports and dashboards that help you retain your donors.

And, we provide free consultations to get you started in the right direction.

You can get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

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