The Mikuska Group  

Do you know your donors?

If your development director left the organization suddenly, taking with him or her all the institutional memory about your donors, would there be a smooth transition to the next development staff person?  Or do you pale at the thought of losing the only person who has that knowledge?

The good news is, you can mitigate the loss of data by implementing a donor management system. That’s fancy talk for a database, which you use to manage all aspects of the relationship between you and your donors. It has to be more than a collection of Excel spreadsheets (or even index cards!), because your relationship is more complex than a list of annual donations. You must be able to record family and other relationships, employment, contacts, interests, donations, pledges and more. The more you know, the better you will be able to engage your donors.

Let’s say John Donor has been a regular supporter for a number of years and you ‘d like to approach him to consider a larger gift to a special campaign. In a donor management system, you would be able to verify that in fact, he would be interested in this special campaign because he has supported a similar initiative in the past. If you had recorded donations on a spreadsheet, this would be a tedious and time consuming task to verify this. In addition, you may have also recorded his place of employment, which you have discovered has a matching gift program for its employees, especially for initiative such as yours. You might also find out that he has family members who are also interested in this special campaign – why not approach them for a family gift? You get the gist.

Relationship management is the science behind the art of asking and donor engagement. It’s an investment that will enhance your development program many times over.

Laura Mikuska


Don’t lie to me

Today I opened an appeal from an organization in Winnipeg that I was sure I had no ties to. It was addressed to me and my husband, with my sister’s address on it. It was the second time I’d received a mailing like this from them.  If that wasn’t annoying enough, the opening line of the letter inside thanked me for my previous gift to their campaign.

Well, I thought, maybe I did give them a gift and forgot about it. So I went through our tax returns for the past couple of years and no, we hadn’t given. So I called the organization and asked them to look up our record and let me know about the previous gift. The woman on the phone found the record, but there was no evidence we had given any amount. To her credit, she said, “Maybe I should just remove you from our list.” I agreed!

This leads me to believe that we were added to their database without our knowledge or permission. It was a deliberate act, and not from the phone book records. We have no relationship with the organization, and now, more than ever, have no plans to.

Organizations do themselves no favours by adding people without their permission. It violates the spirit and the letter of privacy legislation, and if it annoys the recipient, nothing is gained and much is lost.

Julie Mikuska


Spam, Spam, Spam! Get ready for new legislation

I attended an informative session recently sponsored by the Canadian Society of Association Executives (Manitoba Chapter) about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation.

Brian Bowman, partner with Pitblado LLP,  and an expert in privacy and social media law, outlined what the new legislation will mean for organizations who send electronic messages of “commercial character.” He said the rules are changing regarding consent obligations (both express and implied), and senders will be bound to give more and very clear information about themselves including contact details and an easy way for recipients to unsubscribe.

Bowman said the new regulations will include text, sound, voice or image messages, on smartphones as well, and will apply to social media content (Facebook in particular).

The legislation has not yet come into force, but it is expected sometime in the new year. What does that mean for non-profit organizations? Bowman said to avoid penalties, any organization need to pay attention to the following:

  1. Establish whether your messages are commercial electronic messages and are therefore subject to the law
  2. Find out if any exemptions apply
  3. Determine the type of consent needed
  4. If express consent is required, make sure you draft specific language that meets legal requirements

Make sure you are informed, and modify your policies and practices accordingly. Your donors, staff and volunteers will appreciate it.

Julie Mikuska


Non-profits: Are you protecting your donors’ privacy?

Added to the many responsibilities of a non-profit organization is the safeguarding of donors’ privacy. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law. The provinces and federal governments have privacy and access to information legislation that applies to organizations – small and large, for-profit and not-for-profit. Staff and volunteers responsible for donor records and donor information need to make themselves aware of what they need to do to keep information private.

For example:

  • When working in a database or donor list, do you logout when you leave the workstation, even for a short break?
  • Is the information on the screen visible to people coming into a reception area?
  • Do you restrict access to donor records to only those who need to know the information?
  • Do you ensure paper files are kept secure and are locked up after hours?
  • Do you shred confidential information when you no longer need to keep it?
  • Does your organization have a written privacy policy and a designated privacy officer? Is the policy available on your website? Are staff and volunteers aware of the policy and the procedures for compliance?

Privacy is also only collecting keeping information that you need to. Think about what would make sense to a donor if they request to see the information that you have collected about them.

Winnipeg privacy expert, Brian Bowman, of Pitblado LLP, recently posted two videos in the firm’s Whiteboard Sessions that talk about privacy and are relevant to non-profit organizations:

Privacy Forum
Privacy Complaints

Ignorance of privacy law and practice only puts your organization at risk. By paying close attention to the rights and expectations of your donors, you will show them that you act with integrity, and they will truly appreciate it.

Julie Mikuska.


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