School data management: Don’t get caught on the wrong side of the data chasm

Article by Jeff Buchanan, Senior Fundraising Consultant
AskRIGHT / 14 November 2018

Schools collect a tremendous amount of information about students and their families. It starts before enrolment, continues through the school years, and then sometimes continues after graduation. In an age of continuing digital transformation and innovation in communication, schools that are not investing sufficiently in their data management capabilities will suffer, slipping further and further away from the position they need to be in to maintain productive communication with prospects and donors.


AskRIGHT’s recent research report on Fundraising and Alumnae Relations in Girls’ Schools, undertaken on behalf of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, revealed a strong correlation between schools that were actively investing in the data management and the achievement of good fundraising results. Alliance members have exclusive access to the report: Philanthropy, fundraising and alumnae relations in girls’ schools (AskRIGHT, 2018). 

However, investment in good school data management requires more than just a software package.


Successful school data management also requires investing in staff. Without proper maintenance, your data will easily become out of date. You need qualified people who work to established policies and procedures (these should define the collection, management, analysis, and use of data). It takes a disciplined commitment to feeding the right data into a system to add genuine value to the fundraising effort. (If you are looking for advice for hiring your first fundraiser, read our blog: Fundraising Staff: Better Part-Time Than Mixed Roles


School data management for fundraising is about much more than recording the gift amounts, dates, and receipt numbers.

Interpersonal relationships that form the backbone of good fundraising practice move through stages and sometimes involve multiple sets of hands. This is why good quality contact reporting and effective integration of database(s) with all the customer interfaces (web pages, web portals, event ticketing, social media, school apps, etc.) is vital.

Fundraising activities also produce different demands on school data management. The information collected in an annual appeal or reunion events or a large capital campaign or 20 years of meetings and conversations about a bequest are all different to some degree.


Even though students graduate and move on with their lives there are many who regard their old school with great fondness and many will eventually look for meaningful ways to reconnect. For the vast majority, that reconnection and communication won’t be happening through posted letters and phone calls.

Even though the investment required to maintain good quality contact with alumni is a challenging budget issue for many schools, it is also true that the cost of catching up only grows with each passing year. If schools are not already playing catch-up then they will be soon as technology and communication preferences keep changing. In more and more cases, a lack of attention to this important issue results in money being left on the table as other charities and good causes communicate with alumni and engage them well.

Have you considered whether you are getting enough value from your alumni data? For advice on school data management, or for help with other fundraising challenges in schools, speak to Jeff Buchanan.