Avoiding errors on your donor list

Every development office has to be able to handle pulling together the all-important donor list. Whether you need it for an annual report, dinner program, or fundraising campaign, you want to be sure to get it right. This tip sheet features a handful of tried-and-true methods for avoiding errors during the process.

Once your fiscal year is over and after you’ve made sure all gifts are entered in your database, you should run a new list of all donors. Then:

Compare to last year’s list. Someone (maybe you) toiled over last year’s list making sure the names were correct, suffixes were placed correctly. Don’t lose the good work there. Take the time to go line by line and check it against your new list. If someone is not on the new list, and you can’t explain why, stop and circle back.

Look for gifts in hard to find places. Stock transfers, memorial gifts anything outside the norm have a tendency to fall through the cracks. We wish it was all automatic, but the truth is we have gifts coming in a lot of different places. So dig around it’s been a long year and you can’t remember everything.


Be circumspect about who you remove or downgrade. Do you have intermittent donors or someone who falls just outside the fiscal year? But they should probably stay on. Likewise, be flexible on the giving amount. A gift of securities worth $2,487 is a lot closer to $2,500 than $1,000.


Look at your “removals” list. Double check to make sure something didn’t fall through the cracks. This is an excellent time to call your donors and see what’s up. You may discover a glitch that explains the lapse: a changed name, a new donor fund, an unmatched stock gift. Email and call with a simple message: “We’re pulling together our donor list and realized we missed your gift last year and we wanted to double check that we didn’t miss something.”


Double check your list through your board members’ eyes. Make sure you can account for each and every name. Consider their company, sponsorships or friends. Did someone give under their spouse with a different last name? Your board is a special audience and deserves a little extra attention.


Distribute a “printer's advance copy” asking people to check their name and report any errors.  This is fabulous way to ferret out any people who should be on.

If you would like more information about operationalizing these actions, please contact me at marydillonkerwin@bluestrike.org.