Maximize the power of LGL by mastering the basics

In this article:


Manually entering a few constituent and gift records, then experimenting with searching for and reporting on that data, is key to mastering the basics of using LGL. Once you know how to do this, you will understand the basic framework of how LGL works.

Whether you’re experienced at fundraising and working in a donor management database or just getting started at one or both, we invite you to try manual data entry and see how it can broaden your understanding of LGL, by reading this article and following the guidelines we offer.

How can manual data entry help you learn LGL?

Confusion around how to effectively search for or report on data often comes from not understanding the fields in the gift and constituent records. But almost everything you do in LGL comes down to working with those records. 

Manual data entry helps clarify everything because it helps your mind form a map of LGL, so everything makes more sense.

The simple act of paying attention to the fields in these records and typing data into them can give you a clear picture of what the fields are for and how they’re related to one another. Understanding these fields will also make future tasks like data imports and form mapping much simpler and more accurate.

It also helps you get comfortable with the fields in LGL in a more general way. Some users may be afraid they’ll break LGL if they happen to make a mistake in a data record, so they avoid exploring, experimenting, or clicking on things. But there is no risk here. Any record—constituent, gift, or otherwise—can be edited or deleted without causing any problem in the database overall.

Form a big picture of your data

No matter where you are in terms of previous experience working in donor management databases, look around in LGL. Examine the different fields and screens to understand the lay of the land. Here are steps you can follow:

  1. Inspect every available field, in every area, of the constituent record
  2. Do the same in the gift record
  3. Make a note of every field you don’t understand the purpose of
  4. Jot down every field you expected to see but couldn’t find
  5. Note which fields are required in order to save the record

Take your time

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take this slowly. If you are under pressure to get your database set up, which is common when time and resources are limited, you could easily miss this step of understanding the fields in the database. It also makes it easier for you to get tripped up later on. 

Going slowly at the beginning offers the additional benefit of improved efficiency once you have things down. We’ve seen this many times over with customers who rush their first import and end up back at square one. Efficiency and speed will naturally increase once you have more of a handle on everything.

Consider using a T chart

A useful option is mapping your data points (first name, last name, gift date, gift amount, and so on) to the fields in LGL. Create a T chart like the one shown below with two columns, one for your data points and another for LGL fields you plan to map them to.

Look closely at your data points and then at the constituent and gift entry screens to see where those fields are located. Keep these steps in mind as you proceed:

  1. Review your fundraising plan and gift/data entry procedures manual carefully
  2. Practice entering sample data (such as your own first name and last name), following your procedure manual (you can delete test entries). 
  3. Focus on areas of the LGL Knowledge Base that are related to your organization’s fundraising plan (For example, if you do not run events, you probably don’t need to review event functionality.)

Complete your T chart. Then follow the instructions below to enter a constituent record and a gift record.

Enter your data manually

Create a constituent record

  1. Open the long form constituent entry page. Enter the first name and last name:
  2. Look at the remaining fields on the page and consider how you want to use each one (NOTE: If you created a T chart, review your fields in the left column and determine where they can be entered into LGL. Refer to the LGL Data Dictionary to see which fields are available in Little Green Light.)
  3. Type information into the record, completing all fields you have data for. For example:
    1. Describe the constituent’s primary relationship to your organization. Is that relationship reflected in your group coding?
    2. Imagine your sample donor wants to be mailed to but not emailed to. Use communication tags to make sure they are correctly tagged with this information
    3. Imagine a mailing arrived in your mailbox from your organization. Does the addressee reflect how your name should appear above your mailing address? Does the salutation reflect that the organization knows who you are and how you prefer to be addressed? Having correct addressee and salutation data (how you address, in print and in person, each of your constituents) shows your constituents that you value who they and helps solidify your organization’s relationship with them
    4. Think through contact type carefully. If you’re entering yourself, where did you put your spouse/partner info, if present? Did you give them a separate record? Is this how your organization wants to track all spouse/partner data? Determine how your organization wants to set up your households
  4. When all available data is entered into the record, save it:

Create a gift record

Before you manually enter your sample gift record/s in LGL, take these steps:

  1. Thoughtfully plan and create the gift categories you’ll use to track your gifts as follows:
  2. Be aware of the gift categories and fields that are available in your account by default. There is no need, for example, to create new gift categories that describe payment type such as cash, check, or credit card, because those already exist
  3. If you plan to accept recurring gifts, enter a new gift category of "Gift: Recurring" or another similar option
  4. Brainstorm and make note of other categorizations you’ll need in order to track your gift data in different ways. Think through how you’ll want to be able to search for one set of gifts that is distinct from how you’ll search for other sets of gifts. Make sure your gift categories will allow you to track all of these categorizations

IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember, any gifts that are not accurately coded will be difficult to find in a search or pull into a report down the road. 

NOTE: We typically recommend entering a gift before creating any campaign, fund, appeal, or event attributes that you may want to assign to it. But, this is a chicken and egg matter. You can create these items before you enter your gifts as well.

  1. Open a gift entry screen and look at all of the available fields:
  2. Enter basic data in the record, such as first name, last name, gift date, payment type, any custom gift fields, and gift categories
  3. Set the acknowledgment template (But also read about the LGL Acknowledgments process. Once you have your acknowledgment template built, you’ll be able to set it within a gift to generate an acknowledgment letter or email thanking the donor for the gift)
  4. Complete any other fields you have data for

Now that you’ve entered a complete constituent record and a complete gift record, if you have any questions about what a particular field is for or any data point in your data that you can’t find a home for in LGL, submit a help request from the Help page in your LGL account. We’ll be glad to answer any questions that have come up.

What’s next?

Enter a few more constituent and gift records. This will give you a small data sample to work with and can help point you in the right direction in terms of how to structure your data as a whole (especially useful if you are preparing for data migration.) 

If your organization hasn’t agreed on how to code specific gifts or categorize groups of constituents, get together as a group and agree on a process and plan so that questions like these and others that will come up over time can be handled routinely within the database. Whether part of a data migration or a standard addition of new or updated data, the use of previously agreed upon ways to capture all data, along with manual data entry as described above, is essential and will lead to data that is a usable, reliable, and valuable asset to your organization.

Searching on your sample data

Once you’ve created your constituent and gift records, here are some ways you can use that data to learn more about how to work with it in searches:

  • Do a search that suppresses one of the records based on its coding. Example: If you created a constituent record for yourself, exclude yourself from a search by adding an additional query, setting the search operator to “and not”, and then searching on a custom constituent category that has been added to your record

  • To test searching on your sample gifts, create a search that pulls in two out of three gifts
  • If you coded the gifts differently by assigning different attributes such as fund, campaign, event, or appeal, try finding different segments of those records through searching on the different attributes using the “Appeals” or “Campaigns” search criteria
  • If you coded all gifts the same way, try changing the coding on one gift so you can search for just that gift; or try searching for all gifts except that one 

To expand your knowledge and confidence, experiment with searching in any way you can think of to see which records are pulled into your searches based on the criteria you select. 

You can also use manual data entry to learn any area in Little Green Light, including tasks, contact reports, and other records, by coding the records in different ways and then creating searches for them. When you play with creatively coding your constituent records and your gift records, you’ll soon see that there is no risk of breaking the database and you’ll naturally be able to get down and dirty with the fields in LGL. 

With a little time and tire kicking, you’ll understand with more confidence and clarity how you can use best use LGL to serve your organization’s needs. You’ll be more successful at managing your data, and you’ll be able to take your fundraising to the next level. 

Some final words

Now that you understand more about LGL overall and can see how the fields relate to one another, please share this knowledge within your organization to make sure anyone who is entering data into your account knows which fields to select when creating constituent, gift, or any other type of record. And have fun! Data management can be enjoyable and rewarding, especially when you know what you’re doing.