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True, but would you consider someone a donor who donated once 7 years ago and has done nothing since? Two things you should never code are donors and prospects.

Probably not anymore, and that's at the core of the problem. Someone may be a donor now, but they may not be an active donor or even a likely donor a few years from now. In order to keep your Donor code current, you would probably have to go through your list each year, adding and removing codes.

Another problem with coding someone as a donor is that sometimes you'll be busy or interrupted as you enter a batch of donations, and you will forget to notice if someone is already coded as a donor or not. It is very rare that the details of a donation are not fully recorded, but I can guarantee that, over time, some of your donors will not have a Donor code.

Instead, base your queries on the gift data itself-- this allows for greater flexibility. You can run queries asking for whether everyone that has given in the past year or the past 18 months. You can be even more specific and ask for everyone who has given more than $100 during the past year, or more than $100 in a single gift. In fact, you can run a query on any combination of parameters that you like.

Prospects also should not be coded as such. Prospects are donors who haven't made any donations yet, so to get a list of prospects, you need only ask for a list of everyone who has given 0.00. There's no need for a code in addition to that

However, you would want to code people that you don't want to ask for regular donations. This might happen, for instance, when someone gives once then asks not to be sent the monthly or quarterly newsletter. In this case, you would exclude them from that mailing by coding them appropriately. By the way, it is generally okay to include this type of donor in the annual appeal that goes out just once a year