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Buddy, Can You Spare a Byte: Fundraising Technology in an Economic Downturn

Fund Raising Day NYNonprofit technology firms are actively addressing the economic downturn—and subsequent decline in charitable giving—with creative approaches, as participants who attended Fund Raising Day in New York 2009 have learned.

DonorSearch, for example, has recently developed an algorithm to identify philanthropists of all incomes, rather than the wealthy ones for whom most fund-raising organizations compete. “The norm is to look for wealth and see if a person’s philanthropic. What we do is we look first to see if the person is philanthropic and once we match that, we’ll develop a wealth profile,” said Bill Tedesco, CEO. DonorSearch hones in on an important yet underacknowledged market segment.

Identification systems like the one used by DonorSearch are not new. WealthEngine uses several algorithms to identify wealth indicators, and hospitals using WealthEngine already have the ability to determine which of their patients have deep pockets. But the company’s privacy feature is new. Said Molly Hall, sales account manager, “We don’t even see [the file]. It automatically gets processed for confidentiality reasons, so it’s a lot more secure.”

Meanwhile, eTapestry, Dynamic Data Concepts, and DonorPerfect, are looking to save nonprofit groups money by saving them time.

eTapestry recently rolled out their Personal Fundraising Pages, which allows fundraisers to create their own sponsored program, such as a walk-a-thon. “All those donations are integrated into the database. It cuts down on the data entry that’s done from those fundraising pages to the database,” said John Applegate, account executive.

Dynamic Data Concept has advanced its data management software, Fundraiser 360, with a mobile application feature that nonprofit groups can use to view their data with their mobile devices, such as a BlackBerry. According to Elyse Dukelsky, project manager, Fundraiser 360 uses “a Microsoft-based system that runs on SQL Server on a .NET platform,” to help nonprofit groups run their campaigns.

DonorPerfect has created SmartActions, user-definable business rules that streamline fundraising by automating tasks. Terry Hersh, regional manager, credits it as “another reason why our clients typically raise more than 21 ½ percent over our competitor software.” An example of SmartActions at work: if a philanthropist contributes to a charity, SmartActions can remind the staff to send a gift; after an extremely large donation, it can send an automated reminder to the CEO to place a thank-you call.

Many companies have delved into social networking as an inexpensive way to garner name recognition, as well as donations. Care2, a social networking site for activists that predates Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook, is celebrating the news of their 11 millionth member. Care2 also recently launched a series of “cause channels”—that is, a grouping of related causes, complete with a blog, an RSS feed from nonprofit partners, and other aggregated content.

BigDuck takes a different approach to social networking. According to Farra Trompeter, vice president, “It might be right for many organization to explore
, but…our belief is that your website and email and core basics of communication are doing what they should do for you, so people can find you.” BigDuck has recently been offering strategies for online visibility, such as search engine optimization and mutual linking. BigDuck’s website also contains resources such as a monthly webinar and podcast (“Nonprofit Jungle”) via iTunes or their RSS feed.

Content management systems (CMS) can make even the most complex websites manageable, including websites for fundraising technology. Paypal’s WebNow is one of the better examples on display of a manageable but rich CMS. Paypal’s WebNow has targeted small charities that lack the funds to build out an effective website by providing one for them, with only six pages to customize. And each site comes complete with a “Donate Now” button. At a cost of $4.95 of each donation plus $0.30 per transaction, Paypal’s WebNow may mitigate the need for a technology staff, according to Judy Chang, principal product manager.

Software options such as those on display at Fund Raising Day in New York 2009 are fortunately easing the burden of stressed nonprofit groups during this challenging era in fundraising.
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