Before you take the plunge and start researching what is available, take a little time to really determine your needs. It will make it much easier to narrow down your choices. It also help you be able to make an “apples to apples” comparison when searching out the best value.
Remember that as you come across additional features, you can always add them to your list, either as necessities or just a nice bonus to a particular package.
There are plenty of things to take into consideration, and every nonprofit organization is going to be a little different, so use this list as a starting point and then build from there. It’s might even be a good idea to put together a committee to work together to develop some goals and criteria from the software you select. Consider including people from different areas of the organization that would all have a stake in the choice, such as grants, events, accounting, campaigns, and more—depending of course on how your organization is put together.
Some Questions to Ask
- What kinds of fundraising do you do? List out each type of fundraising you do in order to find software that can handle them all. Do you have annual events? Auctions? What about direct mailings or phone drives?
- Do you now, or plan to later, apply for grants? If so, you’ll want your fundraising software to be able to help keep track of what you’ve applied for and received, as well as to track and report on how those funds have been used.
- What does the budget look like? As with pretty much any aspect of nonprofit management, a balance must be struck between what is needed/desired, and what is affordable. It never hurts to ask a software vendor what kind of discounts they might offer based on your status or the size of your organization.
- What can your organization realistically handle? If a particular piece of software is tricked out and does everything you could ever want and more, you need to assess whether or not it’s something that will actually work for you. Some of the more robust products might require heavier-duty machinery than your current computer system or even call for an on-staff IT person to keep it up and running smoothly.
Some Places to Start
Now that you’ve got an idea of the types of features you’ll require from your fundraising software, you ‘re ready to start doing some comparison shopping. You might want to create a list or table in which to log the data for each product so you can go back and do that “apples to apples” comparison mentioned earlier.
Here’s a brief example, but you’ll likely come up with many more ideas to include:
|Product A||Product B||Product C|
|Number of licenses|
|Thank you/Acknowledgment letters|
|Ease-of-Use (scale of 1-5)|
|Special events management options|
|Company stability (how long in business)|
Because nonprofits’ needs vary so much and there are so many features available in the different software packages, it’s nearly impossible to simply sum them all up in a neat little article like this. What we can do, however, is offer you a jumping off point to go and gather the relevant information to best make your decision. To that end, here is a roundup of several fundraising software products that you may want to investigate. (All quotes are taken directly from the products web sites and should not be considered as endorsements for one product over another.)
- DonorPerfect: “SofterWare’s mission is to develop, market, maintain and support software that is easy to learn, easy to use, and adaptable to user’s unique needs. We are dedicated to always providing quality, value, innovation, and complete customer satisfaction through outstanding products and services.”
- GiftWorks: “We created GiftWorks to provide nonprofit organization worldwise with smart fundraising software that empowers them to get better at raising money for their missions. To accomplish this, we loaded GiftWorks with a rich feature set and unparalleled network of resources.”
- Little Green Light: “Little green Light is online donor management software that’s easy to learn, powerful enough for serious fundraising, and available at an affordable monthly price. Build to serve the needs of both schools and non-profit organizations, LGL makes the complicated stuff simple, and it’s nimble so that tedious tasks (like acknowledging gifts and bulk managing your segmentation) are painless.”
- the Raiser’s Edge: “From managing supporter records, segmenting donors and pulling lists to running annual campaigns, stewarding major donors and keeping in touch through e-communications, The Raisers Edge has you covered.”
- Trail Blazer: “Trail Blazer’s non-profit software allows you to target specific donors with ease and sophistication. Manage all of your finances, pledges, events, donor relationships, donor touches and more with just a few clicks.”
By starting with these options, you should get a pretty good idea of what is available at various price point, along with what you can expect from typical fundraising software. In addition to this list, it makes good sense to ask around. What are others in your field using, and do they like it? Adding word-of-mouth recommendations to your list of products to research will help narrow your focus and get you asking all the right questions of your software vendors.