Donor Management Software: FAQ for First-Time Buyers

When nonprofits experience growth, one of the major changes they can expect is the need to assume software that will support their expanding network.

For organizations of a certain size, buying your first dedicated donor management software marks a key stage in your growth. Perhaps you’ve outgrown Excel and that’s why you’re looking to invest in new donor management software, or perhaps you’re wanting your  nonprofit to grow through improved organizational processes and boosted fundraising efforts, but your current system just isn’t cutting it.

Anyone who’s gone through this transition will tell you that investing in software is a big decision, and deserve to have all of your questions answered before making the final purchase. That’s why we’ve compiled the most commonly asked questions into this comprehensive guide. Let’s get started!

What is donor management software?

Donor management software, also referred to as a constituent relationship manager (CRM), is a tool used by nonprofits to store and organize information about donors in order to adjust communication and outreach strategies to build stronger relationships.

Right now, your nonprofit may be managing all of this information in spreadsheets. Investing in the best nonprofit CRM solution specifically designed to improve donor relations can drastically improve your stewardship strategy.

Does my nonprofit need donor management software?

The short answer to this question is a simple yes. Nonprofits that are trying to grow (which is the majority of them) need a method of organization that will help them easily track and report on communications, donations and engagement with donors.

The actual question that most nonprofits want to know is: What type of nonprofit donor management software do I need? There are different types of solutions for you to choose from, each with a slightly different focus.

For instance, some software focuses on donor-centricity and maintaining high donor retention rates. Other software may focus more heavily on membership or grant tracking.

What are the most important features?

When you conduct research on the different types of donor management software, it’s important that you look for all of the important features your organization needs. The first step we recommend is writing down the problems that you’re trying to solve. Then, look for software with features designed to solve those specific problems.

However, there are some general features that any nonprofit will benefit from having as a part of their donor management software. They include:

  • An interactive dashboard with an overview of the statistics important to your organization.
  • A constituent timeline to show your donors’ engagement over time.
  • List segmentation that allows you to write communications with a target audience in mind.
  • Donor survey creation to measure your donors’ opinions about your organization.
  • Letters and mailing that make it easy to draft fundraising letter templates and send them to donor lists. If you need ideas to draft letters, online resources like Fundraising Letters have templates to get you started.

How do I make sure my donor data is secure?

When you look for donor management software, your top priority should be the security of your donor data.

You’ll store a lot of important information about your donors, such as their address, email, social media handles and prospect development information. Thus, a data breach could be catastrophic for individual supporters, not to mention the fact that a breach of any size will hurt your organization’s credibility.

Before you finalize a purchase, you should check security aspects such as:

  • The changelog. Publically accessible changelogs are a good indication of how often the software developers are fixing bugs in the software for better data security.
  • Update policy. Check to see if updates are completed by the provider or by your individual nonprofit. If you conduct updates, make sure you’re on top of your update schedule.
  • The transparency of the provider. Organizations who are more transparent are more likely to explain what they would do in the case of a breach.

Another way to  help you gauge the level of security of a particular software solution? Just ask. During demos or other conversations with providers, ask about the frequency of updates, the policy around potential breaches and how they take additional steps to assure the safety of donor information.

How much does donor management software cost?

Donor management software has a range of potential price points depending on the number of features offered and the provider.. Of course, your organization is looking for the most bang for your buck, but does that mean you should go with the cheapest software solution? Probably not.

Free fundraising software can be a good introduction to a software solution, but you should never expect to remain at the free price point for long. Many times, these solutions have a tiered pricing system (based on the amount of records you intend to keep in the system) so that when you bypass the limits of the free solution, you need to scale up to the next (generally more expensive) level.

Tiered solutions like these aren’t a bad option at all! Actually, quite the opposite. Finding a scalable solution can give your nonprofit room to grow without switching software systems.

The other pricing model to look out for is based on functionality. Often times a vendor will look cheaper than others, but that pricing plan won’t include the full functionality of the system. Be sure to that you have a complete understanding of what software features you’ll get for the pricing plan you’re looking at. The worst thing that can happen is to go through all the trouble of switching only to find out that you aren’t getting something you thought you were.

This model isn’t bad either, since you may not need every feature the vendor has available. Carefully analyze each tier of the solution to make sure each one will be affordable when you have a need for additional features.

Do your homework

The switching process can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, before you choose a solution, make sure you’ve done all your homework! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. An informed buyer is a successful buyer!

Answering the most important questions about donor management software will prepare your nonprofit to purchase the right solution for your needs. Before you make your final decision, you should feel comfortable and confident in your knowledge about the functions of the software and how your chosen software solution will impact your organization.

donor management software

Jay Love

Jay B. Love is a Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang. He has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly. Jay has also held integral positions with Social Solutions, Blackbaud, Master Software Corporation and was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry. He has also been a business consultant for numerous high tech firms throughout the U.S.

March 1, 2019

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