Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. These links, if used and purchases made, we may earn a small commission. These affiliate programs do not impact the recommendations we make or the resources we refer you to. Our focus is on providing you the best resources for your nonprofit journey.When it comes to donor management systems, it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. But what exactly is a donor management system? A donor management system is a software application that helps organizations track and manage their donors and donations. This type of system can be used by nonprofits, political campaigns, and even schools and religious organizations.
There are many different features that these systems can offer, so it’s important to choose one that will best fit your needs. Some things you may want to consider are how easy the system is to use, how much data you need to track, and whether you need any special features like online donation processing or event management tools.
The right donor management system can make a big difference in how well your organization runs.
Below are seven questions to ask when choosing a donor management system.
How easy is it to use?
When considering a donor management system, it is important to consider how easy the system is to use.
An easy-to-use system can save time and frustration when managing donor information. Look for a system that is intuitive and easy to navigate. Be sure to test the system yourself before making a final decision.
A good donor management system should be user-friendly and make it easy to input, manage, and track donor information. How does it integrate with other software?
When we discuss ease of use, there are a few use cases to think about. How easy will it be for your team to perform the following tasks:
- Entering donations
- Entering and managing pledges
- Creating a new lead/contact
- Moves management activities
- Planning and documenting activities
- Documenting relationships
- Between people
- Between people and organizations/businesses
- Pull a mailing list and perform a mail merge
- Send and document email conversations
- Identify and track interactions with email communications
- Plan and manage email campaigns
- Track donors and gifts specific to particular campaigns
- Creating and sending donation receipts
- Create and send annual giving statements
- Tracking development activities by employees against fundraising goals
If any of the typical tasks your team will need to perform, will the system make their job harder or easier? Will the availability of this data in the system improve the operations of your organization?
How much does it cost?
When in the market for donor management software, or CRM, for your organization, one of the first questions you’ll need to answer is: how much does it cost?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the cost of a donor management system will vary depending on the specific features and capabilities you require. However, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per year for a comprehensive system.
If cost is a major concern for your organization, there are some ways you can save money on your donor management system. For example, many providers offer discounts for nonprofits or allow you to pay annually in order to get a lower monthly rate. You may also be able to get by with a less expensive system if you have a relatively small donor base.
What features does it include?
When it comes to choosing a donor management system, There are many options with a wide variety of specialized or broad feature sets.
Determining what features your organization needs today, and over the next several years will be important to the long-term success of your donor management platform. Some of the more common features an organization might look for include:
- Data collection forms
- Gifting options (gifts-in-kind, planned gifts, public records)
- Reporting and analytics tools
- Marketing automation capabilities
- Fundraising management functions
While it is important to get the features your organization needs, it is also important to consider the system’s ease of use for all staff, including volunteers.
How secure is it?
When choosing an online donor database management system, security is an important consideration. Here are a few questions to ask when assessing the security of a potential system:
- How is data stored? Is it encrypted?
- What kind of access controls are in place?
- What are the system’s disaster recovery procedures?
- Has the system been audited by an independent third party?
- Are there any known security vulnerabilities?
- How often are security patches applied?
- Who has access to the system’s administrative controls?
- Where is data stored? Which country?
The location of a donor management system’s data can be an important consideration for organizations that have concerns about data sovereignty.
Don’t let the vendor lead the discussion here it should be part of your decision-making process.
How often is it updated?
Another important factor in choosing a donor management system (CRM) is to consider how often the system is updated. After all, you don’t want to invest in a system that will quickly become outdated and obsolete.
So how often should a donor management system be updated? Ideally, you should look for a system that is updated on a regular basis – at least twice a year. This ensures that you’ll always have the latest features and functionality at your disposal.
Of course, some teams may be hesitant to use new features if it means they have to change how they perform their jobs. But ultimately, it’s worth it to have a system that is constantly being improved upon. And if you find a good provider, they should offer training and support to help you transition to the new functionality with ease.
Does it integrate with other software?
When considering a donor management system, it is important to inquire about its compatibility with other software that your organization uses.
A good system should be able to integrate with popular accounting software, such as Quickbooks, as well as email marketing platforms, like Mailchimp. This will make it easier to keep track of your donors and their contributions.
Additionally, being able to integrate with other software will save you time and hassle in the long run.
For example, think about online donations. If your donor management software integrates with your online giving platform, then the following tasks can be automated:
- Create new donor records
- Create donation records
- Updated YTD giving numbers
- Send email receipts
- Create tasks for staff to follow up on gifts over $5,000
These are just a few possibilities.
What kind of support is available?
When it comes to customer support, you want to make sure that the vendor you choose is able to provide you with the help you need, when you need it. There are a few different methods of support that most vendors offer, and it’s important to understand what each one entails.
One of the most common methods of support is email support. This means that you can send an email to the vendor’s support team and they will get back to you as soon as possible with a response. Email support is usually available 24/7, so you can always get help when you need it.
Another common method of support is live chat. This allows you to chat with a member of the vendor’s support team in real time. This is a great option if you need help with something specific and need an immediate answer.
Telephone support is another method of receiving support although this option is less available from cloud-based software providers. Live telephone support is usually only available during business hours.
As the philanthropic sector increasingly relies on data-driven decision-making, the need for robust and user-friendly donor management systems has never been greater. But with so many options on the market, how can nonprofits find the right system for their organization?
I hope the seven questions above have helped provide a framework for evaluating your selection of a donor management system or CRM solution for your nonprofit.