Your nonprofit is staffed with people who love your mission. Passionate employees will work hard to accomplish a lot and make the biggest impact possible. However, even your best staff members can’t get by with just spreadsheets.
Once you’ve decided your organization needs a tech solution for one reason or another, you’ll need to conduct extensive research about what software will be the best fit your needs and which provider will give you the most bang for your buck.
This research begins with asking other nonprofits about their solutions, looking up software reviews, and reading tech carnivals. Then, your nonprofit will ask for demos, take notes, and ask the provider questions.
Having worked for nonprofits in the past, we know that the process of finding solutions is exhausting. However, the end result—finding software that will streamline your organization’s internal processes, providing more time to accomplish your mission—is worth it.
The core software solutions that your nonprofit should consider include:
Donor Database Software
Prospect Research Software
Event Management Software
Let’s dive in to learn more about how choosing the right solution for each of these software solutions will elevate your nonprofit!
1. Donor Database Software
Young nonprofits beginning their growth process find that the first solution they need to streamline their operations is a donor database, or constituent relationship manager (CRM).
Donor database software houses all of the relevant information that you need to know about your nonprofit’s supporters. In addition to demographic and contact information for each of your supporters, your donor database measures:
- Your donors’ complete giving histories. This includes the amount donated, the method of giving, and date the donor gave. With all of this information, your nonprofit can make effective future decisions about outreach for each individual donor.
- Engagement. Donor database software should give your organization an idea of the overall engagement of your donors beyond their gifts. It should measure their participation in advocacy, events, volunteerism, and more. This gives a complete view of their involvement with your nonprofit.
- Giving potential. Store prospect research information in your donor database to facilitate major and mid-level gift stewardship for the future. Even for smaller donations, you can use this information to ask for specific amounts from donors.
While your donor database is a centralized location for donor information, it also measures major nonprofit analytics. For instance, it should measure your nonprofit’s donor retention, fundraising campaign progress, and progress on active tasks.
If you’re planning on investing in donor database software, check out Bloomerang’s buyer’s guide to finding the best nonprofit CRM.
2. Fundraising Software
Fundraising software opens up the opportunity for your organization to raise money through different platforms for various fundraising campaigns.
Even within the broad category of fundraising software, you’ll find many different types that your nonprofit can employ depending on the circumstances. When you’re choosing software, you’ll need to consider the type of campaign, payment processing, and your target audience’s preferences.
Some of the major types of fundraising software for you to keep on your radar include online fundraising pages, peer-to-peer fundraising, text-to-give, and direct mail.
Online Fundraising Pages
Online fundraising pages are pages located directly on your website. This is where donors will go to give single donations or sign up for recurring donations to your nonprofit. Generally, your nonprofit will allocate these small to mid-sized donations toward your annual fund.
Crowdfunding supports the collection of small donations from a broad audience for your nonprofit. Crowdfunding software is built perfectly for social media. Start a campaign, then share that campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to spread the word about it. It’s also best employed when you have a hard deadline for the end of the campaign.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is similar to crowdfunding in that you’re garnering small donations from a wide audience. However, in addition to one centralized fundraising page, your supporters create fundraising pages and raise money on your behalf. This is an especially useful fundraising technique as your nonprofit gears up for an event because it spreads awareness and collects donations.
Text-to-give software empowers donors to give right from their cell phones. This is especially useful for donors on the go, those who want to give at an event, or supporters who read your regular newsletter. How does it work? A text-giving provider will give your organization a number that donors can use to give. Donors text a code to the number and follow a link directing them to your donation page, where they can fill out their payment information.
Direct Mail Fundraising
Direct mail fundraising involves writing letters directly to your donors to ask for specific donation amounts. While you could theoretically write each of these letters separately, it’s more efficient to have access to software that auto-populates personal donor information into a letter template to print and send out. Sometimes, you can do this right from your CRM!
Before buying fundraising software, create a plan that spells out the goals for the software, your software budget, the ideal features, potential integration options, training processes, and the prospective vendors’ priorities.
Pay close attention to the potential for integrations. Integration between your fundraising software and your donor database software will streamline the process of transferring donor records from one solution to another. It helps prevent mistakes and makes it easy to keep accurate records of donations. Some donor database products will have fundraising software built right in.
3. Prospect Research Software
Prospect research is used by effective fundraising teams to identify prospective donors for major and upper mid-level gifts. Nonprofits use this tool for individual fundraising campaigns, such as large capital campaigns, to ensure your nonprofit hits its goal.
When conducting prospect research, look into your supporters’ philanthropic and wealth indicators to determine their affinity and capacity for giving. Some of these wealth and philanthropic indicators include:
- Previous donations to your nonprofit.
- Donations to other nonprofits.
- General engagement with your nonprofit.
- Real estate ownership.
- Stock holdings.
- Business affiliations.
- Political giving.
While you could spend time looking up each of these aspects for all of your prospective donors, it’s much faster and more efficient to invest in prospect research software for your nonprofit. With this database, you’ll quickly and easily find all of this information and more to facilitate the prospect identification process.
Look for prospect research software that integrates with your donor database. For instance, DonorSearch integrates with CRM software like Bloomerang. With this integration, each donor in your database receives a generosity score to kickstart the prospect research process.
4. Event Management Software
Event management software facilitates the event planning process from beginning to end. You can use this software to create easy registration pages, create effective communication channels, promote mobile bidding, and even set up fundraising opportunities for your event attendees.
Planning for events can be overwhelming for any organization. Therefore, having all-inclusive software makes it easy for nonprofits to plan and execute the perfect nonprofit event.
The best event management software for your organization should be easy to use, trusted online, have quality features, and create an effective method of communication. Look for a provider with effective customer service to help you with training, implementation, and answering any questions you may have.
5. Accounting Software
Nonprofits have a unique method of accounting that differs from that of for-profit organizations. Therefore, they require specialized accounting software.
When investing in accounting software, focus on those that offer fund accounting services. Fund accounting allows nonprofits to focus on the accountability of their revenue streams rather than the acquisition of funds.
Choose an accounting software solution that supports allocations for:
- Unrestricted funds.
- Temporarily restricted funds.
- Permanently restricted funds.
- Endowment funds.
- Board-designated funds.
Stay accountable to your donors by accurately allocating your funds in software designed for nonprofits. You should also look for one that makes it easy to organize a budget, track accounts payable or receivable, and scale up as your nonprofit grows.
Accounting software solutions often also integrate with fundraising or donor database software. These integrations streamline financial records between each of the solutions.
6. CMS Software
While your donor database is the backbone of your nonprofit’s internal references, your website is the backbone of your organization’s external communications. This is where you tell the world about your organization and direct people to interact with your organization.
Therefore, building an effective website makes a great base for your constituent communications.
Start building your website with an effective CMS platform. This platform should be nontechnical so that anyone in your organization can work with it. A friendly interface that doesn’t require coding usually has a drag-and-drop editing tool that’s easy to work with.
While you’re building, keep the following tips in mind:
- Use compelling images that reflect your organization’s brand.
- Give a concise overview of your organization’s mission to draw visitors in.
- Create clear calls-to-action that lead supporters to your donation page.
Website builders that integrate with fundraising software and donor database software are always a plus too! The fundraising software integrations ensure the donation page seamlessly blends into your site. The donor database integration streamlines donor information or lead capture information into your database.
Every nonprofit is different. As you grow, you’ll find that some needs arise more quickly than others. Take inventory of your current software arsenal and consider how adding any of these types of software may help you streamline your organization’s own operations.
This post was a guest contribution by our friend Jay Love at Bloomerang. 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.
Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.
Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master.