Is it time to look at new fundraising software?

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Donors are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. You need them to survive. But how do you manage all the information about their giving, along with all the personal details that are key to maintaining successful relationships? As a fundraising professional, you may feel you don't have the time necessary to explore new fundraising software options; after all, you're busy trying to find new funding sources. However, as competition for funds, resources, and the support of your constituents continues to increase, the economic pressures and resource constraints make good fundraising software a necessity. If your organization is experiencing any of the following challenges, it may be time to look at a new fundraising system.

1. Can you effectively keep track of donor information?

Storing information about your constituents and donors in a single donor management solution can help generate more successful campaigns and, ultimately, more income. It allows you to tailor communications and invitations for specific groups, find opportunities for matching corporate gifts, automatically track prospects and grant proposals, payment histories, and major donor visits, as well as create quality reports that demonstrate accountability to future donors. A good system will also allow you to track alternative names and contact information, important date reminders, and even relationships between donors.

What about your own relationship with donors? Can you log all calls and contacts with donors so your staff can easily see a full history? When a donor calls, you should quickly be able to see their involvement, giving history, where you got their name, and your record of communicating with them.

2. Do you miss funding opportunities because finding the right information quickly is difficult?

The intricate functionality required for donor development and prospect cultivation is a primary reason to change fundraising systems. In addition to tracking donors, many organizations want to track data to proactively manage fundraising. In some cases, you might want to do this across different members of the development staff. Having the ability to assign a status, priority, or both to each donor helps you understand how they fit in when prioritizing your prospecting.

Tracking which staff member is responsible for relationships can be very useful too. Each staff member could easily generate a list of major donors they should call, or even set up a prospect workflow. These workflows can help organize the most appropriate solicitor action for different prospecting stages, provide a fundraising pipeline forecast, and even schedule reminders for you or others to do something or call someone on a certain date. Workflow features like these are also useful to track grant proposals. They can track upcoming proposal deadlines, grant history, and the types of areas certain foundations are interested in.

3. Does it take more than 10 minutes to find and format data into a report?

The right fundraising software can simplify your reporting, enabling you to produce progress updates and performance analyses quickly and easily, as well as track spending across multiple fiscal years. Comparing fundraising totals over time is common, but what about comparing campaigns to one other, comparing demographic groups, or reporting on your pledge pipeline?

For simple ad hoc reports, it might suffice to be able to export this data to Excel and format it there. But, does your system let you create custom reports by defining the data you'd like to see, as well as the columns and formatting included in the report? In addition to establishing accountability, the right software will help you spend less time putting together complex reports required of your organization by multiple internal and external stakeholders.

4. Can you track volunteers, events and other interactions?

Donors are not your organization's only constituents - you may also have volunteers, members, program participants, or a wide variety of other people you work with. Chances are, you interact with many of these people in different ways. For example, one person might not just be a donor, but also a volunteer and a mentor in your mentoring program. Can your system help you see the full picture of all your interactions with each person? For example, tracking volunteer interests can help you match them with appropriate opportunities.

Those volunteers are often the lifeblood behind fundraising events. Many organizations rely on events for fundraising, constituent engagement, outreach and more. It's a lot of work organizing and running such events. Does your system support them by recording RSVPs and attendance, or taking event payments, recording basic information like meal preferences, and printing out attendee lists? For galas or dinners, you might also want to be able to link guests to paying attendees, or table assignments or the amount of money raised per table. For workshops or conferences, it's more important to be able to track registration for different sessions, or to easily generate name tags.

Is it time to evaluate a new fundraising system?

Good fundraising software can assist with the management of donor information including contribution history, financial records, personal details and contacts, as well as help generate and track donor communications and fundraising campaigns. It can decrease the time required to plan and implement fundraising activities, as well as simplify administrative tasks, data entry, report generation, campaign tracking, and analysis. It can also help you target your communications, allowing you to eliminate extra postage and reduce duplicates, while simplifying the management of your members, volunteers and events.

When considering a new fundraising system, look at it as a long-term investment rather than an expense. Fundraising software is one of the most important purchase decisions a nonprofit fundraising organization can make. A smoother fundraising program can improve not only an organization's administrative efficiency, but literally increase revenues and improve the public perception of the organization itself.

Annette Balgord is a principal of Affinity NFP, assisting non-profit organizations to implement fundraising, constituent relationship management (CRM), and accounting software systems. Contact Annette directly at 877-222-7229, email, or visit for more information about their services.

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