Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

5 tips to choose the best donor management software

June 24, 2021
This nonprofit leader is using his computer to analyze data using donor management software.

Nonprofit organizations use donor management software, also referred to as a nonprofit relationship manager (CRM), to track information about their supporters, from donors to volunteers to advocates to board members. Keeping track of this information helps you build stronger relationships with your supporters. 

However, to cultivate these relationships, you need to have a comprehensive and intuitive database that suits your organization’s needs. In this guide, we’ll cover six key tips for choosing the right solution to help your nonprofit organization thrive. 

1. Choose donor management software built for nonprofits

While there are many CRM systems available on the market today, nonprofit organizations need to look for nonprofit-specific solutions. For-profit companies often use CRMs to track customers in the sales process, so for-profit solutions often use sales-specific language as a part of their software. Nonprofits, meanwhile, track relationships, and need a solution that uses nonprofit-specific terminology. 

Plus, nonprofit-specific software solutions come right out of the box with fields related to donations, event attendance, and other nonprofit-specific activities. Instead of trying to shoehorn a for-profit CRM into fitting your nonprofit’s needs, choose a solution that already does. 

2. Look for donor management software with comprehensive donor profiles

One of the main purposes of your donor management software is to foster relationships with your supporters and donors. Therefore, look for features that allow you to build out donor profiles with useful information, such as: 

  • Family units. Most organizations should be able to track donations and activity by family as well as by individual.
  • Demographics. Save information about supporters' ages, locations, preferred pronouns, and more.
  • Engagement data. Store information about the campaigns your supporters participate in, the events they attend, and even the emails they choose to read.
  • User-defined fields: No system provides every field you need out-of-the-box. Be sure that you have the ability to track any and all unique information that is important to your organization.

When you have a solution that you can use to store data about your donors, make sure you can also use that information effectively to drive your campaigns. For example, make sure you have segmentation options that allow you to group your supporters based on commonalities, making it easy to personalize messages to different sections of your supporter base. 

In addition, ask prospective software providers about reports and dashboards that can help you to develop an accurate picture of donor history as well as organization and campaign-level progress. 

3. Look for fundraising features in your nonprofit CRM software 

The best donor management solutions come equipped with features for raising funds from your supporters. Look for full-suite solutions to ensure all data is shared seamlessly between your fundraising and donor management systems. Your full suite solution should include fundraising features such as: 

  • Fundraising forms and payment processing
  • Offline donation processing
  • Donor history that includes both online and offline giving
  • Largest, most recent, and average gift amounts to determine a calculated "next suggested gift" amount
  • Direct mail support, including the ability to create customized and personalized letters, label and envelope printing, and national change of address (NCOA) support.

This allows you to track your fundraising campaigns and draw conclusions on what strategies have been successful and what aspects of your fundraising strategy need to be improved in the future. 

4. Use your donor management software to secure major gifts

Identifying and cultivating major donors is an important part of any nonprofit organization's fundraising efforts. Strong donor management software will allow you to track the necessary information for identifying major donors and nurture those relationships. 

Identify major donors by using your donor management software to find donors who give regularly and/or have given over a certain dollar amount in a single gift. Then, note this information in your segmentation strategy. This allows your organization to reach these key supporters on a personal level with targeted outreach—the first step to donation cultivation.

Using a prospect research tool, such as WealthEngine or DonorSearch, will give you additional information on the giving history and capacity of your current and prospective donors. Save this additional information in your donor management system to ensure that you solicit donations in an enticing way and with appropriate ask amounts.

5. Make sure your donor management software offers the best reporting options

The information you store in your CRM is only as good as your ability to view and analyze that data. Make sure that your donor management software has the following:

  • Data about campaign results that you can analyze to determine what works and what doesn't. You can use this information to optimize future campaigns, capture more supporters, and raise more money.
  • Prioritization tools that allow you to indicate important tasks. For example, have staff members reached out to all of your major donors during the latest fundraising campaign? Or are there still some stones left unturned? 
  • Personalization options for messaging and requests. Personalize emails by adding  supporters’ preferred names, customizing ask amounts based on giving history, and referencing previous campaigns that supporters have engaged with. 

Of course, you should celebrate your organization’s wins, but it’s more important to learn from your results. This information will help you uncover new opportunities to improve your campaigns in the future. 

Maximizing your donor management software for the future

Donor management software is a powerful tool that nonprofits can use in their everyday activities. More importantly, it’s a tool that can help your organization grow over time. When you start considering a new solution, look for one that offers both the features you need right now and the ones that you will need to accomplish your growth initiatives for the future.

Ready to Get Started?

    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas