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8 questions to ask when choosing fundraising software

January 09, 2021
A woman sits at a desk and points at a monitor while another looks on, choosing fundraising software for their nonprofit together.

Fundraising software allows nonprofit organizations to put their donor data to work and manage fundraising and communications from one location. Ultimately, fundraising software gives nonprofits the ability to learn what’s important to their donors, deliver a better donor experience, increase revenue, and operate more efficiently with reduced costs. With that much power in one place, your nonprofit should conduct thorough research on the options available and how they align with your needs.

To help you as you’re evaluating your options, here are eight questions to ask when choosing fundraising software for your nonprofit organization.

Choosing a fundraising software system

All fundraising software tools have some basic functions in common. For example, they should allow you to create customized donation pages, collect donor data, and design fundraising campaigns. However, they vary widely when it comes to performance and user-friendliness.

Every nonprofit has unique needs, so you’ll want to choose the right software for your nonprofit. Be sure that the software you pick is simple to use, provides comprehensive insight into your donors’ giving activity and priorities, and enables you to plan campaigns effectively. 

1. Should you purchase an all-in-one fundraising software or mix-and-match providers?

All-in-one systems are more user-friendly because their functions are designed to work together. Additionally, your data will be consistent and kept up-to-date because it’s housed in one central location. Plus, workflows are simplified, and upgrades are easy.

However, depending on the functionality your nonprofit needs, you may not be able to find a system that has it all. In that case, you should be able to integrate additional software to expand capability. Some all-in-ones offer simple integrations, so look for fundraising software that makes integration easy for your nonprofit.

2. Have you considered the process of data migration and importing?

Not all fundraising software systems handle data migration and importing the same way. In fact, some have easy and affordable migration and importing processes compared to others. Determine what these processes look like for your software of choice—figure out how long the process will take and what protections they have in place to ensure your data is not at risk. You’ll also want to know if there are any additional fees involved for data migration and importing.

3. Are you taking precautions with respect to data security?

No matter which fundraising software you choose, you’ll want to have your donor data backed up in a secure location. Store this data on secure laptops or servers to keep your nonprofit organization safe. Consider a cloud solution with strong system controls.

4. Have you evaluated the overall viability of each fundraising software provider?

You need confidence that the software you choose will be around for the long term. Choose to work with companies that are well established and have relevant experience working with nonprofits to ensure that your solution will be reliable.

For each vendor you’re considering, research how long they’ve been in business, reviews from existing customers, whether they’re updating the product regularly and adding new features, and whether their product is specifically built for nonprofits.

5. How easily can you track data in the fundraising software and take action based on it?

You’ll want to be able to conveniently see donor information, track how your campaigns are performing, and determine if your communications are effective. Look for fundraising software that allows you to create visual reports and use your data to improve your campaigns and donor stewardship efforts.

6. Does the fundraising software integrate with the other tools you need to use?

If your nonprofit relies on other software functions that are outside what’s typically included in fundraising software, your fundraising software will need to be able to easily integrate with the other software you use. Be sure that these integrations are offered and that they’re convenient to set up. Determine if additional integrations create duplicate data or other problems, and ask if there are fees involved in setting up additional integrations.

7. What is the pricing plan and structure?

For fundraising software, it’s common to have hidden fees for training, data import, and other services. Ask about additional fees upfront and look for pricing structures that are clear and transparent. Ideally, your fundraising software should have a flexible pricing structure, as it should be able to adapt to accommodate your nonprofit’s future needs.

8. What about customer service?

You should be able to get help when you need it via a method that’s convenient for you, such as phone, email, or chat. Find out if the software company has a customer service team and if you can get answers from them in a reasonable amount of time.

Ideally, the provider will assign a point person to help you onboard and get going in the new fundraising software. You should also have access to training or coaching opportunities to help you get the most out of the system, without being charged extra.

Reflect on your fundraising software needs

Fundraising software is a powerful tool that will help you streamline operations and boost revenue, but you’ll only be able to get top results with software that’s suited to your nonprofit’s specific needs. Asking these questions will give you a clear picture of what each vendor can help you achieve.

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