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8 questions to ask when choosing fundraising software

Grace Duginski
Content marketing specialist
April 01, 2024
A woman sits at a desk and points at a monitor while another looks on, choosing fundraising software for their nonprofit together.

As a seasoned nonprofit professional, you already know fundraising software helps nonprofit organizations put donor data to work and manage multiple complex programs in one place, like fundraising, communications, volunteer management, advocacy, and more. After all, you’re not just picking out a new constituent relationship management (CRM) tool for storing your donors’ contact information. You’re choosing an essential piece of your organization’s architecture, and the right one will help you learn what’s important to your supporters, give them a strong experience, and ultimately make more of a difference together.  

With that much power in one place, you know it’s important to do thorough research on your options and understand how they can meet your needs. Still, it can be tough to know where to start, especially if you’re already busy with other, mission-oriented work. 

To help you as you’re evaluating your options, here are eight questions to answer when choosing fundraising software for your nonprofit. For a more in-depth guide, download the full nonprofit technology transformation toolkit

Identifying your wants and needs from a fundraising software system

Almost all fundraising software tools have some basic functions in common, but they can vary widely when it comes to performance and user-friendliness. 

Every nonprofit has unique needs, so you’ll want to choose the right software to meet yours. As you’re thinking through and prioritizing what you’d like from a new platform, sort functionalities into two buckets: need-to-haves and nice-to-haves. As you’re thinking through those two categories, don’t just consider what you need today: Think about your nonprofit’s strategic plan and what you’ll need to accomplish over the next several years. Make sure you’re considering software that can help you launch and run programs that may not exist today but will in the future. (This can also help you make the case to your board, funders, or other stakeholders who might need to sign off on a new technology investment.) 

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

All-in-one systems are generally more user-friendly because their functions are designed to work together. Being able to see every single gift, volunteer shift, advocacy action, and social media share a supporter has on their record means you can send them messages tailored to their unique journey with you, which makes them likelier to respond. Your data will be consistent and kept up-to-date because it’s all housed in one central location. You won’t need to waste time manually shuttling data from platform to platform, so your workflows are simplified. Also, because you’re using one single source of truth, upgrades are easy and you can worry less about work processes, automations, or integrations breaking due to an update. 

Despite the benefits of a single source of truth, you may not be able to find a system that meets every single one of your needs. If you’re able to get most of your needs met by one system but still have a few other pieces in your technology ecosystem that need to be connected, look for platforms that offer simple integration options to get the job done. 

2. What does the data migration process look like? 

There are nuances to how different fundraising software systems handle data migration and importing. Some have easy and affordable migration and importing processes, but others don’t offer much support for that transition. Determine what these processes look like for software candidates you’re considering. How long will the process take? What kinds of pre-work or data clean-up need to happen before a migration? Can you and your colleagues handle this work yourselves, or is it worth setting aside resources for an expert’s help? What protections and security protocols do potential software partners follow to protect your data? You’ll also want to know if there are any additional fees involved for data migration and importing. 

3. What precautions should you take regarding data security? 

No matter which fundraising software you choose, you’ll want to have your donor data backed up in a secure location. Work with your IT and database management team to identify the most secure way to store supporter data before, during, and after a migration. And of course, as you’re evaluating different systems, look for a platform that meets your minimum security standards. This should include details like the way they store your supporters’ personal information, your donors’ payment information, and how all of your data is handled in transit and at rest. 

4. What’s the overall viability of potential fundraising software providers? 

You need confidence that the software you choose will be around for the long term. Working with companies that have experience building software specifically to meet nonprofits’ unique needs can help you ensure that they understand your priorities and that your solution will be reliable. 

For each vendor you’re considering, check out reviews from existing customers, look up whether they’re updating the product regularly and adding new features, and confirm that their product is specifically built for nonprofits. Also, take a look at their roadmaps to see if they understand your needs and priorities not just today, but into the future. 

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

You’ll want to be able to conveniently see supporter information, track how your campaigns are performing, and understand how effective your communications are. Look for fundraising software that lets you create reports, incorporate data visualization, and use your information to improve your campaigns and donor stewardship efforts. It’s extra helpful if a system gives you time back in your day by generating reports at a regular cadence and automatically sending them to specific people. 

6. What are the logistics of choosing and transitioning to new fundraising software? 

There are always logistics to consider when making a change of this scale. Ask yourself: When do you need to give notice to a previous vendor that you won’t be renewing with them? What project management support will you receive from a potential new vendor and what support will you need to source yourselves? Do you need to work with a change management expert to make sure the transition goes smoothly, and have you budgeted resources for that expertise? 

A technology transition will require some advance planning, too, since you definitely don’t want to be doing a migration the night before GivingTuesday, on December 29, or immediately before your big spring gala fundraising event. Partners like potential technology providers and external change management experts should understand your timing and priorities. 

7. What’s the pricing plan and structure? 

Talk to potential technology partners about the total cost of ownership for your new platform, including any fees you might need to know about. Ask peer organizations about their experiences too; if you’re looking for a place to start, platforms you’re considering should be able to give you a reference to check. Also, chat with peer organizations to see what kinds of support they’ve found they need to budget for (if any) to maintain their software. 

8. How can you access customer support, success, and training? 

You should be able to get help when you need it via a method that’s convenient for you. Ideally, your chosen technology provider will connect you with a point person or team to help you onboard and get going in your new fundraising software. You should also have access to training or coaching opportunities to help you get the most out of your system. This is top of mind for many nonprofits, because you’ve invested time, money, and other resources into choosing, purchasing, and migrating into that new system. Now, your priority is getting the most value and power out of that investment as quickly as possible, whether it’s through smoother processes, more personalized campaigns that raise more funds, adding more supporters to your community, or saving staff time so they can all focus on the mission. 

You should be able to choose the right level of support for your organization and team — and this might include getting access to prioritized support pathways, like in Bonterra’s Premier Support

Reflect on your fundraising software needs 

Fundraising software is a powerful tool that can help your nonprofit streamline operations and boost revenue, but you’ll only be able to get the best results with a solution that’s suited to your specific needs. Asking these questions will give you a starting place to consider what the right platform can help you achieve. Once you’ve worked through the questions in this blog, go even deeper into the technical considerations of transitioning to new software with the complete nonprofit technology transformation toolkit

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Written by

Grace Duginski
Content marketing specialist
    Guided Fundraising
  • Nonprofits
  • Fundraising ideas