Fundraising databases help your organization streamline the implementation of its fundraising strategy and improve donor relations. However, choosing a fundraising database for your organization can be overwhelming. Many nonprofit professionals have trouble even figuring out where to start. This guide is designed to send you down the best path to selecting the best fundraising database for YOUR nonprofit organization.
What are Fundraising Databases?
Fundraising databases are software solutions that store both your donor and donation information. Fundraising software offer an array of features, such as analytics, reports, donation pages, employment profiles, wealth screening, and donor touchpoint tracking.
Why Do You Need a Fundraising Database?
Many small organizations rely on Microsoft Excel or Google spreadsheets rather than a fundraising database. These spreadsheets track transactions, but they don’t do a good job of tracking donor relationships. This causes a loss in fundraising opportunities.
Implementing a fundraising database can help nonprofits form a more well-rounded fundraising program. These software solutions can help nonprofits collect donations, reach new supporters, improve donor stewardship, host fundraising events and collect donor research in one convenient location. The full donor relationship is tracked, not just donations.
How to Select the Best Fundraising Database
1. Familiarize Yourself with Database Functionality
Watch a few demo videos from some of the leading providers to familiarize yourself with how fundraising databases function. You need to learn what they can do before you can decide if you need that functionality. Here’s a list that I have compiled to help start the process.
2. Assess the Needs of Your Nonprofit
Ask yourself, What does your nonprofit need from a fundraising database? What is the goal you’re hoping to achieve? Nail down the functions you need to help focus the research process.
3. Rank the Needs of your Nonprofit
Not all software will fit all of your criteria. Decide what the most important features you’re looking for are. Many organizations rank these as “must have” features, “would be nice to have” features, and “can live without” features.
4. Research the Software Solutions
There are tons of options out there, use Google, ask your friends or research blogs. Your goal is to narrow your list down to three to five products that you think best meet your needs. Then request live demos to verify your assessment and see which one(s) you like best.
5. Test the Fundraising Software
But don’t stop there! Ask to test the software yourself to make sure it will fit your needs. A demo with a product specialist is very different from using it yourself as they spend all day using the product. Most fundraising software companies offer “sandbox versions” of their products. This is a fully functioning database with fake data loaded into it so you can fully test it in your own shop.
6. Select the Fundraising Software
Choose the right database for your organization. Get feedback from your team/what aspects did they like? What software best fits your needs? Which software fits your budget? Do you need the lower tier of offerings or the top tier? Evaluate the cost and trade offs. Do you need high-end options or a simple database to get you started? And don’t forget to save some budget for training and implementation costs.
7. Implement the Fundraising Database
You’ve put in the hard work of researching and testing different software, so make sure you implement it properly. Train your staff to utilize the different functions. Tie organization goals and track KPIs through the software. Paying for training and implementation assistance is always a wise investment.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing Fundraising Software
- What does your staff spend a lot of time on? Choose a fundraising software that can help automate processes and remove the burden of menial tasks.
- How will you collect donations? Matching donations, credit card donations, Monthly donations, pledges?
- Do you have a large number of donors? Make sure the donor database is able to handle a large amount of information.
- What KPIs do you report on? Will the software run the reports you need?
- How many emails does your organization send out every month? How many email lists do you have? What email templates do you use?
- Is the software updated frequently?
- Choose software where the company invests time into updating its product to stay up with the times and remove bugs.
- What plan should you choose? Do you need all the bells and whistles or just a simple system? If you have a lower budget, choose software with fewer features.
- Does the software company provide training on its fundraising database? This will help your team utilize the software to its fullest potential.
Choosing a fundraising database is a large investment of both time and financial resources. It is no easy task. Make sure you do your research before settling on one so you don’t regret your decision a year or two down the line.