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Donor Management: Choosing The Right System

Idealware and NTEN teamed up yet another time to give organizations a guide to affordable donor management systems. The full report, which was released in June 2011, can be found here, A Consumer’s Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Systems.

Know What’s Out There
There are several systems out there filled with features that you may or not be searching for. However, what does your organization need to know about choosing the right system that is within your financial means and will do what you are looking for? I have outlined some categories from the report that will hopefully assist you in selecting a system that reflects your organizations’ needs.

Hosted System vs. Installed System
More and more solutions are becoming available in the cloud. The cloud eliminates the need to purchase and maintain expensive servers (all of your information is stored on the vendor’s servers), it makes it possible to access your system from anywhere your staff may be (with an internet connection), and best of all you don’t need to worry about upgrades and backup, the vendor will do it for you. You know that we at Cloud for Good are big fans of the cloud!
The other option is to purchase software that needs to be installed onto your internal network. You may need to purchase an additional server dedicated to only hosting this system, maintain updates and backups, and these systems may or may not be accessible from locations outside your organization. Generally you will pay per user for a cloud solution vs. a yearly licensing fee and additional maintenance fees (updates, service, etc.) with installed systems.

Tracking Donors vs. Tracking All Constituents
Some systems are only able to track donors. Other systems allow for tracking of events, members of the organization, volunteers, and other constituents. This helps to contain all constituent information in one system. If you already have a system that tracks constituents that the organization is satisfied with, you may only need a stand-alone donor tracking system.

Looking To Custom Built Your System?
It does not seem to make sense to build your own system. Donor management systems have been well researched and offer most of what you will need. Building your own system would mean that there will be no one to discuss issues with. There will be no upgrades or support. Also, no other organizations will have this system so it will eliminate sharing ideas, best practices, etc. Many systems out there (talk with us about Salesforce) are customizable. This will allow your organization to add unique features that will express your needs. In this case, it may be best to look for a system that has basic functionality as well as expandable customization capabilities.

Adding / Tracking Donations
It is safe to say that most systems allow users to easily enter donations. Beyond entering the figures it is important to understand the systems’ functionality. Are you able to quickly and easily search before entering information to avoid duplicates? You may be interested in entering several donations at a time either manually or by uploading a file. What about tracking multiple types of donations? Not all systems allow for easy reporting in terms of the giver (I.e. individual vs. Company). Are you looking to track honorary gifts or in-kind gifts? Even if a system offers all or most of your needs you will need to test how user friendly each of them are.

Manage Donor Information
How extensive is the system in terms of information storing and accessing? You may need to store several phone numbers, addresses, or other contact information. Is it easy to spot if a donor does not want to be contacted? Or maybe the donor only wants to be contacted by email but not through snail mail. Can you group people (couples, partners, families, etc.) in one home? Some systems group people using one record while others group by individual and then allow for linking records by creating a relationship between individuals. Again, a system may have the functions you are looking for but it is important to determine a users ability to perform the functions when needed.

Still Unsure or Need Help Deciding…
Cloud For Good will help you determine if Salesforce and the Nonprofit Starter Pack is a good fit for your organization. We are experienced in implementing CRM as well as including customization based on how you want the system to look and feel. Contact us for more information.