When was the last time a “one size fits all” or “all-inclusive” solution really worked out for you?
There’s no doubt that it can be very convenient for a grocery store to offer every kind of food under the sun. But if you wanted great sushi, which would offer the best quality: a Japanese restaurant, or a mega chain store?
The same goes for technology provider. When a software program or solution has every feature under the sun, you’ll often find that – at best – most are just mediocre, and – at worst – they just don’t work. Either way, you’ll be left feeling frustrated and wanting a better fit.
For nonprofits, this comes into play when selecting data management software.
The idea is that if we have one all-encompassing solution that can manage our clients, our students, our volunteers, our donors, our programs, our grants, ticketing, events, membership, peer-to-peer, accounting, payroll, wealth screening, prospect research, etc. then everything will be easier and more efficient. Many nonprofit organizations try to make a one size fits all database solution fit all of the needs of the organization. but what happens is anything but successful.
Here are four reasons why your donor database should be a standalone, dedicated system rather than one module of a larger system:
1. Companies that make single-purpose software are usually really good at it.
It’s hard for a software company to be very good at creating systems that do many things, because each function suffers.
Look at your smartphone home screen. All of the apps you see are really good at one thing. This is the trend in technology, because it allows for skilled programmers and developers to master one functionality. It’s why MailChimp only does email, why Evernote only does note-taking and why Bloomerang only does donor management. This allows you to shop around for the best provider. With today’s APIs, integrations are usually a cinch.
2. One department will be very happy, and the rest of the department will be miserable.
That is because even with the “can do everything database” they usually focus on one key functionality and then add modules to address the other needs. Whatever department that has the module is left frustrated and not able to do all that they need to do.
3. The cost is double-to-triple what it would be with separate specialized systems.
Creating a database that does everything is expensive, and companies are more than happy to pass along that cost to you! Single-purpose apps are usually very affordable. Plus, you won’t end up paying for functionality you won’t or can’t use.
4. Staff turnover makes ongoing training and successful using the one size fits all system a nightmare.
Even with training, there will only be a choice few (or one staffer) that actually knows how to use the entire system. Meaning, ultimately, every department will be beholden to that one person.
So fundraisers, don’t allow your greatest asset and tool – your donor database – to be just a module in some other bigger system. It needs to be software truly focused on your daily fundraising efforts and building donor relationships. Bonus points if you find one designed by fundraisers!