I published my first article on evaluating fundraising software back in 1985. In those days the first software packages for personal computers had been in place for just a year or two. There were just a few supplier options, and since the updates were shipped out on diskettes along with huge 3-ring-binder user manuals, such new releases were few and far between!
It is no wonder why buyers focused on and worried about features back then since there was literally no such thing as a quick and easy change or update. You simply had to focus on what was available at that moment in time because with only one or two new releases a year! In addition, the complicated user interfaces caused innovation to move forward at a snail’s pace!
Lightning Fast Pace of Change
Now the pace of change is at warp speed. Since virtually all systems are online, changes and updates can be applied daily with literally no effort by end users! Most online system providers, such as Bloomerang, are applying such updates several times each week.
This allows products to be vastly different in weeks or months rather than years.
However, buying habits often die hard in any industry, but are particularly slow to change in the nonprofit sector. This does not need to be the case. Hopefully, sharing much more important criteria below will bring about change. Maybe the age-old comparison of features spreadsheets will finally be retired next to the cassette recorder/8 track player and diskettes…
4 Criteria to Consider When Buying a Donor Database
1. The Level of Customer Service
This seldom changes, as it is much more of a reflection of the culture of the providing business and their day-to-day policies. The only time this changes drastically is when another company who has much different standards and policies acquires the business.
2. The Type of Implementation Assistance Provided
The key to the first year success for just about every donor database implementation relates back to the type of data conversion and testing used. There are only a few vendors who actually appoint a designated Project Manager to guide you and your team through this extremely key process.
The pain of a botched set of data lives on forever and costs more in time and fundraising dollars lost than any other factor.
3. The Current Level of Innovation of the Product
The old saying about the spots on the dog seldom change certainly apply here. If the product you are considering is without any game changing innovations, there is little chance you will see such innovations later.
4. The Stability of the Company Offering a Product
No nonprofit executive would purchase a car from a seriously shaky car company, which runs the risk of not providing service for the life of the vehicle.
However, for some reason, nonprofit decision makers seem reluctant to ask about the financial condition of a partner providing a key service for the next 10 years or longer.
This should be easy because the answers tell the entire story quickly. Here are the best questions to ask:
- Are you profitable?
- Are you growing year over year and by what %?
- What amount of debt is there?
- Does a regional or national CPA firm do a full commercial audit annually?
- Is there Venture Capital involved? (This usually causes a sale to be forced at some point.)
- What is your annual customer retention rate?
So much has changed since 1985 regarding literally every technology related product. From phones to computer software the pace of change and features being added is downright scary fast!
Hopefully, the even older spreadsheet comparing features that now change monthly and sometimes weekly will be replaced with the four key criteria above. Especially since they highlight the critical differentiators influencing customer satisfaction and more importantly fundraising success!