Your nonprofit is quickly growing, bringing in more donations than ever before and fostering a strong donor base. These advancements mean you have the budget available to invest in new fundraising software that can streamline your fundraising tasks and empower you to raise even more.
Now, you’re probably wondering how to find not just a robust fundraising platform, but buy fundraising software that serves your organization for the long term.
This resource was made for nonprofits like yours! In this buyer’s guide, we’ll cover everything you need to find the right fundraising software for your organization’s needs. We’ll explore:
- Types of fundraising software to consider
- 7 essential fundraising software features to look for
- 5 steps to buy fundraising software
- 5 questions to ask when buying fundraising software
It’s worth taking the time to research potential solutions, discuss options with your team, and deliberate before coming to a final decision. The right fundraising solution can serve your nonprofit for years to come and dramatically increase your revenue.
Types of fundraising software to consider
When you think about fundraising software, you probably first think of online donation platforms that allow nonprofits to facilitate online gifts. While online giving platforms are an essential type of fundraising software, they aren’t the only tools that will help grow your fundraising results and build stronger donor relationships.
Keep in mind that the most effective fundraising software offers multiple tools within the same platform. An all-in-one fundraising solution, like Bloomerang, will give your nonprofit the flexibility and scalability it needs to manage fundraising campaigns without having to invest in a ton of different solutions.
Let’s explore a few of the most helpful types of fundraising software that your nonprofit can use.
Online giving platforms
Online giving or donation platforms bring your nonprofit’s online fundraising strategies to life. These solutions include tools that allow nonprofits to host successful online campaigns, including:
- Donation forms. Your website’s donation form is the tool that your nonprofit uses to collect donations. Your donation form should be fully branded to your organization, mobile-friendly, and straightforward to make it easier to fill out. It should also offer donors suggested giving amounts to help them determine their donation amount much faster.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising pages. In peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, supporters create personalized fundraising pages and collect gifts on behalf of a nonprofit. To host successful peer-to-peer campaigns, you need an online giving platform that allows supporters to personalize their fundraising pages with information about their connections to your mission. Adding a personal touch to their online donation pages can reach donors on an emotional level and drive greater support for your nonprofit.
- Crowdfunding functionality. Crowdfunding involves raising many donations, typically small gifts, from a large group of people. In a crowdfunding campaign, your nonprofit creates a centralized fundraising page and promotes it to a wider audience. You should be able to easily share the page using social media and email to get the word out.
- Text-to-give software. Mobile giving is essential for nonprofits—in fact, the majority (57%) of nonprofit website traffic in 2022 came from users on mobile devices. In a text-to-give campaign, donors will text a keyword to a phone number assigned to your nonprofit. In response, they’ll receive a link to your online donation form that they can fill out from their mobile devices. An online donation platform that offers built-in text-to-give software can allow your nonprofit to seamlessly promote your campaign to your existing donor pool.
Your online giving platform should be backed by a reliable, secure payment processing system. The system should have anti-fraud measures in place and be PCI-compliant.
In addition, your giving platform should offer multiple payment options, such as credit or debit cards, Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and cryptocurrency. This ensures that donors can give right away using their preferred payment method.
Donor management solutions
Donor management systems, also known as nonprofit CRMs, are software solutions that allow nonprofits to track donor interactions and giving histories, create donor segments, and develop communications campaigns. These solutions typically include features such as:
- Constituent timelines. Track donors’ engagement histories, such as the date of their first donation, events they’ve attended, and volunteer opportunities they’ve participated in.
- Donor profiles. Store pertinent information, like donors’ contact information, mailing addresses, preferred communication platforms, employment information, and more, in robust donor profiles.
- Information about donors’ engagement levels and giving potential. Your donor management system should provide data about who your most engaged supporters are. For example, Bloomerang’s platform provides an engagement meter based on past donor interactions, such as volunteer experiences or marketing engagement. Bloomerang also has a Generosity Score feature that identifies potential donors with the help of publicly available wealth data.
- Customized donor reports. Generate customized reports based on your nonprofit’s current donor engagement priorities. Save your most-used reports as templates to reuse in future data analysis.
Donor management software takes supporter interactions a step further by fostering ongoing communication and relationship-building efforts. Ultimately, these platforms can help your nonprofit retain more donors over time, building reliable revenue streams.
Marketing and engagement software
Marketing tools are essential fundraising resources because they help get the word out about your fundraising campaigns. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most useful marketing platforms:
- Email marketing platforms allow you to schedule email campaigns in advance, segment your subscribers, and measure email marketing metrics.
- Website analytics tools enable you to track metrics such as time on page, bounce rates, and conversion rates for different pages.
- Social media scheduling tools help you schedule posts in advance, track changes in your audience over time, and identify your most engaged social media followers.
These solutions often include automation options that send out communications to donors based on certain triggers, such as right after they give or at regular intervals throughout the year. For example, 32% of nonprofits send out an automated welcome series to new online donors, which can be a great way to provide a positive first impression.
7 essential fundraising software features to look for
No matter what type of fundraising software you invest in, there are a few crucial features you should look for that ensure that the software will deliver a high return on investment. Your fundraising software should include features like:
A user-friendly interface
Account for your staff’s level of expertise to find a solution that your team will actually be able to use effectively. If many of your staff members don’t have a strong technical background, ensure your fundraising software is highly intuitive and user-friendly for beginners.
On the other hand, if your team is more advanced and ready for a more complex fundraising solution, take that into consideration throughout the buying process as well.
Look into scalable solutions that offer more advanced features at different price points. This can allow you to level up your fundraising over time as your team gets more used to the new platform.
You should be able to customize different features within your software system, including:
- Donor profiles. For example, you should be able to add custom data fields for information you want to track, such as donors’ volunteer histories, birthdays, or donations to similar nonprofits.
- Donation page design. You should be able to easily customize your online donation page with your nonprofit’s unique branding and messaging.
- Communication templates. Communication templates can help you save time, and having the ability to customize those templates can reinforce your brand recognition.
Customizability allows you to configure your platform to suit your unique needs. Some fundraising solutions tend to be ready to go out of the box while others require greater configuration. For most nonprofits, especially growing ones, it helps to look for a solution that strikes a balance between customization and ready-to-use functionality.
Ability to integrate with other software solutions
Integrations are connections between software solutions that allow them to transfer data and communicate with each other. Check to see whether your top fundraising software choices integrate with any existing platforms you’re currently using. These platforms may include:
- An email marketing tool. An email marketing integration will allow you to leverage donor data from your fundraising tool to segment subscribers more accurately. For example, your fundraising tool can identify first-time donors, and your email tool can automatically sort them into a group with other new supporters.
- A matching gift platform. Integrating a matching gift platform into your fundraising process ensures that donors can research their matching gift eligibility right within your online donation page. This helps your nonprofit spread awareness of matching gifts and helps donors submit these gifts much faster than before.
- Accounting software. Accounting tools like QuickBooks simplify tracking expenses, revenue, and invoicing. Integrating an accounting solution with your fundraising tools keeps fundraising and financial data available within one system.
- A prospect research service. Prospect research software can help identify potential new donors with the capacity and willingness to make a large gift. When your fundraising software integrates with a platform like DonorSearch, you can combine insights from a robust prospect research database with your nonprofit’s internal data. This can help identify new prospective donors who exhibit similar characteristics as your existing major donors.
- A volunteer management solution. Managing all supporters, including volunteers and donors, from one system offers many benefits. First, it allows you to identify volunteers with the capacity and willingness to become donors. It also allows you to invite donors to volunteer and deepen their connection to your cause.
Integrations should be seamless, meaning they should allow different systems to be completely compatible with your fundraising software. Ask your potential vendors whether they offer integrations with your current systems. If they don’t offer every integration you’re looking for, check to see if they have plans in the future to build new integrations.
A positive donor experience
Donors are the front-end users of your fundraising platform, so the solution should be tailored to their needs. For example, your fundraising software should allow you to create a donation page that is:
- Streamlined, with only essential form fields for contact information, payment details, and donation amount.
- Mobile-friendly and easy to fill out from any device.
- Accessible, with high-contrast colors, alternative text for images, and clearly labeled form fields.
Your fundraising system should also allow donors to take control of their engagement by adjusting their recurring giving amount or changing the frequency of their gifts.
The more your giving platform appeals to donors’ preferences, the more likely they are to actually use it, and the more your nonprofit can raise!
Support from the provider
A fundraising platform that offers ongoing implementation support and training can help you increase your return on investment. Your software provider should offer expert support from their team in the following ways:
- Onboarding and implementation support, including support for migrating your data from your old fundraising platform to your new system.
- Staff training resources, such as digital courses or videos.
- On-call, live chat, and email support options to connect with your software provider in the ways that work best for your team.
- Data appending and hygiene services to update your database with missing information, such as addresses, and keep your database clean.
- Free resources, including downloadable guides and a frequently updated blog that explores the latest fundraising best practices.
Your new fundraising platform has the greatest chance of succeeding when your entire team knows how to manage the system effectively. Your software provider should be a leader in the fundraising space and devote their time to helping your organization succeed.
Infrastructure maintenance and improvements
Your software vendor should regularly update software as technology advances for better cybersecurity and debugging developments.
Ask your vendor if they have a publicly accessible changelog. Review the changes they have made to their software over time and ensure they are updating this log regularly.
Any fundraising solution you use should have several safeguards in place to keep sensitive donor information secure. Look for a platform that offers security features like:
- A PCI-compliant payment processor. This means that the payment processor aligns with standards set by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council.
- Encryption of donor data. Encryption converts donor data into unreadable code that can only be transmitted back to its original form using a key.
- Unique, lengthy passwords. Long passwords with different character types are harder to crack. Set password requirements for staff members using your fundraising software and donor database.
- Multi-factor authentication. Require staff members to verify their logins using multi-factor authentication. This might include sending them a text or email with a unique code they can use to log in to your fundraising platform.
Maintaining security fosters donor trust, ensuring that supporters will feel comfortable giving you their sensitive payment information.
5 steps to buy fundraising software
After considering common types of fundraising software and key features to look for, you’ll be ready to make a decision about which platform is right for your organization.
Follow these steps to find a platform that suits your needs:
1. Set goals and must-have features
Create a list of objectives your nonprofit is looking to achieve with the help of your fundraising software. For example, you might be looking to:
- Increase donation page conversions by 30%
- Leverage a smoother integration between your online donation page and donor database to steward new donors more effectively
- Access more robust segmentation tools that allow you to group donors based on shared characteristics and create more tailored marketing campaigns
Then, identify the features that you absolutely need from your new system to accomplish your goals. For instance, you might need filtering and segmentation functionality, streamlined donation pages, or an integrated donor management and online giving platform.
2. Determine your budget
Decide how much your nonprofit can devote to investing in a new fundraising system.
Keep in mind that free fundraising software solutions may not offer the features you need to truly level up your fundraising, making them not a great use of your time and energy.
For first-time fundraising software buyers, we recommend shopping around to see what the starting price is for a few different systems to give you a general idea of the typical cost of these systems.
Don’t forget that the listed price of fundraising software isn’t the final price you’ll pay. Lookout for down-the-line costs for your fundraising software such as:
- Training fees. Training fees are considered a startup cost so that your organization can learn how to best use the software solution.
- Payment processing fees. Payment processing fees are used in the collection of online donations in order to process credit or debit card payments.
Although there are usually some payment processing fees for online donations, they are rarely over a few percentage points.
3. Assess reviews
Check out software reviews submitted by real users. Resources like G2 or Capterra can be helpful for accessing unbiased opinions. If you see any glaring contradictions with your list of goals, remove the platform from your list.
4. Participate in demos
Attend demos for your top fundraising software options. As you watch the walkthroughs, pay special attention to the following elements:
- The built-in features of each platform and any add-ons that may cost extra
- Security measures in place
- Opportunities to scale up or down based on your needs
Make sure that staff members who will use your fundraising platform daily are invited to participate in the demo process.
5. Make your final decision with the help of key stakeholders
Team members who will use the fundraising platform regularly should be deeply involved in the software buying process. Consult with your fundraising team to ensure that they’re on board with your ultimate choice. If you can’t receive unanimous approval, make sure to understand each team member’s reservations and address their concerns.
5 questions to ask when buying fundraising software
Often, the software-buying process can come down to a final choice between two platforms that are very similar. How can you know which option is truly the best for your organization? Ask yourself the following questions to narrow down your decision:
1. Does the software vendor share our priorities?
Your software provider should understand the key pain points in the nonprofit industry. When they do, they’ll design and update the software in a way that helps solve those real-world problems.
Inquire about whether the provider has a place for customers to make improvement suggestions. Ensure that they listen to common concerns but don’t adjust the software to try to suit every customer’s needs. This can reveal a lack of vision and a cohesive strategy.
2. What is the timeline for getting the software up and running?
How much of your team’s time will you have to commit to launching your new system? Since starting up with new software will require data transfers, you’ll likely need to spend a decent amount of time ensuring all of your information migrates successfully.
Investigate whether your provider offers installation support and data migration to make the process as quick and painless as possible.
3. What does the training process look like for the software?
How long will it take for your team to get comfortable with the new software? This is where user-friendliness comes into play. The more intuitive and user-friendly the system is, the easier it will be to train team members.
4. Will this software effectively fill gaps in our current fundraising approach?
Ultimately, your fundraising software should mitigate the primary obstacles or slowdowns your team faces when it comes to fundraising. Ensure your new platform actually helps fill gaps in your strategy. Flashy bells and whistles may look impressive but aren’t worth your time if they don’t actually address your key issues.
5. Can the software scale up as our organization grows?
When weighing all of your software choices, inquire about the scalability of each option. Scalable pricing structures allow you to choose a system that has the features you need without paying extra for the features you don’t require. You may choose to scale up after a few years if the software helps you grow.
Understanding how to buy fundraising software will help your nonprofit make the best ultimate decision for your needs. Carefully consider the features and priorities of each top platform. Armed with this research, you’ll find a software solution to fit your organization’s specific needs.
For more information about buying fundraising software, check out these additional resources:
- The 25 Best Fundraising Software Solutions to Boost Results. Explore top fundraising solutions available and the features of each platform to help find the right solution for your nonprofit.
- Nonprofit CRM: The Buyer’s Guide + 9 Solutions (2023 Update). Looking specifically for a nonprofit CRM to better manage donor data? Our buyer’s guide can help!
- 14 Best Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Platforms for Nonprofits. Peer-to-peer fundraising software can help your nonprofit reach more participants and grow your audience. Explore 14 top platforms with this roundup.