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The YAGNI Principle and Fundraising Software

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Okay, it’s time for a quick poll. How many of you have some area of your home devoted to storage of “stuff”. Maybe it’s a room, closet, garage, attic, or even a couple cabinets, but it’s a section of your home devoted to storing stuff that you rarely (if ever) use. Let me count hands… and… got it. It looks like we’re all divided into two groups: people who have a bunch of stuff they don’t use, and a group of people too embarrassed to raise their hands and tell the truth.

Now what if I told you to throw it all away – or better yet donate it to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or some other charity. How many of you could do it? I know the thought of it gives me a minor panic attack. I mean, if my tape of Weird Al’s Greatest Hits ever turns up, I’m gonna need that cassette player in the basement!

It’s rather normal for us to hold onto things because we can concoct some hypothetical scenario in which that Thigh Master will actually get some use. But here’s the truth – You Ain’t Gonna Need It (YAGNI). We are full of good intentions and imagination, but at the end of the day, we’re able to go through our lives quite successfully with a fraction of the things available to us. The YAGNI Principle is an approach where you focus on things that matter, and let go of the things that don’t (and you probably don’t use anyway). Just because you can come up with an imaginary case where you need that fill in the blank, that doesn’t mean that you’re *actually* going to need it.

That’s one of the guiding principles that we try to follow while building software here at Bloomerang. We’ve been told for years that the more buttons and options that the software has, the better it is. We want to challenge that flawed conventional wisdom. How many options/features can you find in the software you use every day where you have absolutely no idea what they do? Sometimes those are some really cool features worth learning about, but a lot of the time they’re just noise that distracts you from getting your work done and makes the software harder to use.

Our goal is to focus on the features that help nonprofits raise more money, build better relationships, and retain more donors. By not spending time on those things that don’t pass the YAGNI test, we can devote more time to working on the things that our customers need most. This also means that by keeping the screen clear of options that most people won’t use (or even know what they are), we can make software that us mere mortals can understand. After all, we’d take a refrigerator that works great over a box of powder blue leisure suits any day.

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