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“Why don’t you use Bloomerang yourselves?”

“Don’t you stand by your own product?”

“If it isn’t good enough for you, how can it be good enough for us?”

We don’t get asked these questions too often by prospective customers, but they do pop up occasionally. While they may seem silly to most (Bloomerang isn’t a nonprofit, so why would we use a nonprofit CRM?) they do underscore an issue that is pervasive within the nonprofit sector: the proper selection and implementation of productivity tools and software.

Too often, nonprofits try to find an all-in-one solution that fits the needs, albeit poorly, of every department, or attempt to make a business CRM work for their organization.

At Bloomerang, we subscribe to the philosophy of finding the best product for each individual need. That’s why we use a suite of tools, including Nutshell, MailChimp, Freshdesk, Formstack, Unbounce, Redmine, Trello and more, instead of our own product or an all-in-one solution.

Why?

The best way to answer that question might be to first explain our process for selecting software, and how adopting that process might benefit your nonprofit.

Needs Analysis

We began the same way we ask our prospective customers to begin their discussion with us: a detailed analysis of our present and future needs.

This examination is not focused on only one department, but on every key department throughout our organization, including sales, marketing, accounting, data conversion and implementation, customer advocates, customer support, product development and quality assurance.

The analysis of our needs examined closely what was being done and used daily by our several of our departments touching sales and marketing in every manner. We wanted to have the greatest impact on our daily workflow, which did not include any of the following critical functions found in a nonprofit CRM like Bloomerang:

  • Pledges and Pledge Payments
  • Memorials and Tributes
  • Recurring Gifts
  • Special Event Registration
  • Restricted and Unrestricted Funds
  • Campaigns
  • Hard and Soft Credits
  • Households
  • Appeals
  • Gifts in Kind
  • Acknowledgement Letters
  • Receipts
  • Table Captains
  • Volunteer Hour Tracking
  • Grant Tracking
  • Wealth Screening
  • LYBUNT Reporting
  • SYBUNT Reporting
  • Engagement Level Tracking
  • Ahern Audit

The above items cause the majority of problems when a commercial CRM system like Salesforce is attempted for use by a nonprofit for fundraising.

We then focused on how data would be added to any new system via data entry, importing and integration with our website.

Next we looked at all the types and nature of reporting that must be done daily, weekly and monthly to satisfy our needs.

The resulting data points collected was almost exactly like the data points we collect from nonprofits looking at Bloomerang. It encompassed pages and pages of notes plus even more reporting samples. It was a fair amount of work, however we now knew what was required to make us happy. It also confirmed what we would not be willing to give up under any circumstance!

A Single Solution for Every Department

Were we looking for a single solution to satisfy every one of the departments above? No, because such a single solution does not exist, other than investing in a very costly and time-consuming custom-development route.

Perhaps you’ve worked at an organization where another department got the product they ultimately wanted, and you were stuck with a mediocre add-on or module to perform your daily functions. Too often, those fundraising tools play second fiddle to a membership, accounting or ticketing program.

Were we looking for a solution that could be used by several departments and share certain key summary data elements with the other departments? Yes! Such sharing of data allowed those other departments to use proper solutions for them such as applications to produce our financial statements or to create a usable “knowledgebase” for our customers. Those other solutions have been key to our success!

Eliminating Our Own Product

As you might have guessed by now, all of the factors above combined to rule out a solution specifically designed for nonprofit organizations engaged in fundraising and gift/pledge processing.

We would have had the same problems as any nonprofit trying to use a commercial marketing or CRM solution for fundraising and gift/pledge processing. Those problems stem from not having data objects designed to have ALL of the attributes needed to handle something like a lead flow report or a demonstration checklist in our case, or something like a memorial/tribute gift with both hard and soft credits applied to an unrestricted fund in the case of our customers.

Epilogue

Our chosen solutions have served us well for several years. This is a far different outcome than what happened at my previous nonprofit vertical software companies where we did attempt to use our own solution for a few years before it was costing us more time than it was saving! The mere fact that our internal employees were asking for features they needed in their day-to-day work to be placed above the needs of our nonprofit customers was a road to disaster.

Thankfully, such a conflict was avoided by moving our team to a solution designed for a commercial business.

So don’t be afraid to seek out what will work best for you as a fundraiser, as opposed to what works okay (or worse) for everyone.

The Buyer's Guide to Fundraising Software

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.