Let us know if this scenario sounds familiar: You and your team have decided to invest in a donor management and fundraising software solution. You’re ready to buy, but you’re not sure where to start when it comes to choosing the right software for your nonprofit.
Like most of us, you probably turn to Google to learn more. But instead of feeling empowered to make an informed choice, you feel overwhelmed by all of the options out there.
We’ve been in your chair before, and we know exactly how you feel.
If you’re ready to talk to someone right away, you can go to the provider’s website and request a Demo or demonstration of the product. We recommend this option for nonprofits that already know exactly what they want out of a software solution.
If you’re not there yet, don’t worry! We put together a helpful playbook that you can use to help make an easy donor management software purchase. Keep reading to learn more.
Why a playbook for choosing donor management software?
Having a document detailing the must-have tools and features that your organization needs provides you not only a good visual and reference point, but also allows you to collaborate internally with your organization to make sure you are all aligned on what you’re hoping to get out of your software.
In this playbook, you’ll detail what you need from the providers. Then you can base what you have covered in your playbook against the information you learn both in the demo and on their website and come to a conclusion on whether or not you want to move forward with their software.
What information should you include in your software selection playbook?
This will vary from nonprofit to nonprofit because it depends on your unique needs. Before you compose your playbook, sit down with your team and see which features or functionalities matter most to them.
As you’ll see below, you can compile those into a comprehensive list that will make it easier to compare different products and their offerings which you can then rank. We’ve included some examples but remember: You should focus on what your nonprofit needs.
You should also come up with a list of questions to ask the providers. For example, you could ask about their customer support options, the processing fees, or the cost of add-on services. Don’t be afraid to include a lot of questions. The more information you have, the better.
Sample Playbook with Key Factors for Choosing the Right Nonprofit CRM
You can find a guided playbook template below, or you can download a free blank version of the template here.
Keep in mind that your playbook should be tailored to address the needs of your organization. You don’t have to use any of the examples below.
Add the individuals in your organization who are responsible for the selection and approval of your new donor management software.
Project Team Members:
Who needs to be involved in the vendor review process
Who will be making the ultimate decision
Detail the timeline in which you will expect final feedback from project leaders and the expected date that the software selection will be made.
Kick-off Meeting / Build out playbook with key stakeholder involvement.
MM/DD/YYYY – MM/DD/YYYY
Book initial discovery meetings with software providers typically 15-30 minutes each to assess fit
MM/DD/YYYY – MM/DD/YYYY
Schedule full software demos for the entire selection committee to participate and provide feedback.
The final decision is made
MM/DD/YYYY – MM/DD/YYYY
Schedule implementation and data transfer with the new software provider.
Talk to your team to determine what pain points they have with your current fundraising software or, if you’re not currently using any software, what your team needs to fundraise more effectively.
We can’t customize our donation forms.
Our team doesn’t know how to use the software and would benefit from training.
We’re using [insert other providers like Mailchimp, QuickBooks, etc.], and we’d like those platforms to integrate with our fundraising software.
We can’t easily segment our contacts.
We can’t track volunteering or program participation.
We aren’t notified when a donor’s credit card is about to expire.
When thinking about the features a software provider offers, which ones will address your pain points? Which features do you absolutely have to have? Those are your key requirements.
The solution must track and display a constituent’s giving and engagement history.
We want donors to be able to log in, see their giving history, and easily update their contact or credit card information.
We must be able to segment our subscribers based on custom tags and/or engagement history.
We want to receive notifications and/or have the ability to set up triggered email series for monthly donors whose credit cards are about to expire or have already expired.
We want to be able to customize our donation forms.
FEATURE & FUNCTIONALITY PLAYBOOK:
After you’ve documented your paint points and key requirements, it’s time to lay this all out in a playbook. This will help you put together a visual comparison of the providers you’re considering.
Below you’ll find several examples of categories. Once you’ve created your own categories, mark how important each is to have:
Nice to have
Use this table to track the key functionality of each of the software solutions. Rank the functionality on a scale:
0 – Does Not Offer this functionality
1 – Offers part of this functionality
2 – Fully offers this functionality
(Must Have, Nice to Have, Optional)
(Fully offers, Partially offers, Does not offer)
Integrations (list which ones you’ll need)
Onboarding & Implementation
On-demand training (videos, webinars, community) are included
Customizable donation forms w/monthly giving
Peer to Peer functionality
Tribute / Memorial Gift tracking
Credit card expiration notifications
Bulk data import/export as CSV files
Ability to merge data
No coding knowledge required
Auto Update – change of address and deceased
Customizable (drag & drop) email templates
Customizable email autoresponders (subject line & body)
Marketing automation (i.e. auto-adding donor to newsletter)
Email opt-in options in forms
Customizable landing pages
Library of standard reports & dashboards
Retention rate calculator
Moves management functionality
Donor portfolio management
The pricing structure for donor management software varies based on the solution. Typically when purchasing donor management software you should expect to budget for a monthly recurring fee as well as a one-time onboarding or implementation fee. Let’s break down how this investment is typically calculated.
An implementation fee is used to cover the costs associated with moving your data from your current system or spreadsheet into your new software. The fee can vary based on:
The structure and size of your data
The current software you’re using
The cleanliness of your data
The level of customization you’d like to see in your new donor management software
As you’re talking with potential software providers be prepared to discuss the state of your donor data. Being able to provide a clear picture of the data will allow your new provider to offer a clear cost estimate associated with migrating your data into your new donor database. In some cases, if you’re a brand new nonprofit you may be able to simply start without an implementation fee, but this will vary based on the software you’ve selected.
Monthly maintenance fees for donor management software allow your new software provider the ability to ensure everything continues to run smoothly. Additionally, this fee is often used to continue to build out the software providing your organization with new features and functionality. The monthly maintenance fee is usually based on a number of key factors which can include:
Number of contacts stored in the database
Number of users accessing the software
Number of emails you send
Size of file attachments
Overall size of your organization
Specific features and functionality
Levels of support your organization needs
Having this information when you’re talking with potential donor management software providers will make the pricing conversations easier. Because each software provider may price slightly differently this can make it challenging to compare each provider. However, having this larger context on how pricing works can help you maximize the value each provider offers your organization.
Whether you’re a team of one or many an investment in donor management software is one that will ensure the sustainability of your nonprofit organization’s mission. By using the playbook laid out above you’re already headed in the right direction. You’ve got this!