By Guest Author: John Killoran, Clover Leaf Solutions*
Your fundraising software is central to everything that your organization does and aims to accomplish. It’s how you keep your data organized, plan your fundraising efforts, and how you pull off successful campaigns. That’s why it’s crucial to make a worthwhile investment in a solution that meets your unique needs and helps you do the work that’s so important to you.
Each software solution is slightly different but most will incorporate some of the same top features. To make sure you pick the right software for your organization, it’s important to identify which features are essential for you. We’ve included some of the features that we think are important to look for in fundraising software:
- Customizable Campaigns
- Donor Profiles
- Donor Segmentation
- Event Management
- Communication Capabilities
- Easy Reporting
- Software Scalability
Not all software solutions are made equal. And while you may not think you need all of these features right now, it’s important to consider the growth and future of your organization as you choose new solutions to invest in. Read on to learn why we think each of these features is important to have in your fundraising software, so you can make the most informed decision.
1. Customizable Campaigns
The last thing you want is to invest in fundraising software to launch great campaigns only to be limited in how you can actually run those campaigns. Choosing a software solution that offers various customization options when it comes to campaigns— and ideally, an unlimited number of campaigns you’re allowed to run — will avoid this frustration.
You should look for these customization options in your software:
- Custom fields
- Custom colors/branding
- Unlimited forms
- A recurring donation option
Including your branding in your campaigns and donation pages is an important strategy for nonprofit branding, according to Getting Attention. These features will help you create beautiful, branded, and useful campaigns that help you reach your goals and encourage your donors to increase their support for your organization.
2. Donor Profiles
While you can certainly use a database or Constituent Relationship Manager (CRM) that’s separate from your fundraising software, if you could combine the two, why wouldn’t you?
Fundraising software that can show your donors’ complete giving histories, contact information, and other engagement metrics in the way that a CRM would is sure to make a big difference in how easily you accomplish your work.
This is why you want to make sure that your fundraising software offers donor profile management.
In order to properly segment your donor base when running fundraising campaigns, you’ll need lots of information about your donors so that your communications really do feel personal to them. Robust donor profiles are also crucial when performing prospect research as part of your fundraising campaigns. Overall, the more you know about your donors, the better you’ll understand them and what motivates them to engage with your organization.
3. Donor Segmentation
Now that you know what kind of information you’ll be able to collect and include in your donors’ profiles, you need to make sure that your fundraising software has the segmentation capabilities that you need. There may be limitations on what factors you can use to segment or how many different segments you can make.
While these limitations may not be a problem for you right now, you should be aware of them. If you are hoping to see your organization grow significantly in the future, it’s important to consider if these limitations might cause problems down the line. Setting yourself up for success in the future will eliminate the need to switch fundraising software or CRMs again.
4. Communication Capabilities
One of the reasons it’s important to have great donor segmentation features as part of your fundraising software is so that you can send targeted, personalized, and effective communications to your donors when you’re running new fundraising campaigns.
The best software will not only let you segment donors but will offer ways to communicate with those specific segments directly from your software solution. Not all software solutions will offer the same communication capabilities, but we recommend getting software that at least offers email blasts.
If you want to be ahead of the pack, choose software that offers outbound text messaging in addition to email blasts. Some software solutions, like Snowball, include text-to-give and outbound text messaging, for maximum communication and fundraising capabilities. This helps you to stay on top of changing trends and gives you more options for how to reach different segments of your donor base.
5. Event Management
Some software will give you the option to integrate separate event management software into your existing software, but for the best use of your time and money, you should look for software that already has event management features, especially registration tools.
This will allow you to more easily register attendees who are already part of your database, regardless of whether you’re hosting virtual, hybrid, or in-person events. Instead of having your information in two separate places, all data will be centrally stored in your software solution as soon as you sell your tickets.
If your organization regularly hosts auctions, you’ll not only want ticketing capabilities but auction catalog creation, bidding, and check out for both in-person and virtual auctions all directly built into your fundraising software. This will make the entire process of raising funds through an auction, or any other event, that much easier.
6. Easy Reporting
Since the purpose of fundraising software is to help you track data and run more effective fundraisers, you need to be able to measure the success of your fundraisers and communications. Most solutions will offer you some degree of reporting, but not all are made equal.
Finding fundraising software that will eliminate as much manual work as possible when it comes to analytics and measuring the success of campaigns is crucial. A solution with an easy and comprehensive reporting system will enable you to measure each campaign, compare it to others, identify which donors are engaging and in what ways, and what areas can be improved in your next campaign.
7. Software Scalability
While it’s obvious that you need to find software that fits your current needs, it may not be as natural to think several years ahead when it comes to fundraising software. However, you want to avoid having to re-do this whole process two years down the line and transfer all your donor data yet again. Your fundraising software’s capabilities need to match where you see your organization several years from now.
The easiest factor to consider is how many donors a specific software solution can manage at once, in case of growth, but that’s not the only thing to consider. There may be features that you won’t currently use but could be useful in future projects that you want to make sure you have. When picking your fundraising software, try to keep a forward-thinking approach and don’t limit yourself.
There are products at many different price points out there. While you likely want to save money, it’s still important to consider if a higher price point may be worth your investment for the features it offers.
If your staff is currently wasting hours doing menial tasks that could easily be automated with an updated software solution, you’ll free up hours of their time that can be spent doing outreach, securing funding, and bettering donor relationships. By pivoting their time to more beneficial and lucrative activities, your investment in better fundraising software can actually help you earn more money.
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations.
Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.