How to Choose The Best Fundraising Software For Your Non-profit – 5 Easy Steps

So you’ve decided you need new fundraising software for your non-profit, or you are purchasing it for the first time. This is a big decision!

Your fundraising software is probably the most valuable tool your non-profit will ever own. It allows you to track a 360 degree view of all your interactions with contacts, manage campaigns, donations, programs, and increase efficiency, and effectiveness of operations. Needless to say, you want to make the best decision for your organization. This 5 step guide will help.

Step 1 – Put Someone In Charge

Before you get started, put someone in charge of the project. This person should ensure the right people are involved in each step of the selection process – as you gather requirements, look at specific features, and make your final choice.

Tip: There is no need for every person to be involved at every stage. Consider each department’s or individual’s need to be involved and the expertise they can bring to the process. Then decide how best to get them involved.

Step 2 – Decide on Needs

Before you start looking at options, make a list of what you want your fundraising software to do for your organization: Is it going to be used just for fundraising, or do you want it to also manage memberships, volunteers, special events, programs? Do you want it to integrate with your website? Should broadcast email be included?

You’ll also want to think about specific functionality that you need. For instance, maybe you require the ability to batch donations, or register people for courses, or need to be able to track a completely custom type of data.

Lastly, consider your technical needs. How many users should it support? Does it need to run on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, or a combination of these? In the cloud or on your desktop?

Mandatory vs Must Haves

Once you have a list of requirements, decide which are mandatory and which are just nice to have. If a vendor cannot meet your mandatory requirements, they should be scratched from the list – even if the solution is free. You may also want to prioritize the nice to haves. They can be used to decide between the systems that are still on your list.

Tip: While your organization and data needs may be unique, don’t assume you need a custom solution. Software development is not for the faint of heart, and it will end up costing you a bundle in the long run. You can easily find an out-of-the-box solution that can be customized to meet even the most unique needs, like Sumac.

Step 3 – Decide on Budget

Once you’ve worked out what’s mandatory and what’s just nice to have, decide what you’re willing to spend on fundraising software that meets your needs, and eliminate the systems that are too expensive. If you can’t find the price on the vendor’s website, give them a call to find out if their solution will fit into your budget.

Tip: It’s important to remember that the price of the software is just one piece, and often the smallest part, of the “total cost of ownership.” Many solutions have additional costs associated with them for: user licenses, technical support, data conversion, training, updates, usage, or even additional hardware to support the solution. It’s important to understand all the associated expenses.

Step 4 – Book Demos

Once you have a list of fundraising software that meet your mandatory requirements, and your budget, you should start booking demos to see each system in action.

Tip: Be sure to identify in advance what you want to see, and don’t assume that because a vendor says that software can do it, it can. Sometimes, the product is advertised to be able to do this, but when it comes down to it, it’s actually quite difficult, or not possible at all.

Step 5 – Check References

Finally, after you’ve seen demos of all the systems that meet your requirements, and narrowed your list down to one or two systems, you’ll want to check references. Being able to talk to other users will either help you solidify your decision or help you make your final decision between two or more fundraising software options.

This article is a condensed version of a more detailed presentation. If you would like to see the entire presentation, please let us know and we can arrange an appropriate time.

If you have questions about how Sumac fundraising software can meet your specific needs, please get in touch!

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