Finding the right software solutions for your nonprofit requires that you to have a deep understanding of your most essential goals and determine what features will help you reach those goals.
To help your team become familiar with a few must-have software solutions, this article will go over four tech tools to know, including:
- Nonprofit CRMs
- Fundraising Software
- Event Management Software
- Donor Prospecting Tools
These four tech tools comprise the core foundation of software necessary for nonprofits to stay organized, engage donors, and maximize their fundraising potential. Many other nonprofit software solutions come as additional features or can be integrated into these core tools. These optional features allow your nonprofit to customize your tech stack later on.
1. Nonprofit CRMs
CRM stands for constituent relationship manager. A CRM can help your nonprofit organize data on your supporters over the course of their donor journey. Your nonprofit’s CRM serves as the central hub of all of your software solutions, making it one of your most important management tools.
Nonprofit CRMs come with a variety of features, and each provider specializes in a different set of core functionalities. As you research potential CRMs, consider each solution’s cost, scalability, and core features. Here’s a checklist of a few features to look for in each CRM:
- Online Fundraising. The purpose of your CRM is to store important information about your supporters and your online donation page is a perfect opportunity to start collecting such data. When your CRM has built-in online fundraising capabilities, it eliminates the need to manually enter data in your internal records later.
- Payment Processing. Built-in payment processors offer a few advantages over third party applications. Along with reducing payment processing costs, an integrated payment processor helps organize your fundraising pages and event registrations. A CRM with a payment processor can also automatically update your supporters’ credit card information and streamline billing data entry.
- Communications Management. Email and direct mail campaigns are the "bread and butter" of effective donor outreach. Communication management tools allow you to create message templates that you can store for use in specific circumstances, then populate them with data straight from your donor profiles.
- Major Gift Management. Major gift acquisition is a lengthy process, sometimes requiring years of contact and one-on-one conversations between your outreach team and your prospects. Major gift management tools let your nonprofit track where you are in the process with each donor, allowing your team to quickly update and share information on major donors.
With all the data your CRM collects, be sure to regularly update and perform maintenance on your system to prevent common data errors. A few common errors include typos and duplicated information such as multiple profiles for the same donor. Unclean data naturally accumulates over time, and cleaning up outdated or useless data will help improve your CRM’s reporting capabilities and overall usability.
2. Fundraising Software
Fundraising software encompasses many other types of nonprofit software, accommodating in-person, online, and hybrid fundraisers. However, as CharityEngine’s guide to virtual fundraising events explains, many virtual fundraisers are heavily shaped by the software supporting them. Additionally, fundraising software helps track and monitor incoming donations, helping you identify which fundraisers are a success and which could use improvements.
Some fundraising software supports a variety of campaigns, while others focus on a single type and offer additional add-ons to expand functionality. Each nonprofit will find different levels of success with different fundraising tools; but for most of you, software solutions that support the following types of fundraising campaigns are an effective starting point:
- Peer-to-Peer. Peer-to-peer fundraisers allow your volunteers to fundraise on behalf of your nonprofit. Your peer-to-peer software can support these generous volunteers by allowing each of them to create individual and unique campaign pages. Some software solutions allow volunteers to customize their pages, empowering them to tell their own stories about their relationship with your cause.
- Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding campaigns help nonprofits collect lots of small donations which add up to help you achieve a larger fundraising goal. Crowdfunding software creates a dedicated campaign page where supporters can donate gifts of any size, share the campaign on social media, and track your fundraising progress.
- Auctions. Silent auctions are unique among nonprofit fundraisers as they give donors prizes in the form of auction items in exchange for their contributions. Whether in-person or online, auctions have several moving parts, and auction software helps nonprofits create item catalogues, manage bids, and check-out items.
Finding the right fundraising software can be a lengthy process due to the sheer number of options and range of solutions available. Guides like this one can be a useful starting point to create a shortlist of potential fundraising software to evaluate based on price, scalability, and relevance to your needs.
3. Event Management Software
Whether your event is online, in-person, or hybrid, you’ll likely need event management software to ensure everything runs smoothly. While event management software shares some commonality with fundraising software, your event management software focuses on the logistics of events and can be used for almost every event type, whereas it’d be near impossible to use auction fundraising software to run a peer-to-peer campaign.
Event management software aims to create a streamlined event experience for both your team and your attendees. While different solutions specialize in different aspects of event management, most tools will equip your nonprofit with:
- Signup Forms. Registration and signup functionality creates a signup portal for your supporters and allows you to collect key information about attendees.
- Event Information Page. Your events should have dedicated information pages explaining what your event is, what program it supports, and how attendees can sign up to attend, volunteer, or otherwise get involved.
- Event Landing Page. While event information pages are where you market your virtual event, event landing pages that actually lead guests to your virtual event and should only be shared with registered attendees.
- Invitation Emails. Setup automatic invitation emails with event information to send to each guest after their registration. You can also send follow up reminder emails and emails linking to your virtual event landing page at the beginning of your event.
- Software Tests. While not strictly a feature of your event software, be sure to thoroughly test any technology you plan to use during your event ahead of time. For example, make sure your livestream’s video and audio both come through clearly before going live.
- Follow Up Preparation. After your event, send out thank you emails to all guests. You might even send a survey to gain further insight about the event. Use any survey data as well as the other information collected from your event to analyze your fundraisers’ results.
Be sure to synchronize (or integrate!) your fundraising software and your nonprofit event software to reduce data re-entry and gain a comprehensive view of every aspect of your fundraising event. You should additionally sync these solutions with your CRM to update each donor profile based on their event attendance and fundraising contributions. Or consider looking for an all-in-one software solution to keep all of your data in one place from the very beginning.
4. Donor Prospecting Tools
Donor prospecting tools can maximize your fundraising potential by identifying donors with the means and philanthropic impulses to contribute additional gifts and even become major donors. You can then use the information gathered by your donor prospecting tools to optimize your donor outreach strategies. The data collected through your donor prospecting tools can guide your donor management team to create truly unique experiences with each major donor candidate.
Double the Donation’s prospect research guide outlines a few key indicators donor prospect tools use to identify candidates for increased donations:
- Philanthropic tendencies. Donors who have given to you in the past are likely to be more invested in your cause. Additionally, you might use a prospecting database to discover new donors who have given to similar organizations.
- Wealth indicators. Wealth indicators provide insight into your donors’ ability to give. Many nonprofits use wealth screening to identify potential major donors, but you can also use wealth screening tools to target moderate donors, encouraging them to grow their engagement and donation amounts and consider planned giving options later on.
- Business connections. Rather than identifying individuals as potential major giving candidates, you might find similar business connections across multiple donors. In this case, your nonprofit might be in a position to reach out to certain businesses to forge a corporate partnership. Appealing to those businesses will also further strengthen your relationship with the donors connected to that business. For example, your corporate sponsor might promote opportunities to benefit your nonprofit from company volunteer days to posting fundraising event flyers around the office.
Donor prospecting tools are most effective when they are fully integrated with your CRM, allowing your nonprofit to identify potential major candidates and begin cultivating relationships early on in their donor journey. Look into integrations for your donor prospecting tools or find a CRM that comes equipped with comprehensive donor prospecting tools.
About the Author
Leigh Kessler is VP of Marketing and Communications at donor management software platform CharityEngine and a frequent speaker on branding, fundraising, data and technology. He is a former nationally touring headline comedian and has appeared on numerous TV shows including VH1's "Best Week Ever", CNN's "Showbiz Tonight", Discovery Channel, and Sirius Radio. He has overseen and informed research and branding strategies for some of the most well known brands in America.