A really great Donor Management Software system can launch your fund‐raising efforts to the next level. It’s a great opportunity of using the latest and greatest technology to turn the corner and move into the 21st century. But what exactly is the process by which we can make choices on the right system? What are the keys to a successful decision?
In my 29 years’ experience with Donor Management Software, Because I’ve both bought and sold donor management software. I can therefore definitely point to some of the keys that differentiate a great decision from an unsatisfactory decision. Here are the top 8 criteria:
Has the company been around? Will they be there tomorrow? This is key because a software vendor is truly a partner. Therefore you want them to be stable, available and helpful as your organization grows. Integrating Donor Management Software into your organization is a big commitment in terms of time and training, and making a change can be a long, costly, even painful experience. Finding Donor Management Software that other organizations have been comfortable with for many years, across many users, is an important litmus test of that Software’s ability to meet your organization’s needs.
Has the company invested in new technologies, cloud‐based? This is important because nearly the entire donor management industry has moved to cloud-based. The most reliable solutions are Cloud-based due to automated backup, redundancy and accessibility across many client platforms, such as Windows, Apple, Android and iOS. New versions of software can be deployed in the Cloud without interruption to local computers and networks. So what happens if you buy software that is not cloud-based? Does that guarantee failure? Not necessarily. However what it does ensure is that the vendor will have trouble selling this “old” software, and that means less strength, less emphasis on serving you.
Is the company offering customer service included at no charge? How fast? Supported locally? Is it really possible to overstate the importance of service? Isn’t the selection of new software primarily a selection of a team to partner with? Wouldn’t it be great if that team were made up of people with an Extraordinary Service mindset? Offering support absolutely free ensures the user will not be faced with getting funds approved every time they want to get support. Check also on the level of funding and management commitment the company provides to the service area. Do you consider service a “cost center” or an investment in yourself?
Is the software actively receiving enhancements and updates? Are new modules and features incorporating customer suggestions? Is the software you use going to reflect the changes in the industry and the way you do business? This is a hidden liability in many older software systems. It may be that they are no longer “investing” in the software version you are looking at. This is bad. Most noteworthy you want an active and vibrant system that is still actively being revised, improved and marketed. Therefore this ongoing investment will help ensure upper management concern for the product and for suggested improvements or bug fixes.
Especially ensuring users know how to use a software package in an efficient and productive way is crucial to a successful implementation. What is it going to cost to bring your staff up to speed on the capabilities and features of the software you purchased? Your Donor Management Software should be a powerful, full featured tool. As such, training is essential in order to become “really happy” with the choice. Thus training for everyone. So what is the cost of training? Furthermore how easy is it to acquire added, ongoing training?
In the age of perpetual connections with various devices, does the Donor Management Software have the ability to help you integrate online web‐giving directly with the system and your database? Therefore this has become a watershed feature, which most customers demand. Really great software will not only help you get the donation from the donor through your website, but also cultivate the relationship with the donor through a Donor Portal.
First of all don’t just look at the first year cost, but also the ongoing cost. Does this include room for your growth in users and donors without extra expenses? The best advice is to start with a purchase that meets your needs today, then expand into the needs that the future will hold, without having to change software systems. So discuss both sides of growth: Cost and scalability.
Do you like the people with whom you’ve dealt? What kind of company does it feel like? Do they incorporate your values of honesty, integrity and extraordinary service? Most of all having a partner you enjoy working with, who sees the importance of your mission, will help you be more successful as an organization and more responsive to your donors.