Finding the Right Fundraising Software Vendor

find fundraising software with great vendor support Understanding Your Organization Don’t confuse being a computer “expert” with understanding the unique needs of nonprofit organizations. Although shrink-wrapped products, such as Microsoft Access, do provide some of the functionality you need, they will require much more customization and ultimately will be more limited. Also be wary of generic software or databases that are given away “free” or at exceedingly cheap prices. You’ll probably end up having to pay someone to add all of the functionality you need! Vendors who specialize in working with nonprofits will have a much better understanding of your needs and be able to leverage their experience in working with nonprofit organizations like yours. Willingness to do it Your Way Good donor software and good donor software vendors consider your input essential to helping you get the most from your investment. Don’t be intimidated into purchasing something that doesn’t work the way you want it to work. See the software demonstrated. Make sure that the products claims are confirmed by actual performance. Many companies offer demonstrations that are not the real software; without viewing the actual software, you cannot ascertain ease-of-use, flexibility, and performance. Commitment to Product Enhancement Technology continues to change and improve rapidly, and your software needs to be able to keep up. For instance, the internet offers fundraisers many new ways of engaging current and prospective donors online. Today’s fundraising software must provide tools for online donations, event registration and building donor communities via social networking. In addition, many nonprofits are now about to reduce IT costs by using web-based online fundraising software. Vendors that do not offer software that leverages the power of the web can really limit your success! A software company should also offer a standard program of periodic improvements. You should know the frequency with which these updates are released, what types of improvements were incorporated into the latest version, and where the ideas for the enhancements originate. Ability to Provide Services Just as important as the quality of the product is the vendor’s ability to provide training, periodic newsletters, website resources, and, of course, phone and e-mail support. Ask questions about hours of availability and number of staff involved in providing support. You should expect to pay for quality support, and many vendors include free software updates and enhancements with their support plans, which help you avoid system obsolescence. If you are on a limited budget, look for companies that use technology such as web-based fundraising software that doesn’t require big investments and online training that eliminates expensive travel costs. Financial Stability Since the company you choose is at least as important as the product, you must be confident that the vendor will be there when you need them. Companies come and go in the software business. Look for a vendor that is well established and can demonstrate financial stability and a commitment to serving the nonprofit industry. It is not unreasonable to ask for some form of financial statement to confirm this. A good vendor will assist you in getting the most from your donor management software investment. Use the suggestions above as a starting point in evaluating a potential provider, or even your current one.
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