Running a nonprofit organization is hard enough; the tools you use to stay on track shouldn’t make your job harder or interfere with achieving goals. When you find yourself struggling with software inadequacies rather than achieving success with the tools you use, it’s time to reassess.
Here’s the good news: your organization now has more nonprofit fundraising software options available than ever before. Unfortunately, that’s both a problem and a benefit; it can be immensely difficult to determine what’s suitable and what’s more costly than it is worthwhile.
Every nonprofit is unique, but most share the same common goal: to fulfill a charitable mission by raising awareness, fundraising, or giving back to the world. Picking a platform with these important features gives you the best chance of success.
Nonprofit work can be a roller coaster of success and failures at the best of times, even for well-established organizations with a significant reputation. Changes in the economy, social attitudes, public response, nonprofit virality, and even the time of year can all change the level of success you experience.
What makes you successful is your ability to roll with these changes, adjusting on the fly. For this reason, any nonprofit fundraising software you utilize should be fully scalable in both directions.
If you experience rapid growth and expansion, your software should be able to keep up with you. If you run into a situation and struggle for a year or two, you should have the option to trim it back to save on funds. And when growth spurs on new needs your current software just can’t handle, you should have the option to augment or integrate for a more suitable experience.
Accounts Receivable/Payable Management
As a nonprofit, you have a legal duty to be accountable for every cent that comes in and out of your organization. This includes donations, expenditures, and all other associated accounts receivable or payable receipts. If it costs money or brought money, you need to have the ability to prove it one year, two years, or even five years down the road.
Good nonprofit software platforms have built-in accountability tracking options that track the money you make and spend. They also segment restricted and unrestricted funds and factor in how your money flows from each coffer.
Here’s an example: let’s say a donor specifies when and how funds should be used (as is their right). A high-accountability software platform will track those funds from the moment of receipt until expenditure to ensure they’re used right. It will also let you populate a report visualizing that path from start to finish.
Although running a nonprofit is much different than running a standard business, both can benefit from the same marketing strategies. Donor profiling is an excellent example; by creating a thorough profile for each of your “leads” (in this case, donors) you stand a better chance of convincing them to buy or donate.
Donor profiling works best when it’s thorough, so your software should give you the option to record more than just contact information. Corporate or organizational relationships, volunteer time, familial relationships, past donation history, past donation methods, and preferred methods of communication (e.g., social media vs email) are all valuable data for campaign creators.
One final note on being thorough: you can have the best software in the world, but if you don’t use it, you won’t see results. Keep thorough profiles on every candidate using as much information as you have access to. The more exhaustive your profiles, the more information you have to craft perfect fundraising campaigns.
Donor tracking is another software must-have for nonprofit organizations. While it ties into the previous note on donor profiles, it isn’t necessarily the same thing. This is less about gathering personas for each donor and more about tracking when, how, where, and why they interact and donate at each step.
Tracking donors is mostly about retention – holding on to “warm leads” because they’re more likely to donate again if they have in the past. With three out of every four donors dropping out of the lifecycle, never to donate again, hanging on to that fourth donor is admittedly critical.
That said, tracking your donors is also about accountability. If anyone questions a donation charge or your nonprofit organization’s transparency, you have an instant record of every interaction with every single donor along the way.
Email Marketing Automation
The biggest part of any nonprofit campaign is staying in contact with your donor constituents at all times. Ideally, you want to profit engaging content that keeps people listening and reaching out.
Even outside of campaign specifics, email can still be a fantastic communication resource. It’s by far the easiest way for donors to contact you with questions or inquire about your organization. Being able to respond quickly and effortlessly to those communication requests makes your organization appear more professional, polished, and in control.
Unfortunately, the downside of email in the nonprofit sphere is how much time it takes to manage and oversee. Used manually, it can suck up hours of time every single day, costing you precious resources and money. This is where nonprofit fundraising software with built-in email automation comes in.
Automation takes the pain out of email marketing and communication by handing over time-consuming menial tasks to computers. Send automatic requests for information, thank you notes, reminders, and action-based communication based on keywords, triggers, or filters, or just set up campaigns to target the right people. Spend the time you save doing more important things, like being creative and coming up with brand-new opportunities to save the world.
Donation tracking is the nonprofit organizer’s best friend. It lets you see exactly when each donor gives, how they give, and what kind of donation they make. The biggest benefit to tracking donations is accountability; in order to have nonprofit status, most organizations are required to track donations by law.
But this isn’t just about accountability; it’s also about making sensible organizational decision.s You can’t schedule campaigns, manage accounting, or plan for a new budget without knowing right where you are at any given time.
Your nonprofit fundraising software should give you the ability to track donations of all kinds at all times. This includes standard donations of cash, donations in memoriam, gifts in honorarium, gifts in kind, and pledges for future donations (e.g., memberships). But it should also keep track of how, when, and where people donate (credit card, PayPal, Amazon Payments, Authorize.net, ACH, cash, or check).
As much of this process should be automated as is physically possible; for example, if monthly donations come in via PADs, the system should automatically catalogue them and send out a receipt. But automated doesn’t mean totally hands-free; you should still have the option to register donations manually if it’s needed.