Evaluating Your Donor Management Software

I have an exciting guest series written by Chris Logan from NPower Seattle. They exist to help nonprofits use technology more effectively and efficiently to serve their constituencies. This week he is writing on the topic of choosing the right donor management software. Thanks Chris for an excellent series. – Jason

Choosing the right Donor Management software for your agency can be a daunting task. With so many packages to choose from it may seem impossible at times. I am hoping I can help shed a little light on the issues here today.

In many cases, it is that first critical step that can make or break the process. Why do you need a new software package to manage donors? When it comes to existing tracking of donors, I often see non-profits that say “well, our current product can’t handle our capacity” or “it breaks all the time” or “this version is no longer supported”. I might ask “what if I could fix it so it doesn’t break anymore”, and get a slew of other reasons why they need to upgrade or purchase something new. As the process for deciding, purchasing, installing and converting data involves a large amount of valuable resources, that first critical step is one that needs much more investigation than “I know we need new software”. While I encourage all nonprofits to conduct a thorough review of the process, you should also be prepared objectively at the end to consider that your current product might be able to address your needs and simply is not currently being utilized effectively or efficiently.

“Tech fluency” is a term that we use often to describe an extremely wide array of knowledge, skills and experience at nonprofits. As is evidenced by our 2007 “Stable and Secure Assessment” conducted among non-profits here in Puget Sound, most nonprofits do not have a great deal of “tech fluency”. The reason I speak of this here, is because sometimes, the inability of a given piece of software to work may have more to do with “tech fluency” than effectiveness. Keep that in mind, but for now, let’s focus on fundraising and development as a basis for selecting your donor management software.

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