We’ve been talking a lot about segmenting and appropriately managing your donors. But if you have only a small number of donors, you need to have appropriate tools to in order to manage those donors. Let me just say this right now: Excel and MS Word or Access are NOT appropriate tools. Even if you are using a donor database of some sort, the technology may be horribly outdated and may not have the features that a sophisticated development plan needs to be successful and efficient.
But with so many products out there and with some products coming and going, where do you start? How do you figure out what software is best for you?
Here are a few important things to consider:
1) Has your organization established solid and documented procedures for consistent and accurate data entry? Without this foundation in place, no software program will help you. Take some time to review this before your proceed and be prepared to dedicate some serious time to establishing and documenting your data entry procedures based on the program you select.
2) Will you need an online-based system? Your answer will likely be yes. In this mobile age, you’ll want to be able to access your information from anywhere and I can’t imagine a reason not to want this feature. For example, if you at a luncheon and run into a donor who tells you some important information, you’ll be able to enter that information remotely rather than waiting until you are back in your office.
3) Make sure your potential database integrates with an email management program. I know from experience you do not want to manage two separate mailing lists and try to coordinate and update both simultaneously. You need to be able to email to your separate segments and keep track of this within your main database. At the very least, you’ll want there to be easy export into your email management system like icontact or constant contact.
4) You’ll want to be able to manage your direct mail and all other donor contacts in your system as well. You’ll need to know who got what letter and when.
5) Will you need to manage volunteers and/ or event participants? If so, make sure these features are included.
How much will a donor management system cost?
Pricing for donor management systems is based on the number of donor records you have. The more donors, the more you’ll pay and the more complex your system will need to be to manage all those donors.
For up to 1,000 records expect to pay around $60-100/ month
For up to 5,000 records expect to pay around $200/ month
For up to 25,000 records you’ll pay between $250-$400 per month.
Where should my nonprofit start looking?
I recommend researching these three products initially:
1) Blackbaud’s eTapestry:
I’ve been a fan of eTapestry for small nonprofits for sometime. It is a simple, well-supported product for a first database. It is all cloud based with a nice interface, easy to use with great features.
2) Donor Perfect Online:
Another popular system that has been around for a LONG time that gets really good product reviews from the nonprofit tech organizations.
I am super pumped about the potential for this brand spanking new product. Why? It was designed by Jay Love, the original designer of eTapestry. He clearly knows what he is doing and how to make a good product even better. Secondly, it is designed with Donor Retention for small nonprofits as the major goal, which has been a long time coming. The company has involved Adrian Sergeant, THE Donor Retention guy, in its design which The product just came out in October 2012, and is currently in beta and is a brand new company, but with the reputation of the people involved it is certainly trustworthy and one that is certainly worth looking into as it grows.
Important note: I was a BIG fan of Convio’s Common Ground CRM Product. In my opinion, it was the best out there. But unfortunately Blackbaud chose to discontinue it with their purchase of Convio. I anticipate some BIG changes around the corner in Blackbaud’s product line. They’ve simply got to be working on a replacement product for CG or an enhancement of eTapestry. If so, users of their current products will certainly be supported in the transition, so it is still probably a good investment right now.