Top Three Questions to Answer Before you Begin Researching New Donor Databases

January 30, 2020 / Comments Off on Top Three Questions to Answer Before you Begin Researching New Donor Databases

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by Guest Blogger, Tim Sarrantonio of Neon One



When exploring any type of software for your organization, it is important to ask some key foundational questions before doing your research. Just like when plugging an address into your GPS, knowing where you are going will ensure you get there as enjoyably and efficiently as possible. 

We recently partnered with Montana Nonprofit Association to present a webinar entitled The Buyer’s Guide To Nonprofit Donor Databases and the recording can be found below:

Should I be looking for a new software solution?

This is the biggest question that should be answered before anything begins in earnest. If the answer is that you don’t have any donor management software, then things may be a bit more straightforward (Excel is not a database).

If the answer is that you’re looking to replace existing software or streamline operations, then this is where this big question turns into a bunch of smaller but important questions. Key considerations to take into account when asking yourself why you need software are:

  • Is the software situation you have helping or hurting your donor engagement and growth?
  • Is the current situation affordable given your current growth (or loss) projections?
  • Can you accurately search and understand your donors with your situation as it stands?
  • Do you feel supported by your vendor in using the software you have?
  • Do you feel confident when providing reports to stakeholders on growth that goes beyond simple Profit and Loss statements?

These are a good foundation on understanding if you should begin your search. It never hurts to review existing training resources or connect with the client support teams at your current vendor before thinking that the “grass is always greener” on the opposite side of a data migration.

Resource: is your board member asking to have your organization use free CRM software? This might help figure out the true costs of going that direction.

What are you looking to achieve?

This is the other key question to answer once you decide there is a problem – what will a new solution address and expand for your goals of your organization? Being able to chart out the supporting role that a donor management system will have with your mission’s capacity building is a key part of the planning process.

Being able to identify the answers to the following items will be important to this question:

  • What are your growth goals for your organization?
  • Do you have any process issues that a new system can help address?
  • Do you have shadow databases that can be centralized?
  • Are there new constituents we can serve?
  • Are there new communication initiatives we want to achieve?
  • How donor friendly are our processes?

Once the foundational aspects of your search are scoped out through answering these questions, your organization can move into other key phases of exploring donor management software. 

Resource: want our full free resource guide on buying Nonprofit Donor Databases? Download it right here!

What type of software should we purchase?

There is a dizzying amount of options on the market for nonprofits when it comes to so-called donor management software. In order to help wade through some of the confusion, let’s break things down into a few key categories that you may be seeing:

  • Donor Management Software – this may also be interchangeably seen as Constituent Relationship Management, Fundraising Management, Nonprofit Management, and other names. If it tracks people, relationships, households, businesses, and at least the basics of when, how much, and where a gift came from then that is donor management. Yet it is important to understand what other key stakeholders can be tracked as well – just individual donors or can you track businesses? Grants? Volunteers? Event attendees? Not all systems allow this or do it as part of their core.

  • Online Fundraising Software – this is where things get tricky since there’s a lot more of this type of software cropping up. If you set up a payment processor and can put a form on your website but then very little information about the donor is accessible or usable after the transaction, then you’re most likely looking at online fundraising software. And some of these can be great tools! But if things don’t ultimately make their way back into a “database of truth” then you’re going to regret not making the investment to bring your donor experience full circle.

  • Association Management Software – while similar to Donor Management Software (and some CRMs also support membership management), this is more focused on organizations that have dues paying members and more often than not are a 501c6 organization as opposed to a 501c3. But some organizations (like Montana Nonprofit Association!) want to track relationships and connections and need something just beyond a system that manages dues and invoices. 

There are lots more types of software that your organization may need, which is why it is important to understand what features are part of the core of your software and what may be add-ons or be best served with a third party integration. 

Resource: learn about why a technology ecosystem that is designed specifically for nonprofits is vital to your organization’s success.

There are a lot of questions to ask yourself before diving into the world of nonprofit technology, but with the correct mindset and a bit of research, your organization will be on its way to modernizing its back end operations and growing its capacity.

Did you know that Neon One has a special program just for Montana Nonprofit Association members? Get our special packages for NeonCRM as well as other select Neon One software. Contact [email protected] to learn more or sign up for a NeonCRM demonstration today.

BIO: Tim Sarrantonio oversees Neon One’s ecosystem of software, consultant, and institutional partners that can address any nonprofit need. Neon One provides best in class products with NeonCRM, Rallybound, CiviCore, Arts People, and an ecosystem ensures that over 27 product integrations and over 90 consultants are working to solve problems specific to nonprofits.