Every nonprofit makes a donor software decision at some point. Maybe you’re a small organization that has gotten by with spreadsheets to track contact information and have used your accounting tool for donations. Maybe you’ve been in a database for several years, but it just doesn’t seem to fit your needs any longer. If you are starting to feel like it’s time to make a move into a new donor database, how do you choose? Here are five tips to help make that decision.

  • Needs List – Develop a list of functionalities that a database must have for your organization. Beyond that, what are some tools that would be a bonus to have? You might not need an email tool built in to the software, but you should want your acknowledgement letters processed out of a database in a relatively easy fashion.
  • Demos – Most donor software tools offer a webinar introduction that lasts 30-60 minutes. This alone should not be enough to make your decision. If you wish to look at a tool beyond that demo, reach out to a sales representative for a more detailed one-on-one consultation to review some specific examples of reports, or other tools. The Needs List you created will come in handy here!
  • Peer Review – Reach out to other similar organizations in your area to find out what donor software they are using. Also find out if there are local user groups for some of the donor software options you’re considering. Conversations with peers are a great opportunity to get real-life pros and cons of different systems from hands-on users. Make sure you talk to someone who is actually using the new system you are looking at – everything looks good in a sales demo. Find out what actual users love and hate about it.
  • PricingDo not let pricing alone dictate your decision. While it’s important to find a cost-effective solution, you do not want to sacrifice finding something that meets most or all of your needs simply because it’s “free.” Also, find out how long the pricing will stay at the rate you sign on with. Most software is now a subscription-based cost, and we’ve seen a few double or triple in year two and three for users. What sounds affordable up front might not be that way in a few years.
  • Support & Training – Find out what ongoing support the software company offers. Some have free support in the form of email only, while others include live chat support. Also, discover what sort of resources are available for your organization to learn the tools. Do you learn it on your own or are there webinars, one-on-one training etc.? You will want to ask if these are included or an additional cost.

If the decision is still challenging, ask for help! There is incredible potential with having the right system – and incredible time wasted in making a move into the wrong system. It’s worth the extra time.