field guide by wuyunyi



The Idea

  S w
                                                                    software to support
   to                                                               your fundraising
                                                                      by Laura Quinn

                                                                                considering a system that will let you track all your constitu-
            nication                                                            ents—not just donors, but volunteers, event attendees, clients,
            ach                                                                 and more—in one place.
     & Outre                                                                       What type of system you use will depend on your specific
                                                                                needs. There are three basic types, each ranging widely in cost
                                                                                depending on the features you want.
                                                                                   • Donor Management. These systems provide targeted
                                                                                     support to track donors, prospects, pledges, premiums
                                                                                     and giving levels, matching gifts, and sometimes grants
                                                                                     and corporate sponsorships. Some provide support
                                                                                     for additional constituents, such as event attendees,
                                                                                     volunteers, or members. However, these systems are best
                                                                                     suited for organizations where individual fundraising
                                                                                     is one of the top organizational priorities. Giftworks,
        no Piece of sofTware is going To raise Money for your or-                    eTapestry, and DonorPerfect Online are common, fairly
        ganization all by itself—but it can certainly help. In this article,         low-cost donor management systems (see sidebar, More
        adapted from Idealware’s new book, The Idealware 2010 Field                  About Donor Management Systems, on page 3).
        Guide to Software for Nonprofits: Fundraising, Communications              • Constituent Relationship Management (CRM). These
        and Outreach, we walk through the types of software that are                 systems are designed to track comprehensive data
        often helpful in the fundraising process.                                    about each constituent—not only their donations and
           Of course, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of topic. It likely        membership dues, but also, potentially, their event
        doesn’t make sense for an organization to invest in cutting-                 attendance, volunteer record, and anything else you
        edge software before it has its basic infrastructure in place.               might care to track. These systems are not designed to
        Thus, this article is divided into four sections—what software               specialize in any one specific function. Instead, they’re
        every organization needs, what software every organization                   typically flexible to let you tailor them to the processes
        should strongly consider, software to keep ahead of the curve,               you need to support. If constituents have complicated
        and cutting-edge software for those looking for the latest and               relationships with your organization, or tend to cross
        greatest.                                                                    organizational boundaries—for example, program
                                                                                     alumni often become donors—a CRM can be a useful
        every organization needs…                                                    way to get a full picture of each constituent. Salesforce
           Most fundamentally, you’ll need some kind of software to                  .com, CiviCRM, and Sugar CRM are common systems in
        track your donors. Excel spreadsheets are great for maintain-                this area. All three are free for small organizations, but
        ing a family Christmas list, but they quickly show their weak-               they take some technical skills to set up.
        ness when you begin tracking even just a few donations from                • Integrated Online Systems. These types of systems
        the same person. A good database should let you store all the                combine different online functions in a single package.
        information you’ll need about your donors. In fact, it’s worth               For example, they’ll often let you track donors and other

                                                                                           Grassroots Fundraising Journal •
                                                                                                                      sofT ware

     constituents, send broadcast emails, take donations and            organizations typically use them to replace any existing
     event registrations online, and even manage a website, all         constituent databases. Wild Apricot, Z2 by Neon, and
     in one system. It can save you a lot of time and hassle to         Salsa by Democracy in Action are some common, less-
     have all this data in one place, but make sure your other          expensive integrated systems.
     needs are also met—these online specialty tools often            In practice, these three basic system types aren’t as distinct
     aren’t as strong at helping with direct mail processes       as they might seem. For instance, some systems offer a lot of
     and donor list-generation tasks as donor management          support for donor management, considerable flexibility to track
     systems. To take full advantage of these tools, small        other constituents, and some support for broadcast email and
                                                                  online donations. Are they donor, integrated online, or CRM
                                                                  systems? It doesn’t matter, as long as they meet your needs.
   More aBouT donor ManageMenT sysTeMs
       Donor Management software provides specialized             strongly consider…
   functionality to manage donors, gifts and prospects.               Most fundraising programs can benefit from an online
   Almost all of these systems let you easily log gifts and       component. To get started, you’ll need online donation
   track contact information, giving history, and notes.          software—like Network for Good’s Donate Now, Click& Pledge,
   Most also allow you to mail-merge letters, create reports,     or AuctionPay—that lets you accept credit cards online, either
   or query to find subsets of donors. More sophisticated         for one-time donations or on a recurring basis. Online dona-
   systems offer considerably more functionality for tracking     tion tools typically are used hand-in-hand with broadcast email
   different kinds of gifts—for example, grants, online gifts,    software—an online tool that allows you to email hundreds,
   major gifts, and planned gifts—and advanced features,          thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people at once. The
   but require more technical savvy from fundraisers and IT       online donation tool provides a way to accept a donation, but
   staff.                                                         email fundraising inspires donors to actually give (see sidebar,
       Increasingly, many systems include substantial             More About Broadcast Email Tools, on page 4).
   functionality beyond core donor management. Some                   A rich, engaging website is also an important part of an on-
   provide online payment functionality that could                line fundraising strategy. A strong, frequently updated site will
   potentially replace Online Donation or Event Registration      engage donors, show them why your organization is worth sup-
   systems, and others offer some email functionality             porting, and make it easy to see how to help. You should be able
   (though it may not be as robust as even inexpensive            to update your website easily yourself with new information or
   broadcast email software). Some Donor Management               events as they happen so that the site feels timely and relevant.
   systems move toward the realm of Constituent                       A consultant can help with website updating in a pinch, but a
   Relationship Management, providing reasonable                  website Content Management System (CMS) can be invaluable
   functionality to track volunteers, event registrants or        for this purpose, as it will allow your staff members to update
   other constituents in addition to donors.                      the site themselves, regardless of how technically proficient they
       Inexpensive systems like Giftworks, eTapestry, and         are (or are not). Unfortunately, it’s not easy to add a CMS into
   Donor Perfect start as low as a few hundred dollars. Mid-      an existing site, but almost every organization should consider
   priced systems, like Blackbaud’s Raisers Edge and Donor2,      using one when building a new site (see sidebar, More About
   can cost well over $10,000 to implement. At the high end       Web Content Management Tools, on page 4).
   of the spectrum you could easily spend $100,000 or more.           Although you can use separate systems to manage donors,
       Regardless of what system you choose, make sure you        online donations, and broadcast email, you’ll need to synchro-
   think through how you’ll integrate your donor data with        nize and integrate data among them. Many organizations find
   other types of constituent data, as many donors likely         it useful to instead use a single Online Integrated System that
   interact with you in other ways as well. Can you import        manages all this information in one place.
   and export files? Are there programming interfaces
   (called APIs) that allow a programmer to create automatic      Keeping ahead of the curve…
   processes to pull data in and out of the system? Does it           Enlisting staff, volunteers, or close friends to help fundraise
   make sense to use a very flexible system or a Constituent      is common practice. Several tools are available that help man-
   Relationship Management system that can track more             age the logistics involved. Friend-to-friend fundraising tools
   than just donors?                                              let supporters create their own fundraising web pages online,
                                                                  customized with their own photos and text. Nearly everyone

May–June 2010
                                                                        Embers, and CollectiveX’s GroupSites can help. If you have a
       More aBouT BroadcasT eMail Tools                                 very committed group, creating a Custom Online Community
          Broadcast email software lets you email a group of            (essentially, your own private Facebook-like social network) can
       people all at once—as many as you want. It also helps you        help your fundraising team with sophisticated coordination.
       create attractive emails (often through graphic templates),      Ning, KickApps, and Elgg are the most commonly used applica-
       manage email address lists, and let people subscribe and         tions to create a custom community.
       unsubscribe. In addition, more advanced tools help you
       collect email addresses on your website, “mail-merge”            on the cutting edge…
       information into emails, send to particular segments of             A growing trend is to ask supporters to organize their own
       your mailing list by demographics, and report on how             informal fundraising events—for instance, to throw a party at
       many recipients opened or clicked on each email.                 their house in support of your cause. There are some software
          Vertical Response is a good option in this area, offering     tools specifically geared to help organizations display and
       nonprofits a sophisticated feature-set and up to 10,000
       emails for free. Network for Good’s Email Now is also
       feature-rich and attractive at about $30 per month for up           More aBouT weB conTenT ManageMenT
       to 20,000 emails. Other options include Constant Contact,           Tools
       Campaign Monitor, Topica, MailChimp, and iContact.                      Web Content Management Systems (CMS) let you
       WhatCounts provides compelling premium services                     create and maintain customized websites, update their
       targeted at those sending hundreds of thousands of                  graphic design and navigation over time, and automate
       emails a month.                                                     routine updates—for instance, removing events from
          If you email more than a few dozen people at a time,             your home page after they’ve come and gone. Most
       make sure you use an off-site vendor to send mass emails.           won’t let you update existing sites built in other systems.
       Tools like Outlook aren’t designed to support large-scale           Their real benefit is the ability to update site content and
       mailings, and won’t help with the formatting and list               navigation without technical know-how or web design
       management tasks critical for large lists. When you use             experience. Many organizations hire consultants to
       them to email hundreds of people, you may reach more                build the initial site in a CMS, and then use the system to
       Spam filters than inboxes—or worse, your mail server                maintain it.
       might be blacklisted as Spam, blocking future email from                Widely used open source options include WordPress,
       anyone in your organization.                                        Joomla, Drupal, and Plone. These systems are free to
          Note that many Donor Management, Constituent                     download, but you’ll need someone with technical skills
       Relationship Management, and Integrated Online Systems              to set them up. For more straightforward sites, consider
       provide some broadcast email functionality. While few               simple tools like Homestead, SiteKreator, or Squarespace
       can match the advanced features of dedicated software,              that let you define navigation, pick a graphic design
       you may find that your existing software meets your                 template, and enter text and images on simple web-
       needs.                                                              based forms.
                                                                               What if you want to update an existing site?
                                                                           Other desktop tools, like Adobe Contribute, Adobe
    can raise at least a little money from their network, if they can      DreamWeaver, or Microsoft Expression Web (replacing
    be inspired to try. Social Networking sites like Facebook and          FrontPage), can also let less-technical people update
    Twitter can also provide some aid in raising money through             websites, but they work by directly changing the code
    networks, though organizations generally find them more                for individual pages. They may or may not work with your
    effective as outreach tools (see sidebar, More About Friend-to-        specific site, depending on how clean and standards-
    Friend Fundraising, on page 5).                                        compliant your website is. These are the only tools that
        Don’t forget the software that can help your fundraising           will help update existing sites, but they limit your ability
    team coordinate with each other. Email Discussion Lists are a          to make updates that are more substantial or affect
    straightforward way to encourage people to talk to each other          multiple pages. CMS systems are the better approach if
    online—tools like Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, Electric                you’re building a site from scratch.

                                                                                   Grassroots Fundraising Journal •
                                                                                                                           sofT ware

promote all the individual events and that help the organizers           Large organizations have also begun to experiment with
collect RSVPs. Tools like MeetUp or Evite allow some minimal         fundraising through Mobile Text Messaging campaigns. In the
functionality in this area, but specific house parties and meet-up   U.S., organizations can ask donors to give directly by texting
software like Party2Win and Blackbaud’s Sphere offer consider-       to a certain number (the donation is added to the donor’s cell
ably more support.                                                   phone bill)—but these donations are capped by the cell phone
                                                                     industry at $10. While these small donations can add up—as
                                                                     shown by the recent success of mobile fundraising after the
   More aBouT friend-To-friend fundraising                           earthquake in Haiti—consider whether it might also discourage
       Friend-to-Friend Fundraising, also called Online              larger, more thoughtful giving.
   Distributed Fundraising, Group Fundraising, Team                      Organizations have also seen some success with mobile
   Fundraising, or Widget Fundraising, involves recruiting           phone pledge campaigns. In this case, donors are asked to sim-
   supporters—including staff members, core volunteers or            ply pledge via their cell phone, and the organization follows up
   passionate advocates—to fundraise for an organization.            to collect the pledge.
   This technique can result in a lot of new donors, but since           CauseCast Mobile offers a particularly good deal in this area,
   they’re often personally connected to the individual              starting at $99/month to support mobile giving or pledging.
   fundraiser rather than the organization, they may not be          Mobile Commons, Distributive Networks, and Mobile Ac-
   as likely to participate in other programs or to give again.      cord are more fully featured but more expensive options, and
       Many Friend-to-Friend Fundraising tools, including            generally cannot accept mobile donations for organizations with
   FirstGiving, ChangingthePresent, and, let              budgets of less than $500,000 per year.
   potential fundraisers create their own personalized
   fundraising pages, and all offer a version that’s free            wrapping up
   except for a percentage of donations. Pages can have                  We certainly don’t mean to imply you should be using all of
   customized pictures, text, and easy links to give online,         these tools. Just the opposite: you should be carefully thinking
   and they can stand alone or be associated with particular         through where you are as an organization and what can bring
   events, like walk-a-thons. Individual fundraisers direct          the most value. If you’re a small organization trying to put up
   their own friends and family to their pages and take              your first solid website and get an email campaign underway, it
   donations.                                                        likely makes sense to wait until you’re comfortable before diving
       Some tools also offer fundraising “widgets” or                into more complicated waters like friend-to-friend fundraising
   “badges.” Widgets usually take the form of a small                or mobile giving.
   box—often with a logo, text, and a “donate” button—                   But don’t discount the advantage that good software tools
   that can be added to existing websites, blogs or social           can give you. They won’t replace good fundraisers, but they
   network profiles, if you know a little HTML (the language         could multiply your fundraisers’ reach and options—multiply-
   of websites). Popular tools that provide widgets include          ing the money that you raise. n
   ChipIn and, both free except for a
   percentage of donations.                                          Laura Quinn is the founder and director of Idealware. Through
       More sophisticated tools also let organizational              research, reports, articles, and training, Idealware allows nonprofits
   staff members easily oversee a campaign’s progress or             to make smart, informed software decisions.
   organize fundraisers into teams. Blackbaud Sphere Events
   (formerly Kintera’s “Friends Asking Friends”) and Convio
                                                                        want More info about software for fundraising,
   TeamRaiser both provide more sophisticated, though                   Marketing, and outreach?
   considerably more expensive, organizational support                  Through a friendly, easy-reference format, Idealware’s 2010
   in standalone packages. A number of Integrated Online                Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits helps you pinpoint
   Systems and Donor Management tools also offer some                   the types of software that can increase your organization’s
   of this functionality (see related article in this issue, “The       effectiveness and efficiency. And it de-mystifies the possible
                                                                        options through user-friendly summaries based on your needs
   Bowl-A-Thon Gets an Online Makeover,” by Yasmeen
                                                                        and technical maturity. For more information, or to buy the
   Perez).                                                              book for $19.95, go to

May–June 2010

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