7 Things to Consider When Evaluating a Donor Database

pen-writing-notes-studyingThink of your new donor management system like it’s an employee. You wouldn’t just hire someone willy-nilly and cross your fingers that they’ll be a good fit. Especially in the nonprofit industry, it’s so important that your team members fit your company culture and have a passion for your mission.

Believe it or not, the same goes for your donor database.

You want a database that will resonate with you and your team. One that will help you reach your fundraising goals, meet the needs of your organization and provide the tools that are most pertinent to your unique organization. Every nonprofit is different, and nonprofit software is not one-size-fits-all, so evaluating each solution that you’re looking at is essential to getting a database that will become a part of your team and a seamless addition to your nonprofit tech.

What you evaluate will vary based on your needs, but below are some of the areas we recommend giving some extra thought to when you are exploring different software vendors.

  1. Does the system fit within our organization’s budget? What if we add in ongoing support and upgrades? Make sure to find out how each vendor charges for their software. Is it by user? By record? Is support an added cost? What about upgrades? Factor this into the cost, because the last thing you want is to be stuck with an outdated system because the cost of upgrades didn’t fit in your budget!
  2. Will my team and I enjoy working in the platform? This may seem unnecessary, but we promise it isn’t! You will ideally be using your donor database every day for a multitude of tasks, which means that you’ll be spending a lot of time with it. So find something that resonates with you and offers a platform that is intuitive and user-friendly. If it seems like a system you would get easily frustrated with, nix it.
  3. What kind of data/gifts can I track? Nonprofits are very unique and process a multitude of different types of gifts, and the data that is important to you may not be important to another nonprofit. Make sure your database makes it easy for you to track the information that is vital to YOU.
  4. Reports and queries… how complex are they? We feel you shuddering at the mention of queries. They have a reputation for being confusing, so how can the donor databases you’re looking at it make the process easier and less complicated?
  5. How customizable is the database? Find out if the databases you’re looking at can be tailored to your organization. Maybe you need additional fields, a specific tag or a certain kind of workflow. Talk with the vendor and see what sort of customization is available.
  6. How will it help me communicate more effectively with donors? Segmenting donors is essential to creating personalized communications with your donors, so make sure that the database you’re considering can help you do that. Are you able to generate automatic emails? Mail-merge letters?
  7. Does the vendor provide training? The fundraising world is always in flux and it is important to stay up-to-speed on not only the industry trends, but the functionality of the technology that you’re using. We recommend finding out if the vendors you’re looking at provide ongoing training so that new team members can become software experts and so that you can get refreshers as you need them.

A donor database is a big investment and a long-term commitment, so make sure that your evaluation process is thorough and specific to your unique nonprofit. Happy database shopping!