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15 Questions to Help Evaluate Your Fundraising Software


By Will Schmidt

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“If [nonprofits] don’t dramatically change the way they do business they’re not going to be able to survive and thrive. Nonprofits have to make some significant changes if they want to survive in this new reality.”

Nell Edgington

President of Social Velocity

This “new reality” is realizing that what engaged and activated supporters 10 years ago may not work today. For example, with the recent changes to postage prices, a direct mail appeal shouldn’t just be a letter asking for someone to mail a donation in. The new best practice is to include elements of your online fundraising campaign on the direct mail to engage both offline and online donors.

There are two ways to change the way we operate in the social sector. First, create a fundraising strategy that incorporates what’s new and trending in the world of online fundraising and donor behavior. Second, use a fundraising platform that’s been built with the ever-changing nature of the industry in mind.

While it can be cost-heavy to purchase new software, it can cost just as much to stick with a platform that doesn’t meet these changing expectations and paints your brand as outdated. To help, we outline 15 important questions to help assess the current state of your online fundraising. Then, we explore trends in online giving to show some of the new changes you should be paying attention to.

15 Questions to Evaluate Your Software

You have to start asking yourself and your team questions to find out if you’re in the right place with online fundraising efforts, or if you need to upgrade to something new. We met with our product, operations, and sales enablement teams to curate this list of guiding questions that can help with your process:

  1. When was the last time your organization discussed the state of your software?
  2. Is your current technology prepared to evolve alongside the industry?
  3. If you stay the course, how will you scale and keep up with the demands of a rapidly evolving industry?
  4. Do you feel empowered to try new fundraising initiatives with your current toolset?
  5. When there are new product features on your platform, are you made aware of them ASAP?
  6. Are the products and integrations in your technology ecosystem connected to each other, or disconnected?
  7. Do different product features integrate with one another? What about with third-party vendors?
  8. Do your products require long training processes to learn how to use them?
  9. Are products and pricing a la carte from your vendor, or are things bundled into one platform at one price?
  10. Are you restricted to your own proprietary donor management or CRM platform?
  11. What does your process look like for creating new campaigns right now? How easy or hard is it?
  12. What branding and customization options are available to you currently?
  13. Do you feel that the experience you provide donors lives up to your band standards?
  14. How does the public react to newly created and launched campaigns?
  15. Is your software cost-prohibitive to the point where it doesn’t provide the ROI you want or need?

This list addresses a variety of common points of friction we’ve seen across the social sector when it comes to purchasing fundraising software. If you run through this list and don’t feel satisfied with your answers, you need to ask yourself one final question:

Is it time to look for something newer, better, stronger, faster, or more effective?

Nonprofit Trends Shaping the Sector

Below, we outline some top trends that could influence the social sector throughout 2019 and beyond. If you find that your nonprofit is behind the curve in these areas, it might be time to make an adjustment and find a fundraising software that keeps you relevant by building a platform that incorporates the changing needs and interests of the social sector for you.

Recurring Donors Drives Growth

Recurring donors are over 5 times more valuable than one-time donors, 42% more valuable than an individual fundraiser, and 75% more likely to make an additional one-time gift on top of their recurring commitment. What this suggests is that the first credit card authorization only scratches the surface of their desire to support your nonprofit.

However, several reports suggest that nonprofits don’t reach out frequently enough to their recurring donors. A recent survey conducted by NextAfter and Salesforce uncovered interesting data about this trepidation:

  • Only 14% of organizations prompted one-time donors to upgrade to recurring gifts
  • 47% of organizations made no attempt to retain a recurring donation after a credit card was canceled
  • 38% of organizations made no change to their email strategy for recurring donors
  • 58% made no change to their direct mail strategy for recurring donors

You have to communicate consistently and effectively with all of your supporters, especially recurring donors. Don’t be afraid to ask them for another gift, to upgrade their donations, or to evangelize your cause. And if your fundraising software doesn’t support recurring giving it may be time to re-evaluate your offering.

Better Marketing Brings More Money

Based on interactions with for-profit companies like Amazon and Netflix, your supporters have come to expect a well-designed and frictionless user experience for their online actions. Not only do you have to compete for their attention with these organizations, and other nonprofits, you have to deliver a similar experience that guides them from discovery through completed donation.

Our Why America Gives survey found that millennial and Generation Z respondents (54% for each) directly associate trust with a seamless experience. If they’re unable to easily donate to your organization online, or with their trusty mobile device, they will have less trust in how that nonprofit allocates their donation.

If your fundraising software doesn’t offer a mobile option, or an outdated online donation experience, you could be leaving money on the table. Further, you potentially risk losing the trust of young donor demographics and miss the opportunity to begin stewarding them as lifelong supporters of your nonprofit.

Corporations Are Taking a Stand

Recently, companies like Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and TOMS took public stands to endorse pressing social issues. There’s also been an uptick in companies that build corporate giving programs into their culture earlier in their growth curves.

These trends are strengthened by Edelman Trust Barometer, wherein 64% of those surveyed think that CEOs should catalyze change instead of waiting for government policy. Additionally, 40% of millennials participating in the Deloitte Millennial Survey think that the main goal of businesses should be to improve our world.

For nonprofits, all this can mean more opportunities to expand relationships and partnerships with socially responsible corporations that are interested making a sizable impact. The key is to engage in a multi-dimensional relationships that goes beyond one-time donations to volunteering, in-kind donations, matching gifts, and peer-to-peer fundraising.

Fundraising software that prioritizes well-designed, beautiful campaign pages will help your pitch to corporate sponsors or corporate matching gift partners go that much further.

If you’re considering changing things up, feel free to a reach out and ask about improving your organization. Otherwise, make sure to read some of our other content around switching software and modernizing your efforts.

If you’re looking for more resources to help assess your online fundraising software, make sure to watch the recordings from the Collaborative: Virtual Sessions. You can access all of the live recordings from the event, plus over 20 bonus sessions, for free below.

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