With online giving up 8.9 percent and monthly giving expanding by 32 percent in 2014 according to Next In Nonprofits, it isn’t surprising that many nonprofit organizations want a way to upgrade their online fundraising capabilities. They want a sophisticated solution that will help them identify, cultivate, and motivate potential donors. Unfortunately, organizations often want to meet these goals by building their own homegrown system for fundraising.
While there are instances when building a custom online fundraising platform is the best solution, these are few and far in between. Usually these nonprofits are building a homegrown system because they have unique requirements. While it may seem a homegrown system is the more customizable and cost-effective route to take, here are seven reasons why a nonprofit should think twice before building their own fundraising platform.
Building a custom homegrown system requires time and resources. If you don’t have the capabilities to build a system in-house, you will need to spend time finding the right consultant to do the job well. This valuable time could be better spent focusing on the mission itself and raising money rather than building a custom platform.
There is also an ample amount of time involved with building, testing, and launching a homegrown system. With a simple, easy to use fundraising software solution, such as Classy, you can simply plug and play. You are able to start fundraising right away while focusing on what is most important: your cause.
With any online fundraising system, support and maintenance is necessary. There will be times when you encounter a problem and need a product expert to resolve it. Who will you call when your homegrown system has issues? What if the consultant you hired isn’t available or your in-house team has already moved on to another project? What if you need new functionality that’s beyond the technical skills of the original programmer? Without ongoing support and maintenance, bugs won’t get fixed, and it will be more difficult to address changing needs.
Moving forward with a commercial fundraising software supplier eliminates the need to worry about maintenance and support. The system will be constantly upgraded on the backend, with new features rolling out on monthly basis.
At Classy, we have a customer service team dedicated to helping our clients resolve any issues they encounter with their software and services within 2 hours of submitting a support claim during business hours. This built-in support team is included in the price of purchasing the software. With a homegrown system you usually have to pay a consultant fee whenever you need maintenance.
Nonprofit employees are experts in fundraising and driving donations to the mission; they are not programmers. Most nonprofit’s do not have the resources to hire even one full-time programmer to assist with the creation of a homegrown system.
Aside from expertise in programming, you will also need someone to train the staff on how to use the system. Even if the person who built the system does provide adequate training, you run the risk of losing the one person on staff who understands the program. With a software provider, you eliminate the hassle of continually training new and existing employees. Instead, they have a resource on hand whenever they need it.
As your company grows, so too do your online fundraising software needs. Often, homegrown systems do not have the bandwidth necessary to grow with the nonprofit. Companies risk experiencing major setbacks that could cost a lot of money to resolve.
The right software solution should be able to expand to meet your growing needs. Commercial software suppliers are agile enough to meet their client’s needs. With software like Classy, we can even work with a client’s specific needs and create a tailor-made solution.
Price is a big concern for many nonprofit organizations. With increased pressure to keep overhead low, nonprofits are looking to spend their money effectively and efficiently. Creating a custom system often seems like it will be a great opportunity to save money. The problem with budgeting money with a custom system is you can’t anticipate the exact time, cost, and issues that may arise. There is cost involved in staff time of designing and testing the system or hiring a consultant. There is also cost involved in every change to the fundraising software, upgrades to fix problems, and keeping up with evolving technology. While a custom solution may seem like a bargain at the beginning, in the long run it may end up costing your organization much more than a commercial solution.
With commercial fundraising software platforms, a host of programmers and customer service representatives are on hand to help support you should you need any assistance or if any problems arise. At Classy, each customer also has a dedicated account strategist to help set up nonprofits to be successful with our software and offer advice on how to leverage fundraising campaigns. Not only can a nonprofit save money with commercial software, they can also make more money.
If you build your own homegrown system, there’s seldom anyone else you can turn to for advice or help. Seeking out help from a consultant that built the platform is going to cost more money and a programmer/coder is not going to be able to give you advice on how to set up an effective fundraising campaign. Having an account strategist at your disposal, which is included in the cost of your commercial fundraising platform, not only saves you money but also helps set you up for success from the start.
Building any kind of custom system involves a substantial amount of risk. There are countless instances where custom fundraising platforms fail to meet an organization’s needs, therefore becoming a waste of money. There are a number of reasons why custom fundraising systems fail:
- Requirements aren’t clearly understood or articulated by the organization or are constantly changing
- The programmer has too many other projects on their plate or leaves the organization
- Bugs don’t get fixed
- A consultant is too busy to provide immediate support when major issues arise
No matter what the reason, these projects turn out to be frustrating, time-consuming, and a waste of valuable money that could have been better spent on a trusted commercial fundraising system.
Consider the true costs, benefits, and risks associated with building your own system before making a decision. You may be surprised to find a predictable, one-time cost, albeit maybe more than you anticipated spending up front, is worth the investment.