A Look at Fundraising Software Options

When you first start your fundraising programs, you may be keeping track of everything with some index cards spread out on the kitchen table. But you'll soon discover that it gets out of hand. Even the smallest fundraising program or charitable organization can benefit from fundraising software.

Benefits of Fundraising Software

It's easy to say that you don't need it, especially if your group isn't that big. But the fact is, specialized fundraising software is no longer just for major charitable institutions. Sure, there are versions out there that are great for multi-million dollar campaigns, but there is also fundraising software that would be just perfect for your Little League candy sale.

  • Saves time. Running a fundraiser is always a strain on everybody's time schedule, and software packages can streamline every step of the way and cut back on those late nights.
  • More efficient. These software packages are designed especially for charitable organizations and fundraising campaigns. There's no need for you to create all your record-keeping from scratch.
  • Better record-keeping. You get a centralized location to easily keep track of volunteers, donors, and other resources.

What to Look for in Fundraising Software

The software you use to run your fundraising campaigns runs the gamut. On the very low end, some organizations don't use specialized software at all, and if your budget is very tight, you can start this way.

Most computers come equipped with a basic productivity suite, and you can use the spreadsheet, word processor and database software that comes with your computer to take care of most of your day-to-day tasks. Of course, you have to set it up yourself, but it beats note cards and a pencil.

Beyond that, a few features that you will want to look for in specialized fundraising software include:

  • A mailing list and mail merge feature. This feature will let you create one fundraising letter, and then personalize it for each person on your mailing list.
  • Non-profit accounting. Of course, accounting differs a bit from conventional corporate accounting, and the accounting module should be set up specifically for non-profits.
  • Graphics module and desktop publishing. Your fundraising software may include this, or you can just as easily use a separate desktop publishing system, but you will find it to be indispensable for creating flyers, business cards, and forms.
  • Comparison and analysis. You should be able to create easily readable charts to see how well each campaign performs.

And of course, you need to find a software package that suits the size of your organization. Business software, for non-profits and profit-making corporations alike, is custom-tailored to organizations of different sizes.

A software package that works well for a small community group would do nothing for a national organization with thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars in donations.

Extra Campaign Features

Depending on the sophistication of your fundraising software package, it may go far beyond the basics of record keeping to actually help you create and manage each fundraising campaign.

Here are a few examples of higher-end features that could benefit your group:

  • The ability to create email marketing campaigns. Your software may be able to help you create custom email marketing campaigns, including creating the HTML for the email, keeping track of your mailing list, and keep track of responses.
  • Volunteer management. Face it, keeping track of your volunteers and their assignments can get out of hand. Software should have a volunteer management module, which can help you keep track of volunteers, assignments, scheduling, and time spent by each volunteer.
  • Donor management. Just like a retail organization keeps track of its best customers, so too must a non-profit keep track of its donors. Careful record-keeping is an important part of the process, and you'll need to know how often each donor has been solicited and for what, what they have given in the past, and other personal and household information about each individual.

A lot of smaller organizations make the mistake of believing that they do not need fundraising software, or they are too small to take advantage of it. In fact, even the smallest organization can benefit from this type of software, and you may be surprised as to how it can make your group more efficient and productive.

Some programs you may want to look into are Blackbaud, DonorPerfect and eTapestry, but there are literally hundreds of fundraising software programs available, so you'll want to do some comparisons to find the best software program to fit your specific needs.

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