5 Questions When Picking A Donor Management System

December 19, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      
    A new donor management system is a big decision. The right one can help you hold on to donors and work more efficiently. Here are some questions you should ask before and during the selection process.

  1. What do you need your system to do?
    Many systems include donor tracking, broadcast email, and payment processing. Others add on event software, membership management, and more. The question is whether you’ll be content with the built-in tools or will want to use the best possible (or most customizable) tool for each function. If you decide to use multiple tools, then integration will be important and you’ll want to make sure the integration works well for your specific needs. However, be careful that you’re not buying something that’s more complicated (and more expensive) than necessary, while still leaving room for growth.
  2. When should you implement your new system?
    If you’re using Excel spreadsheets, then the answer is immediately. Otherwise, you might time your implementation to a major fundraising campaign (with plenty of buffer). One note of caution — make sure your organization is ready and that you have the capacity to carry out the implementation and begin maintaining the new system.
  3. Are you properly protecting donor data?
    Data needs to be securely backed up — no excuses. There are many physical and Cloud-based backup services. Consider implementing one with your new system. Also, look at your organization’s policies for handling data and pay attention to password strength and security features such as two-factor authentication.
  4. What do you know about the vendors you’re considering?
    Unfortunately, good software companies sometimes fail. Have you evaluated the viability of your vendor and do you have a migration plan if they go out of business? If you purchased a system many years ago, have you checked on the company recently? Checking on the financial stability of your vendor each year is a best practice. You should also look into your rights to the software code, if applicable, and data export capabilities. Some warning signs of vendor viability issues are excessive turnover of developers, infrequent software updates, new and increasing fees for services, and rumors of acquisition.
  5. Do you have help?
    The implementation and migration process can be complex and time-consuming. Most vendors provide some implementation support, but it’s wise to have an expert on your side who can provide an impartial, knowledgeable point of view.