Many of our nonprofit and charity digital marketing clients reach out to us when they are looking for a donation system. As someone who has led many projects like this, I am always happy to help.

The challenge is that there are literally hundreds of systems in the marketplace. While I may have my own favourites, they may not necessarily work for your organization’s needs and budget.

The solution? Ask the right questions.

I learned this lesson a few years ago, when it was time to replace our CRM (customer relationship management software). I was blown away by the huge array of options available but found it challenging to choose the right CRM.

I realized that to solve my problem, I needed an evaluation framework I could follow. By following a framework, I removed emotion from the decision-making process. Most importantly, it eliminated any chance of having some fast-talking account manager sway my decision.

So what is this framework?

The framework I came up with consists of ten questions. Each question should be answered with one of the following:

  • Need it
  • Want it
  • Not important

The questions are:

  1. Do I need full ownership of the tool and the code (in other words, am I am looking for an asset)?
  2. Do the system and database need to be hosted in Canada?
  3. Does the system need to be fully bilingual?
  4. Does the system need to be a full donor-management system above and beyond a donation form? (A full system will have a client login, gift tracking, logging of communications, mail merge, tracking of past donations, etc.).
  5. Does the system need to be able to integrate with my accounting or other financial systems?
  6. Does the system need to be able to provide exports of all data? (Some just provide an email receipt to the donor.).
  7. Does the system need to be able to provide me with customizable reports?
  8. Does the system need to be embedded seamlessly into my website, or is an external system ok?
  9. Do I need live support and will I have access to suitable training documentation?
  10. Do I need the ability to add custom fields and messages to the donation form?

Asking questions like this about what features you need versus what you want will help you evaluate potential new systems.

The most important question: do you really need a new donation system?

Switching systems is time consuming and costly, and might not be worth it for some organizations.

Idealware recommends you evaluate what you have first before you invest in a new donation system. They’ve created a very helpful workbook that will guide you through a decision-making process.

Your donation system should help you move forward, not hold you back

Every single nonprofit and charity I have worked with is strapped for time as well as funding. As tempting as it may be to get excited over the latest feature-rich wonder system, remember that you will have to spend time learning to use it and managing daily tasks as well.

Taking some time to really think through your needs will save headaches as well as money in the long term.

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