Too many nonprofits think that choosing a fundraising software provider is the end of a journey. It’s really just the beginning. Using software is essential, but the use you’ll get from it is only as good as your data and the training your provide your team. And the tools keep changing, so it’s likely that you are trying to work with lots of different types of software! I’ve asked Blake Groves, VP of Strategy and Business Development at Salsa Labs to share what he sees most helps small nonprofits. With over 20 years in technology, he has seen it all! These four steps, while deceptively simple, will significantly help you in your nonprofit fundraising.

How Small Shops Can Overcome the Challenges of Using Different Types of Fundraising Software

Blake Groves, Salsa
by , VP at Salsa Labs

You’ve likely heard the word synergy thrown around in sort of vague terms, slapped onto the end of other words (corporate synergy, anyone?), and universally understood to mean some sort of coming together.

By definition, synergy refers to when different entities join forces to be a greater whole than the sum of their parts. Sound familiar?

Synergy is awesome in theory, but much harder to pull off in practice.

When it comes to attempted synergy, small nonprofits juggling multiple pieces of fundraising software understand the struggle.

Life can be tough out there for a small shop.

But last year’s $358.38 billion in charitable giving didn’t just go to the biggest nonprofits!

With proactive planning, your organization can overcome some of the struggles attributed to managing too many pieces of software. This article is designed to help you do just that!

Effective and cohesive fundraising software is one of the keys to successful donor management.

4 steps to guide your small nonprofit to better, more streamlined fundraising

If you want to jump ahead to a particular section, the four tips we’ll be covering are:

  1. Clean your data.
  2. Set clear, reachable goals.
  3. Focus on team unity.
  4. Embrace change.

From advocacy campaigns to major giving and everything thing in between, ineffective use of fundraising software touches all aspects of your nonprofit’s endeavors. Let’s get to problem solving!

  1. Clean your data.

    No matter where your donor data is housed, whether it’s in an Excel sheet or a CRM, it’s far more useful when it is organized, accurate, and up-to-date. Or rather…when it is clean.

    You don’t have to have the most advanced donor database in the world to make the most of it.

    In fact, if you’re in a situation where you’re using one type of software as a database, another to communicate with donors, another to collect donations, and so on, it is even more critical that your data is clean.

    The more steps you’re taking with your donor data between collection and storage, the more room you create for errors.

    For example, imagine the encounters that might occur while going through the process of identifying, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding a major gift prospect.

    Throughout that series of events, the donor interacts with numerous members of your nonprofit in numerous ways — storing more and more information in your database as time goes by. There are plenty of opportunities for error in those instances.

    Don’t worry, though. You can avoid some of these potential pitfalls.

    Clean data starts the process off on solid ground.

    A few data-cleaning tips include:

    • Remove donor files that are inactive. Don’t hoard donor files! If a donor hasn’t given in the past few years, it’s time to make room for another, more involved donor.
    • Clear out duplicates. It’s easy to build up duplicate information over time. Purge your database of repetitive information.
    • Update any relevant details on your pre-existing donors. Did a donor switch addresses? Get married and change names? Make sure your data accounts for those new changes.

    The takeaway: our donor data is filled with valuable, predictive information. Make sure it is functioning at maximum efficiency.

  2. Set clear, reachable goals.

    Your organization might have less software capacity than you’d like, but that shouldn’t hold you back.

    If you set defined goals, those aims can give your team the necessary guidance to pull together your various software and maximize their efficiency.

    The main reason goal setting is so fruitful is because it forces you to plan. And planning cannot be overemphasized when we start talking about strategies to overcome these kinds of disconnected software problems.

    As this very blog has advised, “Check your plan. Successful fundraising isn’t flashy. It’s the result of consistent, reliable, strategic choices.

    Before you start a campaign, consider how each piece of fundraising software fits into the equation.

    Ask questions such as:

    And of course, a big question at the center of all this should be: How is the donor data we collect going to be logged, stored, and handled in the database?

    The takeaway: As your plan comes into focus, you’ll want to note the role of each technology service you use and how those services interact and factor into the big picture. Then, set your goals accordingly.

  3. Focus on team unity.

    If you want your software unified, your team needs to be unified too.

    The less connected and streamlined your software is, the more opportunities there are for human error. Account for that reality by placing an emphasis on team unity.

    Make sure that everyone:

    • Understands their role: You can’t spell team without the T, E, A, and M. Ensure that each metaphorical letter on your staff knows what’s expected of them and their fellow staffers with regard to handling the software.
    • Recognizes the standard practices for managing the software: You can compensate for using various pieces of technology by putting standardized systems in place for how fundraisers interact with the software. For instance, if your organization is at the stage where you’re using an Excel sheet to store donor data, have strict guidelines for how that data should be entered.
    • Keeps lines of communication open: Transparency is crucial to maintaining accuracy and top-level performance. Open lines of communication facilitate transparency among team members.

    The takeaway: Your software is only as good as your team. Your team can be great, as long as they’re managed effectively.

  4. Embrace change.

    As you embark on these improvement tactics and others, you’ll start to see marked advancements in your performance. Recognize when that is happening and when it might be time to consolidate and upgrade.

    Once you maximize performance with your current software state, look to improve your situation so that your organization can keep growing.

    For instance, your organization might have gotten heavily involved in online advocacy over time. When your program has developed, you should probably consider looking into software solutions for the kind of work you’re doing.

    The takeaway: Migrating information and restarting with new technology can be scary, but it’s better to transition when you’re ready rather than wait until your organization exceeds the capacity of your current suite of software.

Thanks to modern technological developments, there are excellent, affordable software solutions out there for nonprofits of all sizes.

From all-in-one donor management systems to text-to-give tools to payment processing platforms and more, if you’re looking for fundraising help from technology, you can take your pick of the litter.

Just remember to improve your software base as your nonprofit grows its donor base.

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