Non-profits are starting to realize the benefits of software designed specifically for them. There are products that help track donors, develop portfolios, implement moves management and much more. But with so many options available, it’s hard to select the one that will best enable your major gifts program. Wes Moon, co-founder and COO of Wisely, understands the unique challenges of major gifts, and he suggests looking for these six key features to narrow your choices.
Compatibility with Your Organization
The top feature is compatibility. If you want to improve your reach and effectiveness with major donors, for example, new software has to coordinate with your current CRM. It also has to work within your data structure. If you’re required to rebuild or replace the database, overall costs go up and may neutralize your return on investment (ROI).
Moon adds, “Make sure that the technology is going to be compatible not just with your CRM (customer relationship management), but with the goals and the processes of the organization.”
Does it slot easily into employees’ daily routines? Can major gift officers use it with their current skill set or does it require capabilities the organization doesn’t currently have? Avoid any products that demand extensive change management, especially if you’re looking for near-team results.
A Usable and Intuitive Interface
Look for products your employees can learn to use quickly and painlessly. Moon points out that “frontline fundraisers are often not technologists. They’re relationship people, so [software should be] intuitive for that person to use.”
Usability can be a problem for any technology. WalkMe, a training software provider, conducted a survey in which 43.6 percent of respondents identified a complex and confusing user interface as a key reason for not being able to use new software.
Major gift officers, in particular, can’t afford to spend a lot of time learning new applications. They have to be out meeting with donors. They need products that serve up actionable and timely information with minimal effort.
Intelligence That Improves Results
Before starting your software search, determine what your organization needs it to do. For major gifts, Moon suggests focusing on products that can mine data for insights that help officers do their jobs better. For example, the application should be able to search the database for prospective donors, so fundraisers don’t have to pore over the entries and speculate about which ones are most promising.
Products with good data analytics help gift officers understand how close a donor is to making a contribution and what events or campaigns a prospect is most likely to respond to. It also identifies people who aren’t progressing toward a donation, so fundraisers can shift attention to more promising opportunities.
Given the right technical support, employees will meet goals faster with less effort. That success, in turn, makes people happier with their work and increases retention. The longer they stay with your organization, the stronger your high-value portfolio becomes.
Automation That Improves Efficiency
On top of supporting fundraisers with data-based intelligence, good software should ease their daily administrative burden. Moon notes, “[administrative tasks] take a lot of effort, but that can be largely automated with a portfolio management tool, which then allows gift officers to take more action and spend more quality time with their donors.”
Automation should improve efficiency in two ways. It should get the data analysis done in much less time than it takes a person, and because it takes less time, analysis should be done daily, providing officers with the most current intelligence for each meeting.
Each morning, fundraisers will see who’s having a birthday or made a recent contribution so they can plan and connect accordingly. And when they meet with each prospect, they know about past gifts, the likely size of future gifts and the donor’s motivations for giving.
This context and donor history help officers make each interaction more meaningful and more likely to move toward a large contribution.
Mastery of the Essential
Moon observes, “A lot of the software that the charitable sector uses today isn’t focused, so it has many features, some of which a charity shouldn’t use, some of which a charity should use and may or may not be using it today.” The extraneous widgets that come with general purpose applications complicate the interface and drive up costs without providing additional benefit to your major gifts program.
On the other hand, when a product does one thing very well, all the development, research and testing drive innovations for that capability. The company is passionate about addressing a specific pain point with technology designed by people who’ve been in your shoes.
Tailored applications also tend to be easy for gift officers to use and painless to integrate with your current CRM. Thus, Moon recommends sticking with point solutions for enabling large donations.
Partnership for Your Success
While partnership isn’t exactly a software feature, working with a company who cares about your success can improve the value you get from the product. Look for companies who understand the specific hurdles of attracting major gifts and whose mission aligns with your values.
Partners are invested in your long-term results, not just the near-term sale. They’ll help you deploy successfully and solicit feedback for improvements. Plus, they’ll keep you up to date as new versions and features roll out.
To find good partner companies, look for testimonials from other non-profits about how the company has worked with them over time. You can also ask about their onboarding and support process to get a sense of how closely they’ll work with you.
The Right Choice
Worldwide, the non-profit software market is expected to grow to $3.4 billion by 2022 with dozens of vendors. Somewhere in that market is the software that will help you grow your major gifts program. To find it, start with a crystal understanding of what your organization needs. Then, if you focus on features that impart real value, you’ll always choose well.