Shopping for a new donor database or fundraising CRM can be a trying experience. With so many vendors to choose from, it’s difficult to know which option is truly best for your organization. One way to help discern which software you should choose is to undergo a diligent self-examination of how you use your current solution. It’s also a good idea to be prepared to ask prospective vendors a series of intentional and hard-hitting questions.
Here are 28 questions you should ask before choosing your next fundraising software solution:
Questions to ask yourself
Understanding how you use your current system is critical to choosing a new system. Below are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when beginning your search for a new vendor. It will help you choose the right software provider for your needs, and help you have answers ready for their inevitable questions about your organization.
How you currently use the system will help you decide whether you need to downsize or upgrade from your current solution.
1. How many years have you been using your current software?
2. How many account records (names) do you have in your current software?
3. How much does your current system cost you each year?
4. How many people in your organization use your donor management software?
Knowing what features you use, don’t use, need and don’t need is critical to choosing the right software for your organization. Often times, one or two features can be a deal-breaker between vendors. Try to separate your “wish list” from what you actually use on a daily basis.
5. What transaction options do you use? Examples:
- Monthly/Sustaining Donations
- Credit Card Donations
- EFT Donations
- Memorial/Tribute Donations
- Split Donations
- Matching Gifts
6. Do you use separate software for accounting, communication, analytics, etc.?
7. What kind of reports do you run regularly?
8. How is your website integrated?
- Sign up for newsletters
- Register for events
- Purchase items
- Create personalized pages to raise money (P2P)
9. How many emails do you send per month?
10. How many email addresses do you have on your list?
11. How many lists/segments do you have?
12. What kinds of emails do you send? (newsletter, gift acknowledgements, appeals, etc.)
13. Do you have custom templates?
Questions to ask the vendor
Once you’ve chosen two or three vendor to look at it, be prepared to dig deep into the company and the product. One of the worst things a nonprofit can do is purchase a donor database or fundraising CRM without knowing what they are truly getting into. The questions below represent a bare-minimum of what you should ask.
14. What is the history of your company?
15. How long have you been in business?
16. Are you owned by a larger company or outside investor?
17. Can you describe the data conversion process? How long will it take? What will be expected of me?
18. What kind of credit card transaction fees or surcharges can I expect for online donations?
19. Will your database integrate with my website?
20. Can I see an example of a report I run frequently?
21. Can I have access to a sandbox?
22. What are the security features of your database?
23. Who owns my data? Where is it stored and how is it backed-up?
24. Who are three customers I can call that had similar needs as me?
25. What am I getting in the base package, and what costs extra?
26. How much will I be charged if my record count increases?
27. How often is the software updated?
28. What kind of training do you offer?
Not only will the self-examination help clarify your needs, your interview questions to the vendor will shorten the sales process and save you from unnecessary product demonstrations and needs analyses.
Are you looking to purchase a new donor database or fundraising software solution? Be sure to download our “Buyer’s Guide to Fundraising Software” before you get too far into the process!