Focus On: Software: Are You Plugged In?
A good fundraising software package forces users to quickly enter all new relevant data about donors and other constituent groups. In doing so, it minimizes problems related to turnover of employees.
“The software helps establish what we call institutional memory,” Ahlquist says. “The point is to ensure that new employees are always able to turn to a reliable database.”
Once the database is in place, the software system can be used to generate appeals for donations — either in the form of letters or an efficient e-mailing system — as well as expedite processing of gifts and thank-you notes. It also can help nonprofits analyze results and answer important questions, such as why there is a disparity in donations from one year to the next.
“If you’re using software that captures all the data at the time of processing the gift, then the data will still be there in a year or two when you want to analyze it,” Ahlquist says.
Donor management … plus
But donor-management software isn’t the only technology solution being offered to nonprofits by today’s information-technology industry. The San Francisco-based Groundspring.org is itself a nonprofit organization that provides technology services through the Internet and helps raise millions of dollars for other nonprofits. It’s an application service provider, similar to Yahoo and other Internet entities, except that its site and e-mail functions are tailored to help nonprofits.
“The Internet provides for a far richer set of opportunities for nonprofits to engage with their donors than traditional methods,” says Dan Geiger, Groundspring.org’s executive director. “It can be a lot more cost effective.”
That’s because ASPs can be used to take care of so many jobs. Personnel at nonprofits can use an ASP at will without having to install and manage software systems. The ASP people keep the software they use up to date, process transactions and handle e-mail for the nonprofit — all for a reasonable fee.