Webinar Follow-up: Gary Green on Choosing and Using Fundraising Software
Earlier this month, FundRaising Success partnered with technology-solutions provider Advanced Solutions International for a webinar titled “Choosing and Using Fundraising Software: Tips and Tricks to Demystify the Process”. Presenters included Gary Green, vice president for technology at the National Kidney Foundation; David Drinnon, pastor and director of information technology and Web sites at the Second Baptist Church in Houston; and Dan Germain, senior executive, strategic business development, at Advanced Solutions International.
During the webinar, attendees submitted questions for our experts to answer. We got to many of them, but here are Gary’s answers to some of the ones that weren’t addressed.
Q: How many demos should we look at before deciding [what fundraising software to use]? What should we have done before checking out demos?
A: Enough to match your comfort level. If you’ve really researched the field and really know what your needs are, you may only need to look at three. If you aren’t sure yet, maybe many more. Often, online demos or demos on CD can be very helpful, too.
Q: How much should a nonprofit organization expect to pay for contribution transaction fees?
A: Unfortunately, the processing for a nonprofit and for a commercial organization are not much different, at least from a technology point of view. So you won’t generally find nonprofit rates from card processors, etc. However, sometimes a bank will donate the service, especially if the nonprofit is a client, or perhaps in exchange for sponsor recognition at a special event. I think generally fees in the 2.2 percent to 2.5 percent range are usual and customary; AMEX is half a point higher.
Q: Once an organization makes a commitment to donor relationship management technology, how long — realistically — should they expect to be in the training/implementation stage, before it’s all up and running smoothly?
A: Training is an ongoing process. This was perhaps the biggest revelation in our deployment. Staff turnover often makes one feel like you’re starting over every couple of months. And it has to be a serious commitment. We started out expecting that two days of training in our headquarters would be sufficient, but we found that people were forgetting things before they got off the plane going back home. We are now up to two weeks at the remote office site, and it’s made all the difference. Our situation may be extreme due to our geographic consolidation and expansion, but this is one area in which you cannot overestimate.
Q: When trying to determine expected costs, what are the things that organizations typically forget about?
A: In my experience, the two biggest areas were ongoing training and investing in making your solution work better. We are always thinking of ways to do things differently or to do different things. Each new idea requires resources to explore and develop.
Q: What are the benefits of a single database online/offline solution versus integrating separate solutions?
A: I think a single solution has the advantage of not requiring integration or data exchange. I would be willing to give up a “best of breed” product for one that is “good enough” if it means that my business processes can be automated and I can save work and redundancy for my employees. I’ve had instances in my (lengthy!) work experience in which a senior manager wanted a particular product or solution because his buddy recommended it or because he or she had used it before. It seemed more important to have the particular product or application than it did to have it work with the rest of the operation. Having said that, the single solution still must meet your business requirements and objectives.
Q: Do we have to issue an RFP when researching software?
A: I think so. Honestly, the best part of doing an RFP for us was that it required our team to really think through what we wanted and what we expected. And it was a surprise when we realized that we all had different ideas about what we wanted. I think it’s a major factor in one of the most important parts of finding a solution — defining your needs and your requirements. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the project is — it forces you to think it through in an organized way. Originally, I was totally against the idea of going through the process, and now I’m the biggest fan.
Q: What are the key points we should consider to make sure the solution is a good fit for our organization type (e.g., charity or membership, etc.)?
A: “A good fit” is the perfect phrase to keep in mind. There will be solutions to your particular situation all along the price/features continuum. It makes no sense to overbuy and implement a system with features that your organization will not use in the next few years. By that time, all of the solution options will have changed substantially, so you shouldn’t buy now for something that you may want to do years from now. Likewise, you need to be able to afford to properly implement the solution. You can’t spend money to purchase a product and then think the job is done.
It all comes down to knowing what problem(s) you want to solve, finding a solution that you can afford that meets your needs, and then operating that solution with active monitoring and evaluation.
To hear this free webinar in its entirety, log on to www.fundraisingsuccessmag.com/story/story.bsp?sid=96240&var=story. For information about other archived and upcoming FS webinars, www.fundraisingsuccessmag.com/docs/webinars.bsp