An Overview of Today’s Nonprofit Technology Marketplace
As a nonprofit professional, you have many choices when it comes to finding the right mix of software to support your organization’s goals and mission. The nonprofit technology marketplace is growing and evolving, which can make it challenging to keep up with what’s available. But if you understand some of the basics about technology for nonprofits, it gives you a strong foundation for sorting through the options and making good technology choices for your organization.
So, let’s look at an overview of today’s nonprofit technology marketplace. (Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, but rather a bird’s eye view to give you a better understanding of the marketplace.)
Nonprofit Technology Approaches
Before we get into specific types of software, it can be helpful to think about your organization’s overall technology strategy. Here are the three main approaches.
All-in-one solutions support common functional needs for nonprofits, offering multiple product modules within a single solution. This approach can be attractive if you want to minimize the number of software vendors with which you work. It can also be appealing if your staff has little time or expertise to devote to technology and needs a solution that addresses most of the organization’s needs without a big burden on the staff.
A possible downside of this approach is that all-in-one products don’t always have robust functionality across all modules. For example, one might have a powerful online fundraising tool, but the reporting capabilities might be lacking in functionality.
Another approach is to find best-of-breed software for each area of your organization, and then integrate them. This approach might be attractive if you have unique and/or complex processes and want robust functionality for multiple areas of your organization. Just consider that this approach will require technical expertise from your staff or a third-party consultant/firm to keep everything integrated and updated.
You also have the option to take a hybrid approach. You could choose an all-in-one solution for a few key functional areas of your organization or a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, and then integrate select best-in-class solutions with it, such as online fundraising software, volunteer management software, a peer-to-peer fundraising platform, and/or a variety of other specialized tools.
Key Types of Software for Nonprofits
Once you determine your nonprofit’s technology strategy, then it’s time to choose the mix of software that meets your organization’s needs. Here is an overview of some of the most common types of software that nonprofits use to run their organizations:
Nonprofits often choose donor management software, aka nonprofit CRM, as their primary or core software. It houses donor, volunteer, client and other constituent data all in one place. It can help you track and manage things like:
- Prospects, donors, constituents and volunteers.
- Financial transactions (donations, event registrations, ecommerce purchases, etc.)
- Interactions (email sign-ups, email click-throughs, event registrations, etc.)
- Programs and services.
- Operations and finances.
- Reporting on all of the above.
These solutions come in a variety of forms. For example, you can select a CRM platform, such as Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, as your core system, and then add solutions and apps from Salesforce and/or the Salesforce AppExchange as needed for various functionality. Or, you might choose a constituent/donor management solution like Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT or Blackbaud CRM, EveryAction, Virtuous, or another nonprofit software solution that includes multiple product modules within its core offerings.
Online fundraising software can help you to accept and process online donations as well as organize and manage gift information and donor communications in one place. It can help you to do things like create customized donation pages, report on fundraising campaign results and allow donors to set up recurring gifts.
Many CRM and donor management systems for nonprofits allow for a way to track donations and often will offer a way to process online donations. For example, you can find online donation capabilities within Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT donor management software and as modules within nonprofit software solutions or platforms from software vendors, including Bloomerang, DonorPerfect, EveryAction, Neon One, and Virtuous.
You can also find dedicated online fundraising platforms, such as Donorbox, iDonate, Fundraise Up, and WeGive, which focus on donations. This approach allows them to offer products that excel at minimizing friction in the donation process.
Peer-to-peer fundraising software helps you manage peer-to-peer events (like walks, runs and rides) and campaigns (like do-it-yourself fundraisers). It helps you to recruit participants and enable them to create their own fundraising pages, send fundraising emails and use social media to solicit donations from friends and family, and accept donations online. It also helps you to track campaign and event performance.
There are dozens of platforms available in this category (too many to list) and they range from basic platforms with no or low monthly fees to pricier enterprise-level platforms with lots of bells and whistles.
Online marketing tools for nonprofits range from basic mass email marketing tools to more sophisticated tools that help you deepen relationships with constituents through personalized online communications. Basic email marketing tools help you target and send messages to specific audiences. More advanced online marketing tools help you to send personalized email messages to different audiences based on each contact’s interactions with your organization. They can also help you to automate email communications.
You can find online marketing tools in a variety of forms. For example, Blackbaud offers the Luminate Online marketing email and fundraising platform that integrates with Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge and Blackbaud CRM. Some software vendors, including CharityEngine, DonorPerfect, EveryAction, Neon One and Virtuous, have email marketing functionality built into their offerings.
Of course, online marketing encompasses more than just email marketing. There are several tools that specialize in SMS (texting), such as Hustle and Tatango. You can also find a range of tools for general social media marketing, such as Hootsuite and Loomly.
Volunteer management software makes it easier to manage the full volunteer cycle and deliver a smoother volunteer experience that’s more convenient and enjoyable for your staff and your volunteers. Specifically, they can help you do things like manage volunteer opportunities, recruit volunteers and communicate with them, schedule volunteer shifts and report on data to track the progress of your volunteer program.
These software solutions come in different forms. You can find some of them as modules within nonprofit software solutions or platforms from software vendors including Blackbaud, Bloomerang, Charityproud, EveryAction, Neon One, and Salesforce.
If your organization relies heavily on volunteers, then you might prefer to use a stand-alone volunteer management solution, such as Civic Champs, Golden, Volgistics or VolunteerHub. Some nonprofit software solutions and platforms have the option to integrate with these types of volunteer management solutions.
If your nonprofit regularly hosts galas and other types of events, event management software can be a big help. You can use it to plan, set up, manage and report on events. It can include functionality for event registration, table/team tracking and more.
Many all-in-one platforms include some type of functionality that can support basic events. However, complex events might require more sophisticated capabilities, such as managing table seating or running auctions, which are available in event management software from vendors including GiveSmart and OneCause.
Other Specialized Tools
There are a variety of other apps and tools that can help you extend the capabilities of your existing software or manage specific activities more efficiently. Here are just a few examples of some common specialized tools.
Artificial intelligence (AI). AI is quickly becoming popular in the nonprofit space to help streamline tasks and even improve fundraising. For example, ChatGPT can be used to help write/rewrite a grant application or a donor acquisition email. Chatbots can be used on organizational websites to help constituents in need. BoodleAI, DonorSearch and others can help with donor prospecting and determining the propensity to give.
Matching gifts. Adding a matching gift tool to your donation form makes it easier to take advantage of corporate matching programs and boost your fundraising campaign results. There are multiple matching gift tools available, including solutions from Double the Donation, that you can easily embed on your web pages and donation forms.
Wealth screening. Wealth screening software provides detailed donor prospect research and screening tools that let you dive into your donor list, confirm your assumptions about donors and potential donors, identify potential donors and target them with fundraising asks that are most likely to appeal to them.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the nonprofit technology marketplace, and there are even more solutions available that are not solely aimed at the nonprofit market, but that nonprofits can use successfully. However, I hope this gives you a more informed starting point for making technology decisions. Just remember that your nonprofit’s software mix depends on multiple factors — including your organization’s budget, size and approach to technology — so your organization’s choices will be unique.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: 4 Steps to Select the Right Software for Your Nonprofit
Mark founded Cathexis Partners in 2008 to help nonprofit organizations get the most from their existing technology tools, implement new technology to address gaps and find the best overall approach to using technology to support their missions. He previously served as director of IT consulting at a fundraising event production company focused on nonprofits.
Mark also serves on the editorial advisory board for NonProfit PRO, where he contributes monthly to his blog, “Nonprofit Tech Matters.”