You Get What You Pay for With Free Technology
While Europe is so beautiful, charming and old, if you’ve ever been there, you may also know about one of the most annoying things ever — having to pay to use a public bathroom.
For someone like me who grew up there, it’s nothing new, but I know it’s a surprise for new visitors. It’s critical to have coins handy, although you can pay with your phone in some places now. Many shops or restaurants provide a receipt that gives you a discount on a purchase. It’s my experience that by having to pay for it, bathrooms are much cleaner than if they were free.
What does this have to do with fundraising and recurring gifts?
I think of “you get what you pay for” in particular when it comes to payment systems and processing. While some software companies may say, “This platform or donor database is free and oh so cool looking,” you may have to clean up much more of a mess later.
Recently I did an informal poll on how many tools and systems nonprofits have to manage all of their giving and tracking. On average, even for small organizations, there are five different solutions that all have to work together. The reality is that they often do not.
A director told me their small animal charity converted to a different donor database system twice in the past few years. Simply because it sounded good, looked cool, was free (for a period anyway and then it was going to cost a lot more), and it was going to generate so many new donors and so many new recurring givers.
She was so overwhelmed, she didn’t use any of the features and her organization was not generating more than before. I told her to stop taking sales calls because it takes away from the time needed to optimize the benefits of the tools she has.
I get it. You may be in that same situation. Probably before your time at the organization, a tool was free or purchased for a minimal cost.
Large organizations often have even more internal and external tools, analytics, payment processing and software (and now artificial intelligence) solutions than smaller organizations. It takes a lot of hand-holding, fixing and cleaning up to make sure they all speak to each other, and those systems become very labor intensive and thus expensive.
Not to mention that with so many systems, it’s hard to keep track of everything in one spot and see what works or does not work. We’ve all heard horror stories of nonprofits converting to yet another payment processor, losing recurring donors in the process. We’ve all heard horror stories of not being able to track results for campaigns.
We all know the phrase “garbage in, garbage out.” While this applies to both free and paid solutions, you can expect much more support and much more cleanup help if you pay for the solution and you think through what you need and why before you buy or try it.
Your tools are not necessarily going to find new donors for you if you don’t ask for gifts. Your systems are not necessarily going to find monthly donors if you don’t ask your donors to consider a recurring gift.
So, before you jump on yet the latest cool new and free tool, evaluate what you’re doing now, how you’re using it and how you can optimize everything all working together. Then ask other organizations how and why they’re using it. Better yet, ask a tech consultant to help you create a shortlist of solutions to prevent you from jumping into yet another messy situation.
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.
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.