Finding The Perfect Donor Database In An Imperfect World


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There are hundreds of donor databases on the market. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, fans and foes. The challenge is to find a system with strengths that meet your needs, weaknesses that won’t get in your way, at a price you can afford.

This workshop will cover the basic concepts you will need to evaluate your options and make an informed decision.

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Finding The Perfect Donor Database In An Imperfect World

  1. 1. Finding the Perfect Donor Database in an Imperfect World Robert Weiner Use Twitter Hashtag #npweb Special Thanks To Our Sponsors
  2. 2. Helping ordinary people raise extraordinary amounts for nonprofits is all we do, and we love it. A Proud Sponsor of
  3. 3. Today’s Speaker Robert Weiner Robert L. Weiner Consulting Hosting: Sam Frank, Synthesis Partnership Assisting with chat questions: Chris Dumas, FirstGiving
  4. 4. Agenda •  Why Are We Here Today? •  When to Change? •  What Might it Cost? •  How to Choose?
  5. 5. Why Are We Here Today? •  “After people, data is your most important resource.” — John Kenyon. •  A database is your institutional memory. •  It allows the organization to survive staff turnover. •  A good database helps you work smarter.
  6. 6. When to Change? •  Routine reports are painful to produce. •  Critical information is on paper. •  Can’t track metrics or progress. •  Data scattered in spreadsheets. •  Data can’t be integrated across systems. •  Can’t get 360 degree view of relationships, •  Data is in fundraisers’ heads. •  Your organization is changing. •  Bad vendor or wrong choice last time.
  7. 7. Principles •  There is no perfect database. •  First, decide what you’re looking for. •  Buy-in is critical. Stakeholders must be involved in the decision. •  Structure software demos so you can compare “apples to apples.” •  Make sure you understand all the costs. •  Trust but verify.
  8. 8. Buying A Database 1)  Secure the Funding. 2)  Convene the right team. 3)  Specify your needs and priorities. 4)  Identify a pool of potential vendors. •  RFP/RFI 5)  Test vendors against your needs. •  Scripted demos •  Usability testing •  Reference checks •  Site visits 6)  Get a detailed cost proposal.
  9. 9. Step 1: Secure the funding Image: alancleaver_2000
  10. 10. Sample 5 Year Budget
  11. 11. Step 2: Convene the Team Image:
  12. 12. Step 3: What Do You Need? Image: Pete Reed
  13. 13. Step 3.1: Prioritize Your Needs Source: NPower: Four Steps to Selecting Donor Management Software
  14. 14. Step 4: Identify The Vendor Pool Image: 99 James Kieran Nguyen
  15. 15. Step 4.1: Optional: Request For Proposals •  Can help narrow or expand the vendor pool. •  Ask clear, unambiguous questions. •  Be Specific: •  “Show how your system would handle donations in $, ¥, €, and £” not “Can it track gifts?” •  “Show where your system would track catering costs” not “Can it handle events?” •  Anything you ask for you will have to read and score!
  16. 16. Step 5: In-depth Comparisons Image: Brooks Elliott Image: Castaway in Scotland Now
  17. 17. Step 5.1: Simple Demo Script •  Show how to: •  Enter gifts, including a corporate match with “soft credit” to the individual. •  Track multiple relationships. •  Track a grant proposal from LOI to award. •  Select records based on combined demographic and gift criteria. •  Create a new report.
  18. 18. Step 5.2: Rate the Demos AREA RATING COMMENTS Data Entry Membership Mgmt. Prospect Management Events Management
  19. 19. Step 5.3: Hands-on Testing System Usability Scale:
  20. 20. Step 5.4: Reference Checks Image: pjern
  21. 21. Step 6: Full Cost Proposal Product 1 Product 2 Product 1 Product 2 Software 35 concurrent 50 user accounts Oracle License Fee Training 19.5 days 33 days Data Conversion 37.5 days 10 days Consulting Services 5 days 26.5 days Travel expenses 3rd party Hardware Estimated Implementation Costs Web-Community Module Pricing Maintenance - Year 1 Estimated Maintenance - Year 2 Estimated Maintenance - Year 3 Estimated Average Implementation Time 7-12 months 10-12 months Required Client resources during implementation 1.5 FTEs 1.5-2 FTEs Technical staff to maintain system ? 1-1.5 FTEs
  22. 22. So How Long Might This Take? •  Longer than you think it will. •  For small organizations, 3 – 6 months (or more) to select a system, 4 – 12 months (or more) to implement. •  For large organizations, 6 – 9 months (or more) to select, 12 – 24 months (or more) to implement. •  Plan for the unplanned. •  Don’t hitch time-sensitive processes to going live on your new database.
  23. 23. Selection Recap 1)  Secure the funding. 2)  Convene the right team. 3)  Specify your needs and priorities. 4)  Identify a pool of potential vendors. 5)  Test vendors against your needs. •  RFP/RFI •  Scripted demos •  Usability testing •  Reference checks •  Determine the real cost. 11)  Choose. 12)  Negotiate the contract.
  24. 24. Databases Don’t Raise the Money But the right database can assist with: •  Prioritizing and segmenting lists. •  Prospect management and tracking. •  Stewarding your current donors. •  Identifying future donors. •  Time-management. •  Measuring and forecasting. •  Asking the right person for the right gift at the right time for the right purpose. This is only possible if data is captured and made available to appropriate staff. Don’t forget: databases don’t run themselves.
  25. 25. Resources Batchelder, Duff: Evaluating & Selecting Fundraising Software Battin, Tom: Should Nonprofit Agencies Build or Buy a Database? Petulla, Maria: Making Order Out of Chaos: How a Good Fundraising Database Can Help You Raise More Money Idealware: A Consumers Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Systems: Idealware: more articles on constituent databases Mills-Groninger, Tim: The Soft(ware) Side of Fundraising Effectiveness:
  26. 26. Resources TechSoup: Selecting Donor Management Software TechSoup: Technology for Fundraising discussion forum Weiner, Robert: Finding the Perfect Fundraising Database in an Imperfect World Weiner, Robert: Ten Common Mistakes in Selecting Donor Databases Weiner, Robert: Why Building Your Own Database Should Be Your Last Resort More resources are posted at
  27. 27. Questions? Submit your questions using the chat box.
  28. 28. Questions? Submit your questions using the question box.
  29. 29. More Questions? Robert Weiner
  30. 30. Find the listings for our current season of webinars and register at Chris Dumas 707-812-1234 Special Thanks To Our Sponsors