Monthly Archives: January 2015

Why we chose Little Green Light for our donor database

Whether used by nonprofit development offices or freelance professional grant writers, a donor database requires a lot of investment up front. You’ll have to purchase the software, code all different sorts of data, organize it in a user-friendly way, and keep up with the latest on your constituents to make sure your information stays up-to-date. A bit intimidating, right? But don’t let the effort it takes scare you off – your donor database will easily start paying for itself in as little as a year or two.

We decided last Spring that we really needed to consolidate the hundreds of spreadsheets, notes, and other files we’ve accumulated over the years. There were, we quickly saw, lots of web-based customer relationship management (CRM) options out there. They range from free but not very sophisticated open source software such as CiviCRM all the way up to Raiser’s Edge, the LeBron James of donor database software, which will all but tuck you in at night but costs up to a couple thousand dollars a year.

The epic battle of spreadsheets vs. grant writer

The epic battle of spreadsheets vs. grant writer

Figuring that we would start off with three users and 1,000 constituents, we set out to vet our choices. These are some of the best we found:

  • CiviCRM is free, excellent out of the box, and amenable to lots of customization due to its open source nature. It certainly doesn’t look too fancy (which we didn’t mind). CiviCRM’s main drawbacks are the lack of customer support and the clunky search and reporting.
  • Insightly, also free, is also easy to use and modify with its open API. Its paid plan might be necessary down the road but, at $7 per user per month, or $420 a year for five user accounts, it is still quite affordable. But it is sloooow. And there were a few issues with synching – both with the calendar and the contacts.
  • Little Green Light’s annual plan came in at $420 and included lots of features we loved: a free 30-day trial, specialized fields for grant applications, dependable customer service, and best of all, a FlexImporter tool that promised to cut down significantly on data entry time. We were a bit turned off by LGL’s unorthodox categories and reputation for allowing little customization, but liked it the best off the bat.
  • Sales Cloud was another intriguing option. For $900 (after a free 14-day trial) they offer impressive software that can be endlessly and easily upgraded with third-party apps. They don’t, however, give Group Plan customers live customer support. Nor is this CRM really well set-up for fundraisers; it is geared toward salespeople, as the name suggests.
  • Donor Perfect Online is one of the most popular in the business, and $1,276 buys you the best-rated customer support out there. Donor Perfect Online comes with a module for automatically importing spreadsheets, a 30-day money back guarantee, and a sexy interface. The price of such sophistication is a very steep learning curve.
  • Finally there’s Raiser’s Edge, the crème-de-la-crème, which for our purposes would cost $1,428 annually. We would enjoy such perks as mobile access and unlimited users (the latter being kind of useless to us, to be honest). In the end it was just not enough to justify such an expense.

So far Little Green Light has worked out perfectly for Wild Fundraising. It is actually a lot easier to add, delate, and rename relevant categories than we expected. We eliminated redundant research and desperate diggingthrough piles of files and can now organize new pipelines faster than ever. Best of all, it feels good to know that every time we use our donor database, we’re contributing toward making it even more useful in the future!

A custom LGL interface is only a few mouse clicks away.

A custom LGL donor database is only a few mouse clicks away

 

Ready for something better? Ditch that pesky “CRTL+F” function and streamline your fundraising process today. But be sure to do a little more research before settling on a CRM – prices and plans can change, and sometimes you can hit the limited time offer jackpot. Please reach out to us at contact@sarahwildfundraising.com or 619-436-7161 if you have any questions about setting up your donor database.

Whitney Plantation: Can New Orleans lead the way in the resurgence of the great non-profit?

Marie Malaro, a former counsel to the Smithsonian, wrote a very thoughtful piece a few years ago on the dire straits of American museums. As visitor interests shift and meagre funding for museums continues in the long wake of the recession, many of them have adopted the ways of big business – corporate sponsorships, huge board member salaries, and burgeoning ticket prices to defray the costs of the Disney-fication that the crowd seemingly demands.

 

The shrinking visitor attention span is a story for another post.

Bigger! Brighter! Louder! Faster!

 

What is unfortunate about this process, as Malaro points out, is that museums are valuable precisely because they’re not big business. They are the most visible and arguably most universally needed non-profits we have. The people they serve are not only cancer survivors or at-risk youth but every single one of us who benefits from the treasures of knowledge they preserve and present. Running museums as if they were a theme parks might keep them in the black, but it somehow also tarnishes, not the least because the rising costs of entry are excluding many from ever enjoying them at all.

New Orleans’ National World War II Museum is a prototype for what many of these non-profits are becoming. Its bones are beautiful: countless artefacts and archival documents that safeguard the memory of D-Day, the Holocaust, and the rest of the war. Its flesh, however, increasingly resembles something between bloating and the results of plastic surgery addiction. From a restaurant run by a world-renowned chef to a planned 2015 exhibit that features indoor snowfall and simulated fighter jets flying over the visitors’ heads, there are many reasons a family of four has pay $74 for one afternoon (and much more if they can’t avoid the gift shop’s temptations). The National World War II Museum is easily one of the most profitable non-profits around.

On the other side of the spectrum lies another New Orleans-area attraction, the Whitney Plantation. This museum of U.S. slavery, which opened only a few weeks ago, features a plantation tour that has nothing to do with sniffing magnolias and sipping mint juleps. Instead it documents the everyday lives of the enslaved men, women, and children who inhabited Whitney in the antebellum days, lives that were painstakingly lifted and sifted from the archives by Senegalese scholar Ibrahima Seck. The museum tells a story that has never been told in such detail or at such a poignant site. No Disney-fication here.

 

whitney

Statue at Whitney Plantation.

 

What non-profits such as the Whitney Plantation (and the World War II Museum) can add to our national memory is something that can’t be provided by the private sector. That’s the reason non-profits get special perks like tax exempt status, grants, and loads of public support in the form of donations and volunteering. As we tentatively stretch our paws into 2015, we hope that this year will see many more of them, big and small, find success with courageous new ideas that give knowledge, care, and hope to the people they serve.