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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-436-7161 if you have any questions about setting up your donor database.