The Right Fundraising Software

August 14, 2008

Posted in Fundraising.

I need software. As a long-time tech guy, I have high standards. But I just can’t find what I’m looking for. I’m asking for your help.

Here are two “user stories” to consider how the software might be used.

User Story 1

A donor writes a check. We log the donation, making sure his contact info is up to date. A review of the donor’s giving history shows that the gift is a step up from previous gifts, prompting me to make an extra phone call to thank him.

User Story 2

We’re working on a new campaign and are identifying prospective major donors. We produce a report of all gifts in a certain time range, over a certain amount, and from certain segments of our people. The report reveals a prospect with close ties to one of our board members, who helps secure a significant lead gift.


The user stories help determine requirements, but I’ve also given a lot of thought to features. These are usually split into “Must Have” and “Nice to Have” lists.

Must Have

  1. Web based – Our team is made up of volunteers all over the area
  2. Multi-user – We have several people who need access to the data
  3. Giving history – pull up all previous gifts from a donor
  4. Reporting – arbitrary reports such as gifts in a date range
  5. Restrictions – noting that gifts are restricted for a specific purpose
  6. Export – it’s our data, and if we need to use it outside the software we need to be able to export it

Nice to Have

  1. Campaigns – Indicate that gifts are part of a specific campaign
  2. Helpful reporting – some systems offer suggestions for donors who are more likely to give and why
  3. Accept online donations – we don’t have any online donation system yet but we plan to – some web-based systems actually handle this for you
  4. Integrate with online giving – at the very least, we’ll need to get that data into the system and it would be great if we could automate that
  5. Alerts – email alerts or reminders of certain things – hitting campaign milestones, major gift anniversaries, etc.


So, for a small non-profit with relatively small budget and no paid fundraising staff, what options would you recommend? What’s easy enough to learn and use, but powerful enough to provide value?


  1. Liz — November 04, 2008

    What did you end up going with? I"m in the same boat and having a very difficult time finding what will work for us. Looking at eTapestry, DPO, Network for Good Donor Suite.
    liz [at] lovefutbol [dot] org

  2. Douglas Schoenberg — August 15, 2008

    Hi Chas-

    Well you certainly can’t take this as unbiased advice, since I’m CEO of a software vendor that specializes in non-profits, but I do think we have a product that might be just what you are looking for.

    Our two primary donor management products are DonorPerfect and DonorPerfect Online. We’ve always worked with relatively small non-profits, but a couple of years ago we began offering an very low-cost option of small nonprofits:

    You can just sign-up for a no risk trial but let me speak to DonorPerfect Online in terms of your requirements:

    Supports multi-users
    Provides giving history (as well as giving summaries by year)
    Provides extensive reporting
    Allows recording of restricted and designated gifts
    Provides export of data

    Supports identifying gifts by campaign (as well as solicitation method)
    Variety of reports and tools to target solicitations
    Option for accepting online donations – fully integrated
    Alerts and to dos are part of the systems contact management features

    Two things your story mentioned that you didn’t directly address in your requirements list are:

    Story 1 – When you enter a gift, DonorPerfect Online lets you specify which thank you letter you want to generate. You could setup a thank you letter that specifically notes that the gift was an increased level of support and how valuable that is to your organization.

    Story 2 – Making the connection between various donors can be critical for major donor development.. Doing this requires the ability to establish links between donor records. You can then generate the type of report that could tell you that Donor A shares a relationship directly (or indirectly by a common connection such as an employer) with Donor B.

    Hope that helps! By the way, we also provide software for camp management (

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