Complete Buyer’s Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising Software

When it comes to searching for a new nonprofit fundraising software, the market is surprisingly ripe with options. An increase in technological advancements has made it possible for nonprofit organizations to do more with online and mobile than ever before. The world of nonprofit fundraising moves incredibly fast, so it can be tempting to make vendor decisions based on a quick skim of a website or a ‘well this is how we’ve always done it’ mentality. There are plenty of other critical factors to take into consideration! To help your evaluation process, we’ve developed this complete buyer’s guide to help nonprofit teams find the best solutions to acquire, engage, and retain donors.


Step 1: Look for a Cloud-Based Solution

Nonprofit fundraising has officially followed in the footsteps of countless other industries and finally found a home in the cloud. Instead of relying on clunky hardware or a desktop version, a cloud-based, accessible-anywhere solution is the answer for nonprofit teams that are constantly on the go. In the nonprofit industry, there is too much going on – and too many moving parts – to be tied down by wires and boxes. Cloud platforms give fundraising teams the freedom and flexibility to operate the way they want to, to provide flexibility when working with remote volunteers. They can also provide just in time access for any issues or problems that could pop up on-site.

Leveraging a cloud-based software gives nonprofit teams immediate access to all event and donor data when they need it most. From ticketing details to event registration and payment verifications, all critical information is available at the click of a button through WiFi networks (and even sometimes offline). Silent, live, and even online auctions can be managed seamlessly with cloud-based software.

For charity events that are managed by multiple staff members and volunteers, cloud-based fundraising software IS A MUST to make communication and coordination easy across the team as all involved can know exactly what is going on at any given moment. Cloud-based platforms encourage 100% visibility between team members, making it easy for nonprofits to host amazing, profitable events and fundraiser campaigns without worrying about the back-end platform.

Step 2: Make Sure it’s Nonprofit-Specific

For any team to be successful, you need the right tools in place to meet goals without requiring too much labor or customization. Who has time for that? This means finding a nonprofit-specific solution that possesses the right features and functionality to help a your team succeed. In the fundraising world, for-profit auction software and nonprofit auction software actually possess a very different set of features. While for-profit software is designed for companies who run specialized auctions on a frequent basis, nonprofit auction software is built to address the specific needs of fundraising auctions. These nonprofit-specific capabilities should include:

  • Event Management software
  • Mobile Bidding Online Fundraising and Donations
  • Social, Group, and Team Fundraising
  • Text-to-Donate Functionality
  • Integrated Payment Processing
  • Mobile Donor Management
  • Reporting and Analytics

Insider Tip: Not sure if an online auction platform is for-profit or nonprofit? Check out the reviews on sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra! Most online auction software reviews come straight from real-world users of the platforms, which can give nonprofit organizations a good idea about the target audience for the platform.

Step 3: Work With a Vendor That Provides Support

While working with an online, cloud-based software partner is a critical step towards nonprofit fundraising optimization, it may require some support to get set up correctly and utilize the platform to its full potential. When evaluating nonprofit fundraising solutions, nonprofit teams should look for vendors who offer ample support services during the onboarding stage, during events, and when issues arise. Onboarding support helps organizations get up and running on a new platform and ensures team members are well trained and ready to use the platform whether at charity events or in an office.

Vendors should also provide timely IT support in the case of any technical issues. Because organizations rely heavily on nonprofit fundraising software to drive donations and engagement, any site downtime is lost revenue for a charitable cause. Vendors must be able to get fundraising platforms back up and running after an issue with as little downtime as possible.

Additionally, it’s key to look for a partner that provides a variety of support channels to support the packages they provide, such as live phone, email and chat support, as well as extended hours for organizations based on the west coast, event support during evening hours, and online knowledge tools. Consulting services can also be helpful for those who would like several expert-guided prep calls prior to an event to make sure it’s a complete success.

For organizations unfamiliar with nonprofit fundraising software and cloud-based solutions or for those hosting an inaugural event, onsite event support may also be required. Nonprofit teams might want to check online fundraising platform reviews and customer feedback to get a good idea of how effective the onsite event support actually is. While budget may be a big factor in your buying decision, it’s important to evaluate both a vendor’s onsite event support and DIY support packages. If DIY is your answer, it’s good to ensure you have access to live phone support, and not simply online forms and chat bots! Real-time support during fundraising events is critical when the goals are to ensure events run smoothly and to increase donations.

Step 4: Look Toward the Future

No event is ever one-off in the fundraising world – at least for long-term charitable causes. Nonprofits are constantly looking towards the future to continuously grow and impact the causes they support. When evaluating nonprofit fundraising platforms, nonprofit teams should ask the following questions to make sure their chosen software can grow and adapt in the future:

  • How many events or fundraising campaigns (per year or per month) do we plan on hosting?
  • Can we use the platform year-round or is it a one-time use?
  • Does it have back-end event management software? If so, how many users can access it?
  • Will this platform scale with our organization as we increase in size or charitable output?
  • Will this platform help us increase attendance and donations from one event to the next or from one campaign to the next?
  • Can we conduct multiple fundraising campaigns simultaneously time with this platform?
  • Does this platform offer the flexibility and ease-of-use we need to ensure 100% success at every event?

With these questions in mind, nonprofit organizations can confidently tackle buying a new nonprofit fundraising software. As an added bonus, here are the 7 Best Practices for Selecting Fundraising Software to help your team make the best decision when it comes to a fundraising software partner.


7 Best Practices for Selecting Nonprofit Fundraising Software

If you’re in the market for a nonprofit fundraising solution, look no further! We’ve rounded up seven best practices to make sure you know what you’re getting when you sign your contract – no matter what software vendor you choose.

#1: DO look for a solution that works with your deadlines– not against them

For nonprofit fundraisers, events and auctions are all about deadlines, and oftentimes that perfect sponsor is just out of reach until the last minute. Avoid missing donations because of a technical glitch by working with vendors who works with your deadlines – not against them. Some fundraising vendors require auction data to be set in stone 2 weeks prior to an event and don’t allow event teams to make any changes to the data in the days leading up and at your event. We all know there are a MILLION last minute changes in fundraising – ensure you select a software partner that supports the flux of fundraising! Make sure your team is reading the fine print when evaluating vendors to make sure any technical limitations don’t inhibit your team’s capacity to drive donations.

#2: DO look for a platform that does more

If there’s one thing fundraising teams don’t want to do, it’s purchase multiple solutions for different events or campaigns. Why waste time and money on ‘one and done’ platforms when you can invest in a single solution for all (or at least most) of your nonprofit fundraising software needs? Many vendors only support singular fundraising initiatives – like mobile bidding or registration management. Make sure your team is looking for a year-round fundraising partner that is dedicated to helping you raise more money. If you are going to invest in nonprofit fundraising software, make sure you can use it more than once – getting the most return on investment for your cause. Full-service nonprofit fundraising platforms offer solutions including:

  • Auction Item Procurement and Packaging
  • Online Ticketing
  • Mobile Bidding and Online Auctions
  • Donor and Sponsor Management
  • Year-Round Fundraising Capabilities

#3: DON’T forget about the value of on-site support staff

When it comes to hosting a large-scale nonprofit fundraiser, one small technical glitch is all it takes to bring an event from great to disaster. When your team is evaluating nonprofit fundraising solutions, check the support details to see if onsite support is included. In addition to providing real-time technical support, onsite vendor teams bring next-level fundraising experience and ideas. They are constantly on the lookout for more opportunities to increase bidding activity, thus raising more dollars for a cause. It can be easy to dismiss the value of onsite staff, but support can actually lead to even greater success for the cause. If you don’t have onsite support, then it’s important to make sure that you have access to a support team via phone, email, or chat.

#4: DO make sure you’re getting the most out of your vendor partner

As anyone who has ever worked with cloud-based technology can tell you, it’s not uncommon for software vendors to sell a platform and then leave the team to figure out the kinks. When it comes to nonprofit fundraising software, charitable results are on the line and software failure is unacceptable – not to mention your team doesn’t have capacity to spend time figuring out issues. As your team is evaluating fundraising solutions, look for one that offers a full team of experienced individuals to ensure you receive the best pre-event training and consultations, the best during-event technical support, and the best continuous communication and engagement after an event so your team has access to exactly what they need when they need it most.

#5: DON’T lose sight of the backend analytics

One of the biggest reasons many nonprofit organizations invest in a cloud-based fundraising platform is to track the backend data and fundraising analytics surrounding events. With this data in hand, nonprofit teams can make better strategic decisions and plan more engaging, successful events and fundraising campaigns in the future. Make sure you’re looking for a nonprofit fundraising tool that both looks good on the front end and collects the important details on the back end. Finding one with a real-time CRM integration as well can also save your team countless hours of data entry and number crunching. At the end of the day, the more robust a solution is on the back end, the more effective it can be on the front end.

#6: DO make it easy to donate

If the whole point of mobile and online fundraising systems is to make it easier for members or donors to give to a cause, why do some vendors create unnecessary roadblocks in the payment process? During your research process, make sure to investigate how seamless a vendor’s payment process is. Do they accept all types of credit cards? Do they offer live donation capabilities? Do they seamlessly process credit card payments? Instead of waiting 10 days for a payment to process, your team could be well into donation follow-up communication, which is why making sure a platform makes it easy to donate is so critical. In today’s cybersecurity era, it’s also key to ensure the solution is PCI compliant and takes measures to protect data and enforce security.

#7: DO check out the reviews before you make your choice.

Finally, while perusing customer reviews is something that is often reserved for online shopping, when it comes to choosing a nonprofit fundraising solution, the reviews are just as important. With so much competition in the marketplace, it is critical to know what current (and past!) customers are saying about certain vendors. Just Googling phrases such as ‘Greater Giving reviews’ or ‘Gesture reviews’ or ‘OneCause reviews’ can bring up a slew of results that showcase what real people think of certain vendor services. Reading reviews can also help bring up some good questions or concerns to raise during the RFP process, and can make your team more informed overall about the world of nonprofit fundraising software.

Together, the Buyer’s Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising Software and 7 Best Practices for Selecting Fundraising Software offer a comprehensive look at how to research, interview, and select a winning nonprofit fundraising solution. With the full-service, scalable solutions from OneCause, nonprofit organizations can do more, increase donations, and optimize charitable events. Learn how OneCause can work for you – take a tour of the platform today.