GHJ Manager Amy Eybsen recently sat down with Lauren Petersen, Foundation and Donor Relations Manager at OneOC, a nonprofit in Orange County, California.
AMY: I have heard feedback from clients regarding certain fundraising management software solutions that work well and some that do not, so I thought we could discuss your thoughts on this important topic. First, tell me about OneOC and your role there?
LAUREN: OneOC is a 60-year-old nonprofit that started its life as the Volunteer Center of Orange County. Over time, it evolved into a management service organization that provides information, skills, and resources to Orange County nonprofits through our Organizational Development, Volunteer Infrastructure, Back-office Business Support and Community Engagement services. My role as the Foundation and Donor Relations Manager is versatile, and includes working with our foundations and other supporters to identify new funding opportunities and partnerships.
AMY: For our readers, can you define what donor management software is and how it can help nonprofits achieve their mission?
LAUREN: Good donor management software can take a nonprofit from infancy to maturity. It will help grow and manage relationships with funders and helps a nonprofit operate more efficiently.
AMY: What are some examples of efficiencies that nonprofits can expect after implementation?
LAUREN: Good donor management software can automate repetitive tasks and can provide cross-department transparency and responsibility. It simplifies the cultivation process by automating emails, reminders or any sort of touchpoints. It also provides customized reports that are specific to the fundraising world. Almost any software will have to be customized if it does not come pre-loaded.
AMY: Are you using donor management software at OneOC?
LAUREN: We have a highly customized version of SalesForce.
AMY: That is one of many good options in the market. How did OneOC go about choosing the right product?
LAUREN: OneOC started by looking at all their platforms and software, and it turned out we were using eight different platforms! We realized we needed to be on one system that allowed departments to talk to each other and share information. We had a large IT task force that produced a 40- page analysis.
AMY: Why did you choose SalesForce specifically?
LAUREN: We chose it because it is customizable, and we had complex needs. That might not be true of other organizations, so it is important to first start with a solid plan. For example, I like DonorPerfect for smaller organizations. It is an online product. Also, SalesForce offers discounts to smaller nonprofits.
AMY: That is what worked for OneOC, but nonprofits have varying needs. How would another nonprofit go about choosing the right software?
LAUREN: Do your due diligence. You need to analyze where you are today and where you are going. Start by analyzing needs like staffing, growth and innovation. You also might want to bring in outside eyes, which could be a consultant or volunteer. Develop a plan and include what functionalities you need and what you do not need. We participated in a number of software demos.
AMY: How does customer service play into the decision making process?
LAUREN: Ask about the customer service support options — some have unlimited availability, some have limits like one call a month and others might make you pay on a per-use basis. This point is often overlooked, but it is really important.
AMY: It sounds like they should also include the ability to adapt to changing needs over time. Besides that, what are the things nonprofits should keep in mind when deciding whether or not to implement donor management software?
LAUREN: Budget is what it comes down to for most, but that should not be the first thing on your list. I would say most important is whether it can integrate with your other systems that you use all the time. Is there an app on your phone? That would make it much more convenient.
AMY: Also, can it make the organization more effective and efficient? Can it share information between departments?
LAUREN: Yes, definitely. Every organization needs to weigh what that means to them.
AMY: So what do most nonprofits forget when choosing donor management software?
LAUREN: It takes time to implement, even before you go live. You need to clean your data up, for example. If it is not clean, you may need to spend months backtracking information. It also takes maintenance, and you need to budget for that. We have a full-time person at OneOC, but smaller organizations may have someone part-time or they might have an outside consultant.
AMY: What positive outcomes have you seen resulting from OneOC and other nonprofits implementing donor management software?
LAUREN: Our staff is more focused and better utilizes their time. Also, it has created more organizational continuity and accountability, with everyone being able to see the same information in one place. Everyone can help each other stay on track.
AMY: Thanks, Lauren. I learned a lot, and I hope our readers did too!
Amy Eybsen, CPA, has more than 10 years of public accounting experience and is a senior manager within GHJ’s Audit and Assurance Practice. Amy provides accounting, auditing and transaction services to a wide variety of companies and organizations that span multiple industries within the greater Los…Learn More
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