I work for a charity whose revenue comes entirely from fees. We must raise funds to upgrade several buildings over the next five years or so – about £5 million. I am a lone fundraiser.
Currently, we use Microsoft Access to record the contact details of our supporters – around 800 in total. We are tracking income received in a spreadsheet, with a separate spreadsheet that records research on trusts and foundations and their history of donations.
While I recognise the drawbacks of our systems, I’m not convinced we should be shelling out funds and time on buying fundraising database software at the moment. Our chairman is keen that I research the options with a view to upgrading.
Do you think this is the way to go, and if so, what are the best options? the names I know are Donorflex and the Raiser’s Edge.
I’d answer with an unequivocal YES!!! The limitations of MS Access and the problems with losing knowledge of how the system develops are mitigated by the investment in fit-for-purpose software to meet your fundraising needs. Solutions are cheaper, more user-friendly and better at analysis than ever before. However, you get what you pay for – and dependent upon your requirements any one of Donorflex, Progress, Raiser’s Edge, ThankQ etc may meet your needs – dependent upon what they are!
Also – beware those who tell you that a commercial CRM solution such as Microsoft CRM are a good fit – I could point you to cases I have seen where that is definitely not the case!
Let me know if you want any more help
Following on from Keith’s post… there is wealth of functionality that specifically designed software can provide. For example, they simplify the process of claiming gift aid. You mention that your revenue comes entirely from fees: some packages have a subscription module that could help to manage this. In a snapshot you are able to see what the upcoming revenue for next month is going to be. There are also other vast improvements in reporting to be gained from making the switch.
Costs do vary but you will find that some of them are a lot less than you might think.
If you would like to find out about Abattia’s WA-Fundraising ( http://www.wa-fundraising.com ) offering then please give me a call: 0208 600 2527
I’d sound a note of caution here. I work for a charity that uses Raiser’s Edge, and I think it’s a fantastic package. But I’m also aware that it’s very far from cheap. With the sort of numbers that you’re talking about – a few hundred supporters – it’s entirely possible that the way you are doing things at the moment is entirely appropriate.
It depends on two things. The first of these is the complexity of your fundraising. Do you have people giving by direct debit or standing order? Those are complex, and managing them (legally and financially) has to be done right. Are you claiming gift aid (if not, why not)? Again, it has to be done right. Are you running events, dealing with sponsorship, making Cause Related Marketing agreements with companies? Once you start to do more than a few of these things, you probably need a “proper” fundraising database.
The other issue is your level of Access knowledge. If, when you say you are using Access, you mean that you have a single Access table with names and addresses – a glorified spreadsheet – then no, that’s nowhere near good enough even for simple fundraising, and the benefits of a off-the-shelf package will be enormous. But if you have a properly relational database, with (for example) the ability to show which mailings each person wants to receive and what they’ve had in the past, with properly controlled fields for opt-outs; if you are able to query on your data effectively (could you easily find all your donors who have given over £100 and live in London?); and, crucially, if you are able (quickly!) to make changes to the database structure in the future as your fundraising needs change (and document it so that whoever takes over when you leave knows what’s going on); if all of that is the case then I would say it’ll be a waste of time and money for you to even consider other software.
You don’t want to reinvent the wheel – but you also don’t want to buy a Ferrari when all you need is a bicycle.
Thanks all of you for your messages.
It sounds like there’s a good case for brushing up my Access knowledge. Essentially, we use this as an address list with a classifier where possible.
When I joined the organisation nine months ago, there was no definitive database – rather, a number of mailings saved so lots of duplication. There was no electronic history of donations.
I spent a long time eliminating duplication, classifying people where possible, and sifting through thank you letters to build up donor histories.
This situation is due to my post being the first in-house, permanent fundraiser post, as we do not need to fundraise for our revenue. We do not carry out CRM with companies and currently have no fundraising volunteers – an area I’d like to build up. We have one or two standing orders – we do no direct marketing. Gift Aid is handled by our finance dpt – this is historical and there are three of them to one fundraiser.
It is likely that our greatest success for the appeal will come from trusts and foundations, due to the type of charity we are, and I don’t think this will change. Although we will grow our database of individuals, it will never be large.
As we are running an appeal to a tight timeframe, I am conscious of the need to use my time wisely, and am not convinced introducing new software right now would allow me to do this.
I suspect the Access database mentioned in the original post was one created by a company called AKC Consulancies Ltd. They have since closed down and have left many charities with an unsupported database. My company is in the process of creating a much enhanced replacement for this system, and tailoring it to exactly suit our clients needs. Once this project is complete, we will launch it as a product for other charities to use. If you are interested, visit http://www.evolvit.co.uk/akc-fundraiser-database-replacement
The simple answer to your question is yes!
I like you have used an access database combined with a mixture of spreadsheets. We went through the expense and pain of upgrading the database, but it never was really satisfactory. I then discovered DonorPerfect fundraising software. The saving in time, increased efficiency in having an integrated database was phenomenal. Just having all the information about your supporters easily accessible alone is worth the investment.
The benefit of DonorPerfect is that you can track numerous capital projects at the same time, so if for example you have a supporter who makes a donation that covers more than one project you are able to split the gift easily between different projects.
With DonorPerfect all modules are included so you receive everything you would expect from a fundraising software database. Detailed history of supporters, sending out mailings, keeping track of fees, current position of your capital campaigns is all a breeze.
I was so impressed with DonorPerfect who have been developing the software over the last 15 years and are second only to Raiser’s edge in the US that I would urge you not to waste time and expense in developing what always will be an inferior system. In fact I was so impressed with DonorPerfect that we at DMACs have become an authorised UK distributor for DonorPerfect.
I can understand your reluctance with regard to making a large investment in fundraising software especially in these hard economic times. But there is an alternative DonorPerfect Online.
DonorPerfect Online eliminates the large upfront cost of hardware and software, allowing you to pay just a low monthly subscription fee. This fee is based on the size of your database and we now offer even lower cost subscriptions for organizations with fewer than 1,000 records.
DPO GO (DonorPerfect Online for growing organisations) is a special offer designed for nonprofits that are just starting out or have less than 1,000 records. Both our installed versions of DonorPerfect and DonorPerfect Online are used by nonprofits worldwide that manage donor CRM databases with thousands or even millions of records.
I would be more than happy to arrange a demonstration for you to “test drive” DonorPerfect so that you can judge for yourself the benefit of fundraising software over your current system, just email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Having been in your situation I am sure once you see the benefit you’ll wonder why you ever managed without it!
In response to Mat Winchester. My name is Alan Owen and was the founder of AKC in 1995. I left in 2001 and created JA Computer Solutions. Since AKC went into liquidation, we have taken on the support of the AKC databases and have added 26 clients to our client list in the last 4 months.
We are providing a no pressure service to provide help and support for the AKC databases as most of the original code still exisits in the databases that was written by myself. If there are any AKC clients who have not signed up with ourselves, visit http://www.jacsolutions.co.uk or call 0800 731 8764.
The AKC database has security built in which will lock out the client on annual renewal date. This security needs to be removed, a service we are offering for free to enable Charities to carry on using the database that they purchased.
MD JA Computer Solutions Ltd
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