Donor Software: Choosing the Right Tools for Your Cause

Alex Jeter
October 30, 2018

Donor software can elevate your nonprofit if you have the right tools.

As we've expanded our use of digital tools to adhere to the needs of supporters and consumers, donor software has become an integral tool to nonprofits all over the world. 

Donor software helps nonprofits of all shapes, sizes, and missions to collect, store, and use the necessary information for effective outreach and communication with supporters. Therefore, to take control of your fundraising efforts, it's essential that your nonprofit invests in software that provides the best tools for their needs. 

The first thing you should consider is your nonprofit's goal for investing in donor software, then, you can jump into the important features that your nonprofit needs to accomplish that goal. 

This guide is designed to walk you through all of the information you should know before you buy. We'll start from the beginning with why you need donor software, then jump into the features, and even share more about our top software choice! You can read through the whole guide or use the navigation below to answer your specific questions:

  1. What is donor software?
  2. What are the top features?
  3. How does Salsa stand out?

Let's dive in to learn more about donor software and what it can do for your nonprofit!

What is donor software?

1. What is donor software?

Donor software is a tool used to organize and manage compiled information about all of your organization's donors. 

Donor software, also called donor management or CRM software, allows nonprofits to save vital information about donors for more effective outreach appeals and accurate reporting. 

You may ask yourself: Why can't this be done through a simple spreadsheet? While general information like a name and contact information could be managed in a spreadsheet, you'd be missing out on a whole slew of other important information. 

Donor software is not only designed to store simple information like the name and donation amount from your donors. It also saves detailed demographic information, social media handles, interests, relationships, and other information that requires a more heavy duty solution. 

Donor software is a tool used to organize and manage compiled information about all of your organization's donors.

Why is this additional information important? Nonprofits spend a lot of time and energy on cold outreach to recruit new donors, but not quite enough focusing on the retention of their past donors. Donor retention can be improved with:

  • Targeted communications for the most accurate appeals. 
  • Tracking engagement to reach out to those who seem to be disengaging. 
  • Kick starting prospect research to make more informed donation asks. 

Donor software gives your organization the tools it needs to effectively create lasting relationships with donors for continued support into the future. 

What are the top donor software features to look for?

2.What are the top donor software features to look for?

While every nonprofit has unique needs, there are some general best features that every organization needs in order to succeed. These might be considered the "core" features of your donor software.

Don't let software providers distract you with all the bells and whistles of sub-par software. Look for a solution with these core features:

Once you know that the core features are covered, then you can start examining the additional features that will adhere to the unique needs of your organization. But first, let's learn more about these core attributes.

Your donor software should have robust donor profiles.

Donor Profiles

Donor profiles are the bread and butter of your donor software. This is where you can find the key information about individual and groups of donors to make more effective outreach decisions.

The best donor software will store information about your donors such as their:

  • Demographic information. This includes basic data such as the donor's name, address, email, social media handles, and other contact or biographical information. One important use of this information is addressing various communications, so be sure you include the donors' preferred names, their titles, and their preferred communication platforms. 
  • Relationships. Donor software should make it easy to track the relationships that your donors have with one another. These may be professional or personal relationships. You can leverage these relationships to better connect with local businesses through your donors' connections or to send household invitations for engagement opportunities. 
  • Historic interactions. There are plenty of engagement opportunities that donors can have with your organization past simply donating. Donor software should track donations as well as these additional interactions. For instance, keep records in your software about the past petitions your donors have signed and the events they've attended or registered for.

Here's an example of Salsa's donor software donor profile.

With all of this information about each donor compiled into individual donor profiles, you'll have a complete 360 degree view of each individual donor.

However, with this great power of knowledge comes great responsibility. Make sure the donor software you choose offers the necessary security features to keep all of this information safe. One feature to look for is role-based restrictions so that you can pick and choose who has access to this vital information. 

Your donor software should offer donation tracking.

Donation Tracking

Donation tracking helps your nonprofit keep accurate records about all of the gifts that are generously given to your organization. Donor software is designed to facilitate the tracking and reporting on these donations.

First, donor software should allow you to record donations from any platform. 

Whether a donor donates in person or online, you should have no difficulty maintaining up-to-date records within your database. Generally, this includes the capability to manually input data and streamline data from your fundraising software into your donor software.

Also, look for a software solution that offers deduplication features to help your nonprofit ensure you don't accidentally record the same gift or same donor profile more than once. 

Next, donor software should help your nonprofit track each step of the major gift process. 

Effective donor software will help you through each and every stage of the major gift process with phase and status filters. These filters will help you track where in the identification, cultivation, and giving process each of your major gift prospects are. 

Here's an example of donation tracking in Salsa's donor software.

Finally, donor software should also help your nonprofit keep accurate records to stay accountable to donors.

Staying accountable to donors means that you need to provide them all of the information they need in response to their donations. However, it also means that you need accurate records yourself. Your software should offer donation tracking features such as:

  • Donor acknowledgement letter templates so that you can auto-populate a donor's gift information into an official letter with important information for tax deductions. 
  • A finance export tool that makes it easy to export your data into your accounting software. This streamlines your data in order to make comprehensive reports (such as your annual report). 

Donation tracking helps your nonprofit see donation details as well as an accurate report of your gifts as a whole. Your donor software dashboard should take the details of each donation to create a high-level view of your fundraising progress for your reference. 

Your donor software should have effective member management tools.

Member Management

Managing your donors all starts with the same general concept: effective communication. 

Member management tools should facilitate your communication strategy and help tailor the content to best appeal to your targeted audience. Start your member management process with segmenting your donors. 

Create donor segments in your donor software for effective outreach. You may choose to segment your donors by characteristics such as preferred giving method, demographic markers, networking flags, interests, or other donor markers. Look for donor software that also allows you to create custom fields to classify donors and create specific lists. 

When you send messages to these segments, also consider the content you're communicating to them. For instance, you might send an emails for:

  • Regular communication. Stay at the forefront of your donor's minds with regular email newsletters. Make sure these are sent to your segment of email subscribers. 
  • Dues reminders. If your organization has a membership program, set up automatic reminders for members to pay dues or renew their membership. 
  • Event messaging. Target specific groups of supporters with common interests for events your organization hosts that they'd enjoy.

Here's an example of the member management tool in Salsa's donor software.

No matter what type of message you send, be sure to personalize the communication interaction. Auto-populate the name of the supporter in the header to individualize the message without spending too much time on it.

Your donor software should offer integrations.

Software Integrations

While donor software has so many important features, there are some specialized solutions that can greatly expand the software tool kit it offers when you integrate. Look for software that offers integrations with specialized and helpful software that can further meet the needs of your nonprofit.

For instance, donor software can help your nonprofit go further when it forms a complete integrated suite with fundraising, matching gift database, and prospect research software. 

Here is how integrations should work with your donor software.

Because your donor software records the donations (among other information), software that helps with fundraising is the natural next step to elevate your organization. 

For example, let's consider a nonprofit whose mission is to find homes for lost dogs (called the Puppy Rescue Association). They've graduated from a spreadsheet to using donor software regularly and have a strong support base. Then they invest in each of the following integrated solutions:

  • Fundraising software: With an integrated fundraising solution the Puppy Rescue Association can raise money from its online donation page. The information that donors provide on this page is streamlined into the organization's donor database. This eliminates the time the organization needs to spend transferring information. 
  • Matching gift database software: Integrated matching gift database software helps the Puppy Rescue Association make the most out of every donation. A search tool for this database can be featured on every donation page so that supporters can check their eligibility for a matched gift from their employer. This way, the Puppy Rescue Association can double some of their donations and earn more. Click here to learn why identifying matching gift opportunities is so important
  • Prospect research software: A prospect research tool integration gives your organization a head start on your prospect development for campaigns or major gift opportunities. Proprietary algorithms help nonprofits find the best philanthropic prospects inside the donor software. This helps the Puppy Rescue Association save time that would've otherwise been spent researching individual donors with outside sources. 

When you invest in tools that can integrate into your existing donor database software, you save yourself hours of entering and re-entering your donors’ personal information. 

For instance, if you can quickly implement a matching gifts search tool like Double the Donation’s, you’ll be able to identify major gift opportunities you may have been overlooking. It can automatically send reminder emails to match-eligible donors and encourage your donors to complete the process by providing them with step-by-step instructions, making your job easier and driving up your revenue.

Integrations expand the offerings of your donor software. They're powerful tools that can save your organization time and money, so research and make sure your tools can integrate with one another before you buy.

Annual Development Plan Checklist

How does Salsa's donor software stand out?

3. How does Salsa's donor software stand out?

Salsa's donor software is a solution that makes it easy to store donor data as well as communicate with your supporters. Actually, Salsa offers all of the core features plus more! For instance, additional donor software features include:

  • Grant management
  • A fundraising performance dashboard
  • Direct mail fundraising
  • Customized reports
  • And more!

What really makes Salsa stand out, though, is the robust suite of fundraising and engagement tools available in Salsa Engage, which integrates with the donor software to create a network of software solutions built to elevate your nonprofit's fundraising strategy. 

Salsa users have seen improved fundraising efforts, more organized processes, and streamlined reports. 

ACHIEVA provides a great example of how donor profiles in donor software help drive donations.

Salsa's Donor Software in Action: ACHIEVA

ACHIEVA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure children with disabilities have the same chances in life that all children have. They provide services to support thousands of individuals with with disabilities every year. 

ACHIEVA found the robust donor profiles to be a big help in their fundraising efforts over the years. 

The VP of Advancement, Dave Tinker, talks about Salsa's management of donors saying:

It is great for me because I can see at a glance how engaged our supporter base is.

A Bridge for Kids provides a great example as to how donation tracking in donor software can elevate a nonprofit.

Salsa's Donor Software in Action: A Bridge for Kids

A Bridge for Kids is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise and distribute funds to underprivileged teens in need. They want to provide support to this impressionable demographic who has historically received less from their community.

By better tracking their donations, A Bridge for Kids was able to identify opportunities for improvement and increase their overall donation amounts. 

A Bridge for Kids raved about working with Salsa, saying that:

After linking their online donation page with Salsa CRM, A Bridge for Kids increased online donations by $40,000.

Bikes for the World used Salsa's donor software member management features to spread the word about their organization.

Salsa's Donor Software in Action: Bikes for the World

Bikes for the World is a nonprofit focused on collecting unwanted bicycles around the United States and delivering them to developing nations. Their mission is to make bikes and their related parts available and affordable for transportation to lower income people. 

Bikes for the World found that Salsa's member management features were just what they needed to get the word out about their mission. 

The director of Bikes for the World, Kieth Oberg, discussed the communication tools available through robust member management features saying: 

We have been able to build more targeted lists, build relationships and track our performance. We have seen significant growth and are staffing up to take better advantage of Salsa.

Aid for Africa provided a great example of how Salsa's donor software and integrated suite helped meet their needs.

Salsa's Donor Software in Action: Aid for Africa

Aid for Africa is a charity alliance of U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners working to help improve communities and families in Africa. They do everything from providing books for children to introducing new medical strategies to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

Aid for Africa found that Salsa's integrated software suite to be perfect for connecting all of their platforms and meeting their needs. 

The executive director of Aid for Africa, Barbara Rose, expressed her gratitude for Salsa to solve the challenges of separate platforms and unrealistic methods. Before Salsa, she says,

We had separate platforms for sending emails, managing supporter data and accepting donations. The systems didn't talk to each other, which was very frustrating and made things like sending segmented emails very unrealistic. 

Your nonprofit works hard to keep everything organized for the current and future success of your mission. Donor software can help you maintain this high standard of organization while encouraging future growth. 

There's no need to rush into a purchase though! Asking the right questions and conducting extensive research can help you to see what donor software is best for your organization to make sure your needs are fulfilled now and into the future.  

If you want to unlock more supporter management and fundraising tips, check out these additional resources:

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