As fundraising efforts continue to move online in 2021, organizations need better tools to help move the mission forward. In this post, we cover the essential features of effective fundraising software.
With in-person events in limbo, virtual and online fundraising strategies continue to gain traction within organizations. For most companies – be they nonprofit, healthcare or higher-ed organizations – this starts with pushing cutting-edge technology needs to the front of the line. Chief among them? High-performing online fundraising software – with loads of features and tools for fundraisers, donors and participants alike.
But what does this actually look like?
What is Online Fundraising Software?
Online fundraising software helps you build an engaged and connected fundraising community and donors from one single source of truth.
But not all online fundraising software is created equal. Some online fundraising platforms are very siloed and can only perform specific fundraising functions (i.e. general donation forms, auctions, peer-to-peer). Other platforms can provide solutions for a variety of fundraising functions but offer those softwares as individual products. Or, they package them all together in an all-access platform.
Depending on your organization’s needs, you will want to identify what fundraising solutions you are looking for and what kind of platform structure you want to buy into.
Great software is designed to help you grow fundraising revenue by opening up new opportunities and revenue streams with the technology it offers. So, you can focus on putting the best foot forward for your mission and engage your community at a deeper level — and not get bogged down by tedious or costly, time-consuming work.
Bottom line: For enterprise organizations engaging in virtual fundraising activities, fundraising software is a must.
9 Essential Features of Online Fundraising Software
To be effective, online fundraising software needs to do two things:
- Allow organizations to scale their online fundraising campaigns by helping nonprofit staff to be efficient and strategic
- Create a compelling user-experience that participants and donors want to engage with
Let’s look at which features help you do this.
1. Virtual Fundraising Tools
While large group activities like runs, walks and rides and other audience events like galas may be off the table right now, fundraising is still thriving online. This is because many organizations are turning to virtual events and live streaming.
So, look for fundraising software that includes enterprise virtual fundraising capabilities. This is #1 on our list because, even though we can’t meet in person, the world still needs the life-saving work of charities—and virtual fundraising and live streaming have proven to be extremely effective strategies.
2. Activity Tracking
Activity tracking keeps participants (and donors) engaged as they move and raise funds for your cause. This feature is a must for organizations looking to get more out of their virtual walks, runs or rides!
With activity tracking, donors can pledge donations based on how much the fundraiser can accomplish. Configurable achievement badges, milestones, incentives and other gamification elements help keep your supporters chasing their goals. And real-time activity and donation feeds keep fundraisers motivated and audiences invested.
3. Efficient Campaign Creation
The idea behind fundraising software is to help you focus on what matters. To accomplish this, software needs to help your team build efficient, secure and transparent campaigns.
Simple, customizable event and campaign templates make it easy for virtually anyone to build and deploy a campaign in minutes.
Good fundraising software solutions will offer mobile-first, conversion-focused designs that are easy to adapt and build upon.
4. Donation Capabilities
Your fundraising software should also include user-friendly, seamless donation capabilities for everyone.
On the organizer side, this means making it easy to launch beautiful, branded donation campaigns. No added costs. No added people. No added time. And you should be able to receive your donations the same day they occur, instead of having to wait for funds to be lumped together and mailed in a single check.
On the donor side, donors should be able to search for an event, fundraiser or team, make a donation, and download their receipt—all from their phone or tablet. Donors should also be able to set up one-time or recurring donations.
5. Automatic Communications
Continuous communication is key to motivating and engaging with your fundraisers and donors. Your fundraising software should help you communicate automatically with them through email, text and social media. To do this, you should be able to target specific audiences, so you’re always talking to the right people at the right time.
6. Analytics & Reporting
To ensure you’re always moving towards your goals, it’s important to keep a pulse on critical metrics.
Look for software that provides valuable event data in real-time and compares progress with historical event data. You should be able to keep track of fundraisers, collect donor data and view the impact of fundraising all in one place. Plus, it should be easy to generate reports, whether they’re native or custom.
Fundraising software with open API architecture allows you to integrate the tools you already depend on – so you can keep doing what you need but from one central system.
Common integrations to look for include:
- Popular payment methods & gateways
- Matching gift systems
- Fulfillment houses
- Analytics & marketing tools
- Popular social media channels and apps
The key here is finding a provider with a transparent technology roadmap — that actually acts on that roadmap often.
Now that we’re mostly virtual, security is extremely important. Look for a fundraising software provider that goes above and beyond the standards to protect your organization, constituents and data.
Signs of solid security measures include:
- Secure, cloud-based architecture (think AWS Virtual Private Cloud)
- Unlimited scale and redundancy measures
- Security-trained, in-house development team
- PCI DSS compliance
Lastly, enterprise fundraising software is only as good as the team that’s supporting it. The goal is to leverage a platform that makes your efforts easier. It shouldn’t be getting in your way.
A good support team will be responsive, answer your questions with actionable steps, and help you troubleshoot issues quickly so you are effective in executing against your goals. An even better support team will help you strategize and leverage your fundraising platform to its full potential.
As good as online fundraising software is now, it will only get better from here – especially as demands for feature-rich solutions continues to grow. If you’re in the market, the next step is identifying the software elements you need and using that list as a baseline to narrow your search.