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6 Software Features That Could Benefit Your Nonprofit

April 26, 2018
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Nonprofit organizations face unique technology challenges. With the average nonprofit operating on an extremely tight budget, it’s essential that any software solution address multiple needs whenever possible.

In a time when the tech world seems to be dominated by a handful of giants, it can be too easy to forget that plenty of smaller competitors offer higher quality, niche service.

This is especially true for nonprofit organizations. While attempting to maintain a steady pace with tech trends of the moment, nonprofits must also find software solutions designed with their specific needs in mind.

For instance, a huge payment processing system doesn’t necessarily address the needs of an organization that processes donations instead of payments. Alternative services are often out there. There’s no need for your organization to be dissatisfied with one-size-fits-all tech solutions.

Here are the 6 main software features that nonprofit organizations are likely to look for in any software solution:

  1. Adaptive donation processing
  2. Full accounting integrations
  3. Innovative security features
  4. Prospect research data
  5. Digital marketing boosts
  6. Automatic data reporting.

Great nonprofit software solutions will address more than one of these needs, but understanding these features in order to compare products can be difficult or intimidating. If you’re new to the world of nonprofit software, read through all the tips and resources in this article.

This will help you differentiate software solutions and find the best choices for your exact needs.

1. Adaptive donation processing

The ability to accept and process donations online is extremely important for nonprofits of all sizes today. It’s crucial, too, that nonprofits understand the differences between donation platforms and payment processing.

PayPal is a major provider of digital payment processing, but it’s not always the best choice for nonprofit organizations. So, explore some alternatives. A lack of customization options and restrictive policies on a dominant service may force nonprofits to adapt to it.

Online donation platforms are instead adapted to address the unique needs of nonprofits!

An average donation platform will host your external donation page. There are some essential features to look for in a donation platform, but truly great donation processing software and services will offer some additional digital donation outlets, too. These might include:

  • Fully customizable donation forms to embed internally
  • Dedicated and secure external donation pages
  • Mobile giving or text-to-give capabilities
  • Special buttons and donation forms for email campaigns.

There are some huge benefits to choosing online donation platforms that allow you to focus your efforts in this way. Plus, a streamlined platform designed specifically for nonprofits will let you better collect and use your crucial donor data.

While a one-size-fits-all payment processing service gives you few options to customize your online donation experience, the level of control provided by a donation platform can go a long way to help you identify and completely avoid donor abandonment issues.

2. Full accounting integrations

Optimizing and automating your accounting tools is a great step to streamlining your organization’s entire internal operations! Many nonprofits aren’t super technologically–oriented, so it can be tricky to identify exactly what needs they want new accounting software to address.

For the highest functionality and the most useful solutions, always look for digital accounting tools that integrate with your CRM or other management software.

As an accounts payable automation solution, for instance, AvidXchange integrates with leading management platforms Blackbaud and Abila. Advanced automation tools and accounting software can provide major boosts to nonprofit organizations looking to cut costs and increase internal efficiency.

When your accounting tools fully integrate with your CRM software or database, your organization can start to see a number of immediate benefits, including:

  • Automated payments and processing
  • Reduced manual labor and paper waste
  • Streamlined internal workflows
  • Automated data reporting functions
  • Financial report generation.

Even without an advanced accounting solution, smaller nonprofits can ease their accounting processes, too. By simply choosing management and database tools that let them establish clear protocols for automated data entry, organizations of any size can make smart data reporting a top priority.

3. Innovative security features

Online security, especially when processing sensitive donation information, is highly important for nonprofit organizations.

Digital security should be an ongoing concern for your operations, not only because it’s a responsible best practice but also because it’s a major element of your organization’s public image! Reassuring donors that you prioritize safe stewardship is an infinitely better choice than risking a security and reputation disaster.

Try to stay up to date on current events and recent developments in the world of data security. Passwordless authentication has become a major new trend, for instance. Most importantly, research the innovative security and login software and tools that your nonprofit can start using as soon as possible.

A great example of a simple way to bolster the security of your site’s login features is two-factor authentication. In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

  1. Donors enter their username and password on your site.
  2. This triggers a text message or email to the contact information they’ve provided.
  3. Donors receive a one-time security code through the text message or email.
  4. Your website redirects donors to a code entry page.
  5. Donors enter their security code to finish logging in.

The entire process takes only slightly longer than a traditional username/password login. 

4. Prospect research data

Prospect research software and other digital resources can be invaluable assets for larger nonprofit organizations that already use a more comprehensive CRM or management system.

Prospect research involves using data to identify potential donors or groups that might be likely to make major gifts to nonprofits whose work aligns with their own priorities. Then, organizations can use this data to craft effective solicitation strategies. Prospect research and development is crucial for the financial well-being of organizations with large budgets to maintain.

Access to a prospect research database through special digital tools or software can allow your organization to creatively identify prospects for your major campaigns by using data points like:

  • Demographic and professional info
  • Full philanthropic histories
  • Property records
  • Political contributions records.

Using data to form a fuller picture of your prospects as unique individuals is the key to securing major gifts, and that’s why comprehensive prospect research tools and software are great choices for nonprofits.

Prospect generators are digital tools that can provide huge boosts to fundraising. They drastically simplify the donor prospecting process by cataloging the major donor lists of other organizations. This lets you identify donors who have already committed to supporting work that might be very similar to your own.

Check out these prospect generator tips from DonorSearch for more ideas about how these tools work and can benefit your organization’s prospecting efforts!

5. Digital marketing boosts

Digital marketing is essential for nonprofit organizations of all sizes to reach new audiences and grow their bases of support. In an age when the physical geography of your community no longer dictates the limits of your actual community, it’s important to make strong efforts to expand it!

Whenever your organization considers purchasing any kind of new software, think about how it will affect your marketing efforts. Most types of nonprofit software include features that will either directly or indirectly provide a boost to your marketing, mainly through data or automation.

Here are some key types of nonprofit software that can become extremely useful to your organization’s marketing strategies:

  • Message automation. Automating an email campaign to strategic segments of your donor list can be an effective marketing strategy.
  • Corporate philanthropy search tools. Providing tools for donors to search their eligibility for matching gifts is a great point to push in your marketing.
  • Event planning and registration software. Use software like museum event planning tools to strategically plan and promote your fundraising events.

All kinds of nonprofit software, including donation platforms and online fundraising campaign pages, offer social media sharing tools that can become very useful for your marketing strategies. Encouraging your supporters to stay in touch and spread the word is a hallmark of strong digital marketing.

Most importantly, think about how any new software’s features can help you make smarter decisions. Making more informed decisions, inferences, and judgments is essential to streamlining your entire marketing process and reaching new donors!

6. Automatic data reporting

Smart data policies can hold all of your digital operations together and strengthen every decision your organization makes. If your mid- to large-size nonprofit uses comprehensive data management tools, make sure your software actively benefits your data reporting rather than merely complicates it.

On the other side of the spectrum, some small nonprofits need data reporting upgrades. Spreadsheets are always helpful, but it takes very little time to reach the stage at which it’s no longer possible (or responsible) to manage your organization from one.

Every nonprofit should consider using some automated data reporting tools, especially if yours is already using a major CRM. Strong tools designed both internally and as integrations for CRMs can offer full data reporting capabilities. This data can then inform every part of how your organization functions:

  • Accounting and logistics
  • Marketing and outreach
  • Campaign strategy
  • Donor stewardship
  • Event planning
  • Prospect research

When data reporting is a primary feature you need in a new software solution, focus your search by looking for integration capabilities.

Integration is essential to automating data reporting, maximizing functionality when fully integrated to your CRM. Automatically importing and cataloging new donor information from your online donation platform in real time is an excellent way to stay on top of your donor data, for instance.

No matter what kind of software your organization needs, it’s important to understand all the features and additional possible effects of whatever solutions you find.

Nonprofit software, designed especially to address the unique needs of organizations, typically offer one or more features that can have considerable impacts on the rest of your digital operations, too. Make sure every choice you make benefits your entire digital infrastructure!

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