Emerging Trends in Donor Management

donor-managementNonprofit organizations have seemed to jump on the mobile bandwagon. Software vendors, in response, are offering donor management systems that support mobile devices and cloud computing. This not only adds value and capability to the software, but it also enhances functionality that is critical to nonprofits without raising the price of the system. For nonprofit organizations looking to buy or replace donor management systems, this is wonderful news. Now, more than ever, there is no excuse for not investing in a donor management system. Many packages are tailored to meet a nonprofit’s needs for right out of the box and cost less than more traditional systems that need to be customized after purchase.

The following trends are present in the donor management world. Consider the following as you choose your donor management system:

1. Mobile Computing. As mobile devices are becoming the norm, vendors are focusing on optimizing their donor management systems to support new tablet and mobile technologies. A few vendors also offer specialized applications, or “apps,” designed to help fundraisers or directors gather information about prospects and take notes while they are out of the office.

2. Hosted/Remote Access. Cloud computing, or Software as a Service (SaaS), is an emerging trend for vendors. Because nonprofits are increasingly turning to the Internet for their needs, donor management systems need web accessibility. This means that users can work from virtually any location. Since the software is hosted rather than installed, vendors take care of the setup and maintenance, reducing the strain on an organization’s IT staff. Most of the leading systems now offer hosted solutions, making it easier for nonprofits to adapt to the change.

3. Email. The adaptation of email functionality in a donor management system is still quite new, but for nonprofits today, it is a requirement. Systems that offer more advanced email capabilities offer organizations the chance to personalize emails to donors and prospects and track the open and click rate each email campaign. This gives nonprofits greater insight into their donations and direction in formulating future campaigns. While vendors have built their own functionality into the system, many integrate with existing services like Constant Contact and VerticalResponse.

5. Access to External Data. Vendors are enabling donor management systems with the ability to easily integrate additional data about donors. Many vendors are also exploring the possibility of integrating their systems with social media. Though many software vendors have not gotten very far down this path yet, there’s a clear shift in this direction.

6. User Experience. A positive user experience speaks volumes about a software vendor and a donor management system. In addition to providing organizations with the tools they need, donor management systems are now giving users the chance to customize user interfaces.  Instead of sticking to the standard interface, users are now able to rearrange screen elements to their liking, rename data fields or hide fields they do not use, create dashboards, and customize software workflows. Many systems even allow users to customize their own settings, creating a better user experience.

7. Reporting. Finally, donor management systems that offer strong reporting capabilities are on the rise.  Most systems now include charts and graphs in reports, and many systems are now equipped to add the reports to dashboards to provide organizations with critical information updates.

Whether an organization is looking at a donor management system for the first time or an upgrade, the current trends in donor management systems offer many possibilities for nonprofits.