May 2014 Meeting: Maximize your Online Donation System
Russell Greenwald, Vice President and Director of Insource’s Technology Consulting Practice, shared his experiences with online donation systems with those in attendance. Through demonstrations and process review, he showed the group how to attract more donors, save staff time, and gather better metrics. Russell serves as CIO for many of Insource’s Technology clients and is backed by a talented team of staff and partners and has been with Insource for the past 13 years.
Russell started off by stating that he is not an on-line donation expert—rather, he is very good at technology. Russell stated that he is familiar with PayPal, Network for Good, Blackbaud, Bidding for Good, Click and Pledge, and various on-line ticket programs. The major goals of an on-line donation programs are as follows: 1) Attract more donors; 2) It should be easy to use; 3) It should save staff time; and finally, 4) It should show where the donation came from and where it is being applied. When evaluating whether or not you need an on-line donation program, you first need to answer the “So What Question” – why do you want to solicit donations on line? Do you currently prioritize individual donors? What amount of donations would make it worthwhile to install an on-line system? Do you have a staff person who will “own” the system, who will manage the system from start to finish? How are you managing your donor database now? You need to evaluate where your agency is now in terms of accepting donations and where you want to go. The organization’s needs should drive the decision to purchase an on-line donation system. The driver should not be the technology.
An important part of making a decision about an on-line system is to decide what features you need. These can be separated into 3 categories: 1) Which features are critical to your mission; 2) which features are important; and 3) which features would be nice to have. Once you have come up with a prioritized list of features for the system, then contact some vendors to demonstrate their product. After that exercise, you can further refine the features that you require, and only after that, should you pick a vendor. Some factors in picking the right vendor are as follows: what are the tech support hours, can you talk to an actual human being, how are their references (check with your peers, not just the references provided by the vendor), what is the level of security, and finally, you need to understand all of the costs of purchasing and maintaining the system. Some vendors are: Soap Box Engage, Click and Pledge, Just Give, Greater Giving, Everbrite, Network for Good, PayPal, Activa, and Your Membership.
To summarize, the most important step for evaluating and implementing an on-line donation system is to thoroughly evaluate your organization’s needs in this area, and then evaluate some vendors. Invite them in and go through some trials and demonstrations, and then check references. The process that you go through is actually more important than the “tools” or technology. During the demo phase, go through the entire process with a credit card – see how the system works before you commit to it. Appoint one staff person to be the “owner” of the system. Prioritize the features that are critical and the ones that are important to you, and then compare your requirements to what the vendor can provide. Then pick a vendor and implement the new system in phases. You need a good website first. Then you need to be able to manage your donor database and relationships. The more upfront evaluation and work that you do, the better the outcome will be. Also, you can always switch to a different vendor later on.