The Part Software Should Play in Your Nonprofit Strategy

Category: Solutions

Person holding phone with cloud technology

Consider the last time you planned a trip. Knowing which hotels you were staying at and when you planned on completing certain activities likely helped you to do more on the trip, allowed for more relaxation time, and reduced stress. 

When you create a strategic plan to help your nonprofit grow and evolve over time, you should experience some of the same benefits: greater efficiency, more time for your team, and lower stress levels. 

An effective strategic plan outlines the fundraising campaigns, program initiatives, and other activities you plan to achieve during a set period of time. It also outlines who is responsible and what resources will be needed for each activity.

Resources in this case directly relate to the software that nonprofits can leverage as a part of their strategic plans. Software is what makes your outreach, communication, fundraising, and other parts of your strategy possible.

In this guide, we’ll walk through a number of software solutions nonprofits can use and the part that these solutions play in a strategic plan. We’ll cover the following software types: 

  • Donor management software
  • Fundraising software
  • Marketing software
  • Event software
  • Other software solutions

Bloomerang’s strategic planning guide explains that, “your strategic plan isn’t a linear process; it’s more similar to a flow chart because each element is connected to another and leads to a unique outcome.” This means your various initiatives are connected to your software solutions, which are connected to the people in charge of those initiatives, and so on. 

Following the pathways laid out by your strategic plan by leveraging the right software for the right activities will help you meet (and hopefully exceed) your nonprofit’s goals.

Donor Management Software

Your donor management software is at the heart of your organization’s strategy. You need your donors and volunteers to continue fuelling your organization so that you can accomplish the tasks that you’ve laid out. Your donor management system is the key to engaging these important supporters.

With your donor management software, you can gather the data you need to develop relationships with your supporters. Use the following features to help you achieve the donor-relationship aspects of your strategic plan:

  • Donor profiles. Good CRM software offers robust donor profiles where you can save information about each supporter. Track their engagement with your organization as well as key characteristics they hold. Leverage that data to personalize your outreach to supporters and build their trust and relationship with your nonprofit.
  • Segmentation. Use the data in your donor management software to create segments of supporters. Group them by similar characteristics or engagement histories. This way, you can reach out to groups of supporters with messages that will best appeal to the entire group, making communications more efficient. 
  • Fundraising goal tracking. In addition to storing donor information, your CRM stores fundraising data, making it the perfect place to track the results from your more personalized outreach efforts. For instance, track how your donor retention and overall fundraising performance increase after you start implementing personalization strategies.

When you have stronger relationships with your supporters, you’re more likely to retain them over longer periods of time. This decreases acquisition costs and increases fundraising ROI. Therefore, your fundraising campaigns (a key part of your strategic plan) will flourish.

Fundraising Software

Fundraising software is the tool your nonprofit uses to collect the money your supporters donate. This is the software that allows your organization to add donation pages to your website and to launch other campaigns. 

When your nonprofit determines the types of fundraisers that will be included in your strategic plan, you’ll need to determine which fundraising software is most helpful for those specific campaigns. For example, consider the following types of fundraising software:

  • Online Donation Page. This is the page featured directly on your nonprofit’s website, designed to help you collect funds online. It reaches both existing and prospective donors and is generally used to encourage recurring monthly donations. These funds are typically allocated as a part of your nonprofit’s annual fund.
  • Face-to-Face Fundraising Software. While the pandemic initially limited face-to-face fundraising, it is possible to do safely with the right technology. This software allows door-to-door canvassers to collect personal information from supporters and provide it to a call center, which then assigns someone to call back for additional information. Important information can be captured at a distance or even through a window to promote physical distancing.
  • Crowdfunding Software. Crowdfunding campaigns allow your nonprofit to collect small gifts from a wide audience. These gifts add up until you reach your ultimate goal. These campaigns are hosted through specific crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or Fundly, then shared across social media to gain additional traction. These campaigns are typically best suited to fund a specific project for your organization, like purchasing a car for a family in need. 
  • Peer-to-Peer Software. Peer-to-peer fundraising is similar to crowdfunding in that the campaigns leverage social media to reach new audiences and encourage giving. However, peer-to-peer allows advocates of your organization to reach out to their friends and family on behalf of your organization with their own fundraising pages. These campaigns are particularly effective in the lead-up to a fundraising event.

Each of these types of fundraising software solutions helps your nonprofit maximize your campaign ROI. For example, your peer-to-peer campaign will target a different type of supporter than your online donation page. While peer-to-peer fundraising reaches brand new audiences for small donations, your online donation page reaches both new and existing audiences, especially targeting recurring monthly giving. 

Consider the types of fundraising campaigns you’ll host as a part of your nonprofit’s strategy for growth. What type of software will be most impactful and effective for those campaigns? Then, check your existing solutions to see if you have access to that particular type of solution before making a new investment.

Marketing Software

Marketing software helps your nonprofit further your strategic plan by getting the word out about various projects and programs. When your brand is more visible, more individuals and organizations will start seeing you as a trustworthy partner to support. 

Leverage your marketing software to inform the community about upcoming events, campaigns, updated projects, or even to show appreciation for their past support. Seek out software that provides outreach options such as:

  • Newsletters. Newsletters update your existing supporters about the latest projects and programs at your organization. They can also be used to catch up new supporters about the latest goings on.
  • Email outreach. Email is the most direct way to reach supporters. It’s inexpensive and provides messages directly to the supporters’ inboxes. Pair it with other outreach tools for a multi-channel communication strategy.
  • Website updates. Your website is the first place new supporters will visit to learn more about your organization. Be sure it’s updated with the latest information and optimized for a great user experience.
  • Social posting. Create groups on social media to connect with your supporters. Post regularly with updates to keep them informed in a less formal capacity.
  • Direct mail. Direct mail isn’t dead! When paired with email, social, and other strategies, it becomes an incredibly impactful outreach platform. Print and send invitations, letters, and postcards to supporters who opt into your direct mailing list.

Your marketing software is essential to spread the word about your organization to new prospective supporters as well as to steward your existing ones. Integrate your marketing software with your donor database to access donor segments and keep up a steady stream of communication that’s designed to reach each type of supporter on a personal level. 

Analyze your nonprofit strategy and identify the opportunities to get the word out about your mission to attract new supporters and to steward existing ones. Then, determine a communication plan that allows you to leverage your marketing software to reach all audiences.

Event Software Solutions

next fundraising or stewardship event. This software makes it possible to learn more about who is attending the event, collect registration fees, and more. 

Depending on the type of event your organization hosts, you might need more or less functionality from your event software. Here are some of the core features most organizations look for:

  • Registration. Online registration prior to events provides information about how many attendees there will be as well as other information such as food allergies. Consider if your organization will charge for registration and if you’ll provide registration options at the door when you choose event software.
  • Fundraising. Even if you don’t charge for event registration, your organization may provide an opportunity to make donations during the registration process. Or, you may offer upsell opportunities like t-shirts prior to the event itself.
  • Integrations. Choosing an event software solution that integrates with your donor management system makes it easy to immediately add donation and event attendance information to donor profiles. This helps organizations keep up with supporter engagements even after the event ends.

Of course, different types of events require different features in event software. For instance, an online auction will need features to host and sell auction items. Meanwhile, virtual conferences require virtual booth features and opportunities for keynote speakers to livestream their talks. 

The emerging trend for nonprofit events is the hybrid nonprofit event, combining the opportunities of virtual events and in-person networking. You should make sure that whatever opportunities you provide in person should also be provided online to deliver a comparable experience no matter if someone joins your event in person or from the comfort of their home. 

Consider the events you have laid out in your nonprofit strategy. Then, make sure your event software will cater to all of them. You shouldn’t need more than one event solution, and investing in multiple can waste valuable resources. Carefully think through the features you’ll need for each event and ensure your solution will cover them all.

Other Software Solutions

We strive to continue to be a leader in North American fundraising. This means that we are committed to continuing to expand our suite of product offerings i

So far, we’ve covered the basic software solutions that nonprofits need for many elements of the strategic plan. However, those don’t cover all of the potential solutions out there that organizations can leverage for growth! 

Consider the other solutions that might help you cover other elements of your organization’s strategic plan. For instance:

  • Prospect research software. Prospect research software allows you to conduct research on the wealth and philanthropic indicators that show if a supporter is likely to provide a mid-tier or major gift. While you can take a DIY approach to this research process (researching factors like past donations, political giving, SEC holdings, and philanthropic engagement), prospect research software has already compiled this information in a database, speeding up the process.
  • Matching gift software. According to 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics page, over 18 million individuals work for companies with a matching gift program. However, many are unaware of their eligibility for these programs. Matching gifts are donations made from a company in support of their employees’ donations to eligible nonprofits. It’s essentially free money for organizations. A matching gift database informs supporters of their eligibility and provides the next steps to secure this gift after their donation to a nonprofit.
  • Grant management software. Grants provide another funding source for nonprofits. However, they often have deadlines, restrictions, and other details that your organization needs to keep track of. With grant management software, you can keep track of grant application deadlines, restrictions placed on won grants, and follow-up communications with grantors, helping you stay accountable to funders.

Look through your strategic plan for growth. Will you need additional solutions to help you succeed? Where are there gaps in your current technology that you’ll need to address and fill? Then, you can determine the supplemental solutions that you can add to your software stack for success.

Leveraging a variety of fundraising software solutions is the best way to create a multi-channel fundraising strategy that will help you increase ROI for every campaign. However, you don’t want to spend more than is necessary on technology. 

Therefore, start with your strategy. Consider what parts of it require different types of software. Then, analyze the software in your toolbox to see if it can be leveraged for these different elements of your plan. Finally, develop a plan to invest in software that fills in the gaps and invest in the technology you need.
When you consider the part software plays in your nonprofit strategy, the idea is to collect the solutions you need and no more. Otherwise, you won’t maximize your ROI, which is what software should help you do.

Author: Jay Love

Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang

He has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly.

Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.

He is a graduate of Butler University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Over the years, he has given more than 2,500 speeches around the world for the charity sector and is often the voice of new technology for fundraisers.