11 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Donor Management Software

by Dan Viehman, Trail Blazer Campaign Services

Having sold donor software for many years, I can tell you that buying the right software begins with asking the right questions. Be an informed buyer and don’t forget to ask these questions.

1. Training Costs

If a salesman says training is included,you should ask, What type of training are you referring to? Is it by YouTube video, by group webinar once a week, by Knowledge Base article, or by one-on-one remote training? Also, is training available only at the vendor’s site? What is the cost for training in the various forms? What is the cost of the training package and when does it expire?

2. Tech Support

Ask what response time you can expect when you call for help. Is it immediate, a two-hour call back, or a 24-hour call back? Are you required to buy a tech support package or is tech support included? Is phone support included, or is support only by email or chat? Also, do they suggest work-arounds or just say, “No, we don’t do that.”

3. Event Management

Ask if you need to buy an external product such as EventBrite to manage your events? And if so, what will that cost? Is there a per ticket fee?

4. Mass Email Management

Is mass email built in, or is it external via Constant Contact or Mail Chimp? Outside vendors like Constant Contact start at $30 per month and go up based on how many emails you send.

5. Credit Card Merchant Fees

What is the percentage charged on every online donation? An acceptable fee is between 2.2% and 3%. Some software vendors charge up to 5% or more. This is a hidden fee. Vendors could just about give the software away if they take 2-3 percent on top of the merchant fee on every online donation.

6. Salesforce software. Is it really free?

Again, no free lunch. Ask how long will it take for my staff to customize the platform. It’s common to take a month or more. Sometimes you may have to hire a consultant to customize the platform. Fees run between $1000 and $1500. So free isn’t really free when you factor in your labor and the consultant’s fees.

7. Avoid Loss Leaders.

Some software providers list their software below market rate at Tech Soup and other sites. This is a marketing gimmick. If your contact record count is below 1,000, some vendors give away or artificially reduce the cost of the software to get you to come on board. Then, once you’ve used the software for a while,the true price kicks in at 1,001 records. Avoid companies that try to trick you into using the software. As a rule, good software with phone support starts at $100 per month.

8. Know your price brackets above your current level.

It’s important to study the price brackets that you may grow into in a year or two. Several software companies “dramatically” increase their prices at 5,001,10,001 and 15,001 records. Ask about the cost if you add records. You may be surprised what awaits you.

9. What features are included?

Most vendors offer a small, medium, and large group of features for a small, medium or large price. Take time to study the features list. You’ll typically find that an important function is missing in the small package which requires you to climb the ladder to the medium or large package. Your best bet is to use a vendor with an all-on-one package where all features are activated. That way you don’t have to figure out what features you need.

10. How fast can my database be built?

Some vendors take a long time to get a database up and running. Make sure you ask how long it will take for conversion and access to the database?

11. Learning Curve

Ask how long will it take to get comfortable with the software? Good software worth buying will require 2 to 3 weeks of learning. Software marketed as ”easy to use” is really just a “point and shoot” camera. Avoid “easy to use” software and opt for software with advanced functions like pivot tables, dashboard metrics and customizable reports for your Board. You’ll be much happier in the long run.

This article was written by Trail Blazer Campaign Services, Inc., 620 Mendelssohn Ave. N., Suite 186, Minneapolis, MN 55427-4350. Copyright 2018. Trail Blazer Campaign Services. All Rights Reserved.

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