Selecting and implementing an online fundraising system

The process for choosing and implementing an online fundraising system is much the same as it would be for any new software.

  1. Collect your requirements and understand your business processes (including how you currently handle donations, banking, finance reporting, collecting donor data etc).
  2. Research potential providers – do online searches, ask other organisations for recommendations.
  3. Check which software best matches your requirements – make sure they can do all your ‘must haves’ at least.
  4. Make a shortlist of providers, ask them for more information if you have unanswered questions, ask for references from users similar to you. Look at existing charities on the site you’re interested in using – have a chat to them about their experience.
  5. Have a plan and budget for your implementation and cutover – try to have one staff member dedicated to the job of making sure the implementation goes smoothly.
  6. Set up a process for feedback and improvement so you can continually improve your use of the system.
  7. Document processes for using the system and train staff.

Compatibility

Whatever system you choose, it will need to work with your existing systems and workflows. Online fundraising can potentially affect systems across your organisation, including IT, marketing and finance.
  • IT: is the new system compatible with your existing website? Does the new system produce reports and data in a format your existing systems can handle?
  • Marketing: if the system includes building campaign sites and social media integration, will that fit with current marketing strategies?
  • Finance: will the payments received be recorded appropriately against income and expenditure; will data be exported in a format your finance team can work with?

Fees, costs and money handling

One reason to try online fundraising is the potential it has for raising more money for your organisation at a lower cost. Before you decide whether online fundraising is good value for you – and whether you’re confident the money raised will get into your bank account – check the following:
  • What fees, credit card charges etc are attached to each donation– how much of the donation gets to you?
  • What fee will you pay to be listed?
  • How do the various fees and deductions stack up against the money you’ll save in dealing with donations yourself?
  • Do you want donors from outside your country? If so, make sure the site allows that.
  • Can you run campaigns via the site (they publicise your campaign) and will that save you money? Do they make it easy for donors to search for you and select you as the charity for their own fundraising campaigns?
  • How secure is their payment system? Do you trust it?
  • How long will it take for payments to be delivered to you?
  • Are there restrictions on the kinds of bank accounts you can use with your chosen solution, and can you meet those requirements?

Data availability and security

A benefit of doing everything yourself is you have control over information about your donors.
  • What kind of donor data will the new system give you access to and will you be able to incorporate this into your existing donor management systems?
  • Are donors given the option to opt-out of further communication (and can you be sure you’re only getting data for those who have opted in?)
  • Are you happy with how the business running the site handles any donor data provided to it? Do they have good security? Are their privacy agreements acceptable?

Usability

Most systems are relatively simple to use, but it’s important you find one that matches the skill level of your staff, or is easy to learn.
  • How much time and what skills will you need to manage your online presence on the system? Will the site need to be regularly updated? Do you have the necessary skills and time?
  • Does the system come with training – either in person or via webinar or in an easy-to-use help system?
  • Is the site easy enough to use from the donor perspective? Is there a clear and simple way for queries, disputes etc to be handled if your donors are having problems with the site?
  • Does the system have added functionality like a ‘donate now’ button you can easily add to your site? Is it relatively simple to integrate the system with any social media marketing you do?