How to Choose a Fundraising Platform

March 27, 2021
14 minutes
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You probably didn’t launch or start working with your nonprofit to fundraise, but at the end of the day you need to keep the lights on, and to effectively create change, you need cash flow. And while nonprofits have been managing this in one way or another for decades, you now have more choices than ever when it comes to choosing a fundraising platform. In the digital era, this is one of the most important decisions that your organization can make, so read on to learn how to choose the right fundraising platform for your nonprofit (and why it matters). 

There were days (which you might remember!) when fundraising efforts were conducted almost exclusively face to face or over the phone, maybe with an occasional mass mailer to increase donations for specific campaigns. These personal touches are always important and no doubt appreciated by your donors, but today’s fundraising efforts simply have to expand beyond these methods to really become effective.

Most modern non-profits make use of some form of online fundraising platform, as the ability to reach as many potential donors as possible is incredibly valuable. What exactly, though, should you look for when it comes to choosing a fundraising platform? How do the best fundraising platforms distinguish their services from the rest? 

We’ve compiled an overview of the specifics you need to think about when it comes time to select the right platform for your organization. Moving from one platform to another can often mean wasted time and energy, so it’s smart to thoroughly research your options before you make your decision.

Questions to ask When Choosing a Fundraising Platform

A fundraising platform should include a certain number of basic features that help to get your efforts off the ground quickly, but make sure that what you’re looking at actually offers the critical elements.

When considering a fundraising platform, ask yourself the following questions:

How do your donors like to give?

Ultimately, you want to meet your most engaged supporters wherever they are, which increasingly means online. Any online fundraising platform worth its salt will include donation buttons or forms for your website, donation pages, and integrations with common payment methods (PayPal, Stripe, ApplePay, etc.) If you’re active on Facebook or Instagram, it’s helpful to have a platform that integrates easily with those networks. Have your donors been hodling for years and are looking for a way to give back? Better include a way to donate Bitcoin!

On the other hand, if you raise most of your funds through in-person events or via mail or other old-fashioned methods, you probably don’t need to get too fancy with this, though it never hurts to broaden your reach.

Easily build donation forms with Funraise

How tech and design savvy is your team?

Is your fundraising team a bunch of digital native tech whiz kids, or are they stronger when it comes to working with people and building relationships? Do you even have a team? These are questions worth thinking about when looking at a fundraising platform. More and more often, a platform will give you all the tools to build your own site with a minimal amount of technical knowledge or skill, which can be a huge plus if you’d rather focus on other things. If you’ve already got a site built or you have a developer with the chops and desire to buld a site from scratch, then this is probably less important.

How big is your operation?

If you’re still a small, scrappy nonprofit, you probably don’t need (and can’t afford) much more than a basic fundraising platform (and there still are plenty of good options for that), but if you’re part of a larger organization with thousands of donors and an eagerness to grow, there’s more to consider. If you want to continue to be effective and make the most of your donor base, you are going to want to be able to manage your data and your list of contacts, and working out of a Google Spreadsheet can quickly become a real nightmare.

How much time do you have?

This is probably one of the biggest considerations when it comes to choosing a fundraising platform, because ideally the right tool will save you time. If the platform is too complicated or has too many moving parts, that might be an obstacle for adoption. With time to set everything up properly, however, a more complicated platform might allow for increased functionality down the road, but that’s only useful if you actually have time to do it. Make sure the fundraising platform is one that you and your team can (and will) use.

What tools are you already using?

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to get all of your various apps and programs and tools to talk to each other, and if you’re thinking about investing in a fundraising platform to consolidate all of your efforts, then you should be sure that it will actually let you do that. The right platform will sync up with what you’re already using, whether that’s Google Calendar, Quickbooks, Salesforce, MailChimp, or something more specialized.

When thinking about this, also be sure to consider what tools you’ll want to be using in the future -- the last thing you want is to roll out an exciting new initiative and discover that your platforms don’t play nice with each other.

Try Out Funraise’s Features for Free! →

Advanced Fundraising Features

Nonprofits without large dedicated donors need to exercise every type of strategy possible to connect with current donors and form relationships with new ones. Getting the word out only does so much; what can really make all the difference is how you engage with others.

The ideal online fundraising platform allows you to communicate with donors in as many ways as possible. Rather than simply building a website where people can click a button to give money, the most successful nonprofits are able to develop a two-way dialogue.

Some of the best and most innovative options here are:

  • P2P fundraising opportunities: Let your fanbase do a bit of the heavy lifting for you when it comes time to raise money for a new campaign. By having P2P capability at the ready, you can promote your cause and easily have others share your message across their own social channels, exponentially furthering your reach.
  • Text engagement: If any of your donors are younger than 40, you’re probably going to have more luck with a text than a phone call. More than ever before, people connect with others through messaging, so why shouldn’t that include being able to donate to a fundraiser? Texting about your cause feels more personal and makes it easy for donors to get involved.
  • Live streaming: The pandemic won’t last forever, but even after it’s over, a lot of people will still want to engage online, and streaming services like Twitch were popular even before we all got locked in our homes. Being able to engage donors wherever they are is critical, so look for a platform with integration opportunities.

It’s smart to think about all of the ways you wish you could raise more funds and then select a platform that most closely meets these needs. There’s no singular cookie-cutter approach to this, so you’ll have to consider your nonprofit’s unique desires.

The Right Fundraising Platform Can Make All the Difference

It’s obviously been a pretty chaotic year for everyone, and nonprofits are absolutely no exception. The upside, however, is that a lot of organizations have been forced to adapt and innovate, sometimes to incredible success.

Take, for example, Rising TIDE, which provides homework help, tutoring, interest clubs, participation in the arts, STEM education, free food, and more to nearly four hundred children in the Long Beach area. When the pandemic hit, they knew that they were going to have to make some big changes, and fast, if they were going to help the kids who were now stuck at home.

Funraise was exactly the platform they needed, allowing them to build a new site in minutes and prioritize what they were good at and what was important.

Funraise allows us to prioritize our fundraising and storytelling in a timely and resource-efficient way,” board president Colby Karzen said. “Any of us on the team can create websites and access donor information when we need to.”

Ultimately, Rising TIDE exceeded their fundraising goals, brought on nearly a hundred new donors, and not only survived, but thrived -- a great example of how effective technology can make all the difference.

Rising TIDE's fundraising campaign website created with Funraise

Making a Smart Decision About Your Fundraising Platform

You can’t go wrong with an online fundraising platform that offers core fundraising features, good data management, and is easy to use, but there are a lot of services that offer those features. Make sure that you are familiarizing yourself with what’s on offer and making the right decision for your non-profit.

If you’re on the fence, Making the leap into the world of online fundraising platforms doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially when you partner with Funraise. Whether you’re just starting out and want to opt for Funraise Free as you get your feet wet or you’re well-versed in fundraising and want to take advantage of more sophisticated features, you’ll enjoy how easy it is to use an online fundraising platform. Seeing more donations come in is just the icing on the cake!

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