May 25, 2017

How many fundraising platforms do you have?

We are all looking for ways to save money and to use our (often) limited resources to most effectively serve our mission. We often find that our mission doesn’t wait for the technology resources we use to catch up to the innovative ideas that we fundraisers have, so we come up with these ad hoc solutions. The next thing you know, you have more fundraising platforms and vendors than you know what to do with because there isn’t one platform that does everything well. Then you look at your expenses and go “ugh.”

The following is not an endorsement or a knock against any of the platforms mentioned: each one has served a need. Rather, it’s to share with you a case study of sorts: the changes we have made and continue to make to keep up with the evolving needs of our events, our participants, and our donors.

Where we started

When I came to Covenant House in 2013, our peer-to-peer fundraising program was still very new. We had only been doing peer-to-peer fundraising events for two years and we were growing at a sometimes intimidatingly fast rate.

Because each of our peer-to-peer and event initiatives has a specific set of technology needs and there were no event staff with technical expertise, we were using three different fundraising platforms. Two of these were one-stop shops, First Giving and Event Journal, which required very little work from staff but were limited in what they could provide in customized reporting. The third fundraising platform, Blackbaud’s TeamRaiser, was managed by one staff member and a vendor, because the customizations were seemingly endless.

Then, we decided to revamp our DIY program and needed a more robust platform that allowed for customization and provided more complex reporting, so we partnered with DonorDrive. Then we were required to use a specific fundraising platform (Crowdrise) by our charity endurance partner and all of a sudden we had 5 fundraising platforms, leading to more expense and more duplication of work.

How we consolidated our fundraising platforms

Our program was (and is still) growing and so is our team. We now have several people on our team with various levels of technical knowledge. We took the time to look at our programs, our expenses, and our staff knowledge in the context of trying to get our communications and digital properties to look like they are all part of the same family.

After many conversations and frustrations regarding the lack of customized reporting for our charity endurance program, we decided that we could create an affiliate site on DonorDrive. We also recently learned that we are no longer required to use Crowdrise, allowing us to consolidate the program’s tech needs.

The big win came with the evaluation of alternatives for Event Journal. The event and its technology needs have changed over the past couple of years, so we were keeping our eyes open for a platform that could provide more robust reporting as well as assist in overall project management. We were introduced to Greater Giving and after several demos and more conversations, we decided to move forward to transition our traditional events. We are still in the early stages of this transition, but it has already allowed for more customization, includes features for which we previously had to use additional software, and has provided more resources.

What’s next for our organization

All of these changes added up to $15,000 in savings, noted within one fiscal quarter for the organization. It also made it easier to ensure our digital event fundraising platforms have consistent messaging and branding to best promote our mission.

We continue to evaluate our platforms and related costs and we like to learn about new products. It’s good to know what is out there. It may not meet a need right now, but with the ever-evolving landscape nonprofit fundraising, one never knows.
How do you decide which platforms to keep or how many to use? What are your tech wins and challenges? Join the discussion and share your experience!

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Karin Rockwin