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Looking for a Digital Fundraising Platform? 5 Questions to Ask

Jul 2020 - READ IN 4 MINUTES

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This year has brought a lot of changes for fundraising teams across the country—from translating in-person events to virtual ones, to launching and sustaining student emergency funds, to figuring out the best messaging during stressful and heartbreaking times.

Meanwhile, the online giving industry is also changing. In May, EverTrue decided to terminate the maintenance, operation, and support of its online giving platform and exclusively recommend Giving Forms by GiveCampus moving forward. As another example, iModules announced this summer that they no longer exist as a standalone company; it has been sold to Campus Management, a company that focuses on student success and student engagement. Campus Management has rebranded a new company called as Anthology, and it’s unclear what implications this transition might have for their employees or customers.

Because educational fundraisers need more support and more powerful tools than ever, it’s becoming more and more important to understand the digital fundraising field. Are we biased towards our own GiveCampus products and Partner Success program? Of course. But along the way, we’ve also learned a lot about digital fundraising and what’s possible for Advancement teams to achieve with the right fit. Whatever your process looks like for choosing new products or working with a new partner for online fundraising, we recommend asking the following questions to make sure you’re getting a good fit. 

1. Will this technology help me engage younger alumni?

You don’t need us to tell you that engaging young alumni ignites a long-term habit of giving—or that engaging this group can pose a significant challenge. Ask the platforms you’re evaluating how they’ve taken young alumni into account. For example, does Apple Pay make it easier for them to pay directly from their phone? Does the platform offer flexible ways to spread the word, for younger alumni who have strong communications preferences?

2. Is this technology built specifically for schools? What other schools like mine does this company work with?

Crowdfunding has become more and more popular—and for good reason. Bringing a community together to rally around a big goal works. Ask if the technology you’re evaluating takes into consideration your specific needs as someone working in education—does it account for offline matches? Can it track class years and affiliations? Does it have sophisticated recurring giving options?

Ask for examples of campaigns similar to the one you’re planning—or even just ask about other schools like yours that have had success with these tools. Whether you’re a large public university, a small boarding school, a community college, or any other type of nonprofit educational institution, ask for examples that you can most easily relate to.

3. Will this tool be easy not only for me to use, but also for my colleagues?

Good fundraising takes collaboration. Annual Fund teams work closely with their colleagues in Advancement services on reporting and reconciliation. Ask whether reporting is configurable on the platform, so that you don’t have to train your colleagues on a new reporting format.

Other pieces to consider that affect other teams include security information, access to marketing insights, and details about payment processing.

Even if you’re a one person shop, you need to think about functionality more broadly—it might be all the more important to make sure that the tools are easy to use.

(You might want to also ask what kind of strategic support comes with the technology so that you don’t have to take this on alone!)

4. Is the platform created by a growing company with a mission that aligns with ours?

Ideally, your fundraising technology comes from a company with values that match yours. Ask for their mission statement. Learn more about who you’ll be working with most closely at the company, and whether their professional background is relevant to educational fundraising.

It’s also fair to ask how the company stands by their mission. This year in particular, it’s important for companies across all sectors to take a stand and commit to their values, whether to step up in the face of COVID-19 or offer specific responses to systemic racism.

You might also be interested in whether the company is growing, with plans to keep investing in its existing products and develop new ones. One of the benefits of partnering with the company should be their ability to innovate. You can focus on the strategic fundraising plans that make sense for your school and community, and trust that they will be looking ahead and building products for tomorrow.

5. Does it allow us to provide the best possible experience for our donors, volunteers, and advocates?

Finally, always keep your constituents top of mind—something that comes naturally to every fundraiser we’ve met. Do you have volunteers who need an easy way to track their assignments? Do you have enthusiastic alumni who would be happy to spread the word about their gift—but don’t have any easy way to do it? Do you have donors who are ready to give, but have a million things on their plate and need to be able to do it with just a few taps on their phone? Ask the questions you need to ask to feel confident you can meet your constituents where they are.

Overall, we encourage you to think about the challenges you’re trying to solve, the pain points you’re facing, and the goals you’re trying to reach. You deserve products that fit your needs and take your fundraising to the next level.

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