Monday, August 18, 2008

What is Donor Management Software?

So NTEN decided not to include CiviCRM as a listing in their Donor Management Survey. On the face of it, that was an OK decision because CiviCRM wasn't specifically designed as donor management software.

That kind of made sense to me, plus we have plenty enough users that use CiviCRM that we'll have just as many responses as the named systems. [If you use CiviCRM for donor management, Vote Now!]

Then they modified the front page of the survey to define donor management and I started thinking this is another conflict between the platform solution vs. "best-of-breed". Their definition of donor management is:

1. Manages relationships with current and prospective donors
2. Sends/Tracks correspondence and relationship history
3. Is more than just a donation processor (i.e. PayPal, Google Checkout, DonateNow)
4. Tracks ALL types of monetary gifts (on- and offline, events, etc.)
5. Is available for purchase/download
CiviCRM was probably excluded since it does so many other things, but from CiviCRM v1.0 oh so many years ago we supported each and every on of these "features". But as a platform, we tend not to support "deeper" version of these features... for example, you could track pledges in v1.0, but real useful pledge management / automation functionality had to wait for the current release.

As a platform, we weren't included, but I bet if we called ourselves fundraising software from day one, we would have been.

Platforms like CiviCRM are designed very much on the 80% rule... try to get most of the way there for most of your users. But when you are trying to be a platform for operating a charity, most of the way there for most of your users doesn't look anything like most of the way there for most of your users if you are just building a gifts database. Features for a platform tend to be broad and shallow.

Over time, however, each aspect of the platform becomes deeper and more capable as more users use it, more contributions (code and financial) are made and time simply allows you to get around to a specific piece of functionality.

And finally, there is another reason that CiviCRM doesn't show up on the comparision lists (Techsoup, Aspiration, NTEN, etc.). I think the assumption is that if you can't install it on your Windows PC or access it as SaaS online, it is simply too complex for charity users and therefore shouldn't be put out there as an option. I agree a little with this, but the simple fact is that installing and maintaining a MYSQL application is not beyond an advanced accidental techie... I'm not sure we are helping too much by excluding a high-quality solution for the reason it requires some technical competence to deal with.

1 comment:

ntenhross said...

Hi David -

What's clear from your post is that nonprofit software is hard to define! Unfortunately, things don't always fall into the nice little buckets we might like them to. That being the case, we really encourage CiviCRM users who ARE using CiviCRM for donor management to complete the survey. We'll take a look at things before we create the report.