How to Get Your Board Excited About Investing in a Donor Management System

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By Anne LeMesurier, MA – Managing Director, The Fundraising Lab

Your organization has reached a place where you’re getting serious about fundraising. You know the next step in your journey is to get a donor management system (DMS). You’re sold, you’ve convinced your Executive Director, but there’s one final step: getting your board of directors on board.

The problem is: they’re not convinced your organization can afford it. Or that you’re ready for such a big step. The last time you approached the subject, they were… less than receptive.

If you find yourself in this tricky position, here’s what you need to know to make a winning case:

1. Do Your Research

Before bringing a proposal to your board, get clear on which DMS you’re considering. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different donor management systems on the market to choose from.. Do your research and narrow down your options to 2 or 3 potential systems before making your case.

Next, it’s important to compile any high-level information they will want to know about the donor management system you’ve selected, including the price, use cases, integrations, and if they require any add-ons. Another thing to evaluate is whether you will need implementation or onboarding support, and if there are any additional costs for these services. If you need help on how to select the best DMS for your organization, check out this guide.

2. Find Your Board Champion

Do you have a board member who is really into technology? Maybe someone who has offered to improve your website or made suggestions about which software you should be using? Has someone voiced an interest in knowing more about your donor analytics? Find the most “pro-tech” person on your board and get them on your side.

Suggest they join you in a product demo as they will likely have questions about the features and benefits of using a DMS at your charity. They might also bring up questions that you haven’t thought of!

Once they’re on side, ask if they will support you in front of the rest of the board. Peer to peer communication is important, both in fundraising and in life, and having a board member sing the praises of a DMS to their peers will elevate your case.

3. Refine Your Pitch

Now that you have a clear idea of which DMS you’re considering and have your board champion identified, spend some time refining your pitch. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Appeal to their business sense:
    • Your donors are the financial lifeline of your organization and without them, your charity wouldn’t be able to operate! If members of your board work in the corporate sector, you can bet that at some point in their career they’ve used a CRM (customer relationship management) system and understand the business case for a centralized database. Without the ability to keep track of who gives, to what and when, it’s nearly impossible to work strategically to ensure your donors remain engaged and keep giving. Failing to manage these relationships means losing them. But you know this! So on to…
  • Automation: the magic word
    • Your board is responsible for the financial integrity of your organization. Focus on the way a CRM will help you save time through automation. Being able to automate tasks ensures things like thank-you letters and tax receipts don’t fall through the cracks. Not to mention it frees up your staff to work towards furthering your important mission. Boards love efficiency. Similarly,
  • A DMS helps you raise MORE money:
    • A DMS provides insights about your fundraising efforts that shape how you may decide to work in the future, like which fundraising activities are successful, and which ones may be operating at a loss. It highlights which donors give consecutively year-over-year and which ones have lapsed. Knowing these insights is crucial for growing your fundraising program. But be honest: a DMS is not a magical fundraising robot that will make all your challenges go away. Which brings us to our last point.
  • It’s an investment in sustainability:
    • Your organization invests time and energy towards connecting donors to your cause. But not all fundraising is about simply raising money (surprising, right!?) You need to ensure you have the systems and processes in place to support your donors and the dollars you’ve worked so hard to raise.
    • Infrastructure is an important component of capacity building for fundraising organizations. If your charity is as serious about fundraising as we think you are, your board should know that a donor database is THE most important piece of infrastructure when it comes to fundraising. It’s the engine that keeps the department running.

4. Be Prepared for Questions

If you’ve followed the suggestions above, your board will be well on their way to approving your DMS. But any discerning board will have questions. Some common ones include the following:

  • Who will be responsible for implementing and maintaining the system?
  • Are there going to be any hidden fees?
  • What other organizations use this DMS?
  • What can a DMS do that a spreadsheet can’t?
  • Hint: so many things.

This stuff is important to know. But it’s hard to anticipate every possible question. If you get asked something you don’t know the answer to, don’t be afraid to say you’ll find out and get back to them. Ultimately understanding why a donor management system is the right fit for your organization will help assure your board you’re making the most appropriate next step.

Want to learn more about a Donor Management System your board can get excited about? Request a demo of the CanadaHelps DMS today!

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