Review of Donor Tools
2 comments | Posted: 21 March 09 in General, by Carl Camera
Austin Samaritans is a young non-profit organization that connects resources with needs in an effort to improve the human condition in God’s larger world. We strive to connect existing mission groups to help meet needs more efficiently. Our programs provide:
- Scholarships, meals, and supplies for students.
- Medicine and equipment to medical clinics.
- Support to places that help women and children.
A Non-Profit’s Lifeblood
As a founding board member of Austin Samaritans, I’ve learned a lot in a short time about how hard it is to run and maintain a charitable organization. Austin Samaritans is blessed with a talented and diverse board of directors that has steered Austin Samaritans from a mere idea in February 2007 to a vibrant and well-funded 501(c)(3) US nonprofit entity. We anticipate donations in excess of a quarter of a million dollars in 2009.
One of the fundamental lessons we’ve learned is that a non-profit’s lifeblood is its donor list. It is paramount for any non-profit to understand:
- Who are the people donating to the organization?
- How much did they donate?
- When did they donate?
- To what program or programs did they contribute?
- When were they contacted?
- What were their comments?
We realized early on that our donor records were being scattered to the four winds. Our executive director would receive donations after presentations. Board members would receive business cards from interested individuals. Our two school sponsorship programs (administered by different volunteers) were receiving child sponsorship checks. Kindhearted individuals were giving their time and donating computer resources to our computer refurbishing program. A Christian men’s group organized a golf outing fundraiser for us.
In the spring of 2008, Austin Samaritans was struggling with spreadsheets, Quicken reports, Word documents, stacks of business cards and loose pieces of paper as our donor management system. With donations coming from so many directions in so many ways, it truly was a godsend to meet Ryan Heneise at the 2008 SXSW Godbit dinner.
Ryan spoke about a web application called Donor Tools that he was developing. I thanked God in silent prayer as Ryan described how Donor Tools allowed ubiquitous access for non-profits to maintain all their donor contact information. At the time, it was still being developed. But at my urging, Austin Samaritans participated as a Donor Tools beta customer.
From chaos came order, and quickly. Donor Tools provides several ways to import donor lists into their system, but since we didn’t have a system in place, we entered all our information manually. This was, as one administrator told me, “a breeze.” She loved the ease by which Donor Tools streamlined her data entry.
Donor Tools provides a powerful tagging system that allows us to relate donors to any number of our programs. Tags allow us to quickly find donors, or to generate a list of donors with common interests. And by being a web application, our donor list administrators could work independently from our office, their homes, our warehouse – or an internet café in Nicaragua. Donor Tools’ secure login ensures that sensitive financial information is never transmitted unencrypted over the internet.
We also realized that not all donors are financial donors. We’ve had church groups help out at our warehouse sorting surplus medical supplies and constructing a local area network. Others have donated computers or medical equipment. These donations certainly represent other individuals interested in Austin Samaritans’ work. With some beta testing feedback and quick coding from Ryan, Donor Tools also provides in-kind donation tracking, and can generate thank-you letters that donors can use for tax write-off purposes.
One of the guiding principles Ryan adheres to in Donor Tools is to make every page a report. Beautifully laid out and a treat for our eyes are the reports that chart our donations and our donors. Even more impressive is the ability for our donors to have their own login access to view their personal donations. Donor Tools also supports secure online donations and Quicken export features. And in those instances when questions arose, Donor Tools support staff was quick to reply with helpful suggestions or product changes to meet our needs.
The trial period lasted several months, but was coming to a close. Our board had to decide if it was worth paying for – whether we should trust our primary lifeblood to the reliability of Donor Tools. I am elated to say that based on feedback from our administrators and our treasurer, Donor Tools received unanimous support and is now our de facto strategic donor contact system.
I unequivocally recommend Donor Tools to non-profits and other organizations. It is available as a free trial and is reasonably priced for any size organization.
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