Choosing a new donor database

Sometimes it’s inevitable. You come to the realization that your database just isn’t working for you anymore. Instead of wasting time and resources on continuing to use a system that isn’t built to fulfill your needs, it might be more cost-effective to search for a new database to manage your important donor relationships and donations.

But where to start? It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out, complicated process. To simplify your investigation and decision-making process, here are a few tips:

  1. Before you look at the flashy promises of a new database, consider WHY you are no longer fond of your current database. Is there a certain feature that drives you crazy? Are you forced to use a work-around for something that could be simple? Are there fields that are inflexible and cannot store the right information?
  2. Ok, great! Now that you know what you don’t like – think about what you want out of a new database. Do you need more user licenses? Do you have a certain feature like event planning or membership? Maybe you just need something that is cloud-based instead of installed on your hard drive. Come up with a wish list.
  3. Now that you have your best case scenario list, come up with a realistic budget. Maybe you’re looking to spend less than your current database provider charges or maybe you want to expand functionality and are willing to increase your budget. Determine from the get go, what makes sense for your organization.
  4. Start researching the options! Ask colleagues at other organizations, search nonprofit web forums, and of course reach out to companies that you know you are interested to see.
  5. When you’ve compared features and costs, ask for a demo of only the tools that work for you. There could be a best of the best database that is unrealistically out of your budget and getting a demo of the most amazing tool will just make those that are more realistic (and just as useful) seem not up to par.
  6. Other things to consider:
    • How does the sales and customer service team treat you through the process? You want a company that values you and your time and does not treat you like just a sale. You will be dealing with them for a long time.
    • How easy is it to access customer service? Be it phone, live chat, or email, you want to know that you can reach a human if you have a problem and resolve it quickly.
    • Will your organization be able to grow with this database? You may only need three user licenses now, but what about down the road when you may need more. Will this be a new charge or will it be included?
    • Is it easy to use? That’s fairly straight forward but make sure you consider the learning curve.
    • Are integration, data transfer/implementation and training included in your package. If not, make sure to find out the costs in advance and what staff knowledge and experience will be needed to switch to the new system.

It can be a daunting process, but database consultants can also help you through it. I’m happy to help you research, work through the decision-making process and even work with your sales and implementation teams to make sure your new database is set up and working the right way for your organization! Reach me at!

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