There is a common misconception that humans only use 10% of their brains, when in fact charities only use 10% of their digital tools! Aside from being costly and inefficient, having numerous complex tools that are used well below their capacity can impact future fundraising planning. Even more, they may create false assumptions from the data these platforms produce.
If you have a suspicion that your not-for-profit organisation is struggling with this, don’t worry, you are not alone. Charities, much more so than private sector enterprises, have to fight harder to get investment in digital health checks, and may have to deprioritise this work in favour of the main focus – putting out asks and raising money urgently needed.
So how can charities ensure optimal choice and usage of digital fundraising products? One area is procurement. A good procurement process will help organisations find products that meet their needs, but also serve as an excellent opportunity to establish outstanding ways of working, build meaningful priorities and ensure efficient processes from day one.
To borrow from the Choose My Own Adventure books, when it comes to donation platforms, choose wisely – not every avenue ends in the same result. In this guide, we provide you with a fundraising checklist to help choose the right fundraising platform for your not-for-profit:
- 1. Establish what you want your fundraising platform to do.
- 2. Find out who is going to use the product.
- 3. Find out who is really going to use the product.
- 4. Write a brief brief!
- 5. Create a scoring system.
- 6. Create a shortlist of suppliers.
- 7. Make your decision.
1. Establish what you want your fundraising platform to do
This seems simplistic, but it is absolutely vital. You may have experienced scope creep, or kitchen sink syndrome in the past, where a project ends up getting lots of extras bundled onto it, to the point where it scarcely resembles its original goal. It is important when seeking online donation forms or online fundraising platforms that you start with a well established (even written down and pinned to a wall) list of things your product must have.
From there, only a strong and defined business case process should be allowed to amend that original statement. You do need to be somewhat flexible, but only with defined and agreed processes, to stop everyone from requesting features that will be used 3 times in 15 years.
2. Find out who is going to use the product
Once you’ve established what donation platform you’re looking for, you must now put together a list of stakeholders to review and ensure their needs are met. At this stage, keep this to a hand raising exercise only. Gather a list of people who want to use the product.
3. Find out who is really going to use the product
From your list of declared users, you must now interrogate what teams or departments will genuinely use the product. This takes a bit of pragmatism, but is a necessary step to establish meaningful input. There must be a barrier to entry for stakeholders, or else you will end up with a list of use cases so large that you risk diluting the key requirements you set out in step one.
An easy way to do this is to assign expected usage to each stakeholder. In the case of a donation platform, this can be the amount of expected income raised and the amount of users processed. Once you’ve done this, sort by largest to smallest, cut off anything statistically insignificant, and then put together a procurement group with some weighting applied to any collaborator with significantly higher usage.
4. Write a brief brief!
At this stage you should create a brief that outlines the key elements you want to achieve from your fundraising platform. Worth noting that there is no fundraising charity too small to do this. Everyone has requirements, and large organisations are not the only ones entitled to request this. Split the brief into four sections:
- Overview of your mission and organisational targets the platform will contribute to
- Mandatory deliverables (must haves)
- Non-mandatory deliverables (nice to haves – the things you’ve considered but aren’t necessarily deal breakers)
- Inspire us. Allow suppliers to make suggestions of features their product has that will be of use but you haven’t necessarily considered. This is a great way to ensure you get the most out of products from day one, and that you end up working with innovative suppliers who will support you.
Keep this brief as brief as you can. Avoid temptation to do the work for the suppliers or ask leading questions. This will produce more creative responses and give a truer representation of their potential.
5. Create a scoring system
Any time you spend a charity’s money, you must always ensure that you’re confident you’ve done so in a way that is best for the organisation and be prepared to defend your choices to the board. The best way to do this is to score each supplier against the same criteria. Set out 5 or 6 clear areas that all your stakeholders will understand and assign a score out of 50 to them. You might choose something like:
- Response to brief (10 points)
- Technical competence (10 points)
- SLAs and processes (10 points)
- Company stability (10 points)
- Cost (5 points)
- Account Management (5 points)
The last two are scored lower because they are less important. Anyone over your budget is not in the running anyway, and if under budget, the impact of other elements on the money you’ll raise should greatly outweigh any minor differences in cost of services. Similarly, account management will often result in judgement of people, not processes. As people move jobs, it’s worth putting less emphasis on this, as it’ll be less of a feature for the product.
6. Create a shortlist of suppliers
You may already have companies in mind, or you may be happy googling and casting a wide net. One tip is to go and look at other charity platforms that you like and to simply contact someone in that charity to ask who supplies them (on LinkedIn, for example). The charity sector is very friendly and often happy to share. If you see a not-for-profit organisation with an excellent donation page, check who they get it from and invite them to make you a proposal.
7. Make your decision
It may seem simple, but once you’ve carried out your review, trust the work you’ve done and the scoring you’ve applied and make the decision. The online space is fast paced and you won’t increase your fundraising activity by being cautious. Get started, try new fundraising ideas, launch fundraising pages before the end-of-the-year holidays, and watch the money roll in!
These processes are designed to allow charities to best utilise their internal expertise to make great neutral decisions about the best fundraising platform to suit their needs. Most importantly, it will allow organisations to onboard a tool that does what fundraisers need it to do, and not something that tries to satisfy 15 departments who will never use it.
When it comes to appealing for donations online, get inspired by iRaiser's ideas! Have a look at our article: 4 new fundraising ideas for charities to raise more.