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4 Ways That Custom Software Can Transform Your Nonprofit

When you hear the words “custom software,” you might think of high-tech gizmos and databases from your favorite sci-fi movie that help the hero navigate a world of peril. The custom software solution is uniquely tailored to fit whatever the hero needs, whether that’s delivering a getaway car, revealing the location of the bad guy, or providing top-secret information about the next case.

However, custom software isn’t only attainable by special agents on the big screen — it can also provide great value to your nonprofit! Properly planned, custom software solutions like data integrations, custom-built apps, or new WordPress plugins can extend your online engagement efforts and increase your nonprofit’s efficiency.

If you’ve never worked on a custom software project before, this idea might seem like more trouble than it’s worth. You might wonder if custom software would really help you with your fundraising strategy or staff management or if it would just be too complicated and slow you down.

If you’re having these hesitations, don’t give up on custom software just yet! Custom software development comes in many shapes and sizes, from customized maps to new WordPress plugin implementations to built-from-scratch data integrations. Here are four ways that you can use custom software to transform your nonprofit’s work:

  1. Meet your needs more effectively.
  2. Develop better relationships with donors.
  3. Save time on administrative tasks.
  4. Grow with you.

Nonprofit teams know what it’s like to juggle a ton of different tasks, whether you’re creating the best website, managing donor relations, or spreading awareness about your cause. Customizing your software can help you streamline more of your tasks so that you can spend more time focusing on your nonprofit’s mission. Let’s dive in!

1. Meet your needs more effectively.

Whether your team is large or small, you’re likely balancing a lot of different tasks to keep your nonprofit running and to make sure everything’s in tip-top shape. It can be a lot to manage, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a little extra help! Just as you use a website builder to bring your awesome website to life or rely on payment processors to handle donations, you can use custom software to make your nonprofit workflows more efficient and effective.

Custom software helps nonprofits of all sizes tackle issues like:

  • Website engagement: Looking to drive more traffic to your website? Custom software can help with that! Your software solution can help you keep track of website engagement data as well as add new features to attract supporters. For example, custom maps or embedded petition forms are a great way to show your supporters how they can easily engage with your advocacy efforts.
  • Reporting: You probably already know that data matters. It helps you know where you’re succeeding and how you can improve. Custom software can help you keep track of the data that matters most to your goals and generate automatic reports tailored to your unique strategy.
  • Security: With a fully custom software solution, you can protect your and your donors’ data. Because you or a developer will create unique software for your personal use, it makes it more difficult for Internet evil-doers to hack your site or data. Plus, the extra security will certainly put your donors’ minds at ease!

With a custom software solution, you can get what you need. So while software can help you navigate each of these issues (and more!), not all of them will be a priority for your nonprofit. For instance, let’s say that you already have a reporting system that works for you. If so, you could use fewer reporting tools in your software and invest more in tools designed for efficiency. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure story — you’re in charge!

2. Develop better relations with donors.

Cultivating great relationships with your donors is likely one of your nonprofit’s top priorities. Custom software is a great solution for nonprofits looking to deepen their connections with donors and increase retention rates.

With custom software, nonprofits can keep track of important data that informs how you interact with donors, including:

  • Preferred communication channels: It’s crucial to connect with donors on their terms, and that means asking how they’d like to be contacted. This way, you increase the chances that a donor will receive and read your communications. You can also use this information to determine which donors would respond positively to new outreach methods.
  • Engagement level: Your custom software can also help you identify active and lapsed donors. With this valuable information, you can create a data-driven strategy to help you maintain engagement with active supporters and re-engage lapsed ones. For instance, perhaps certain donors are active peer-to-peer fundraisers and deserve some recognition. With your software, you can create filters that highlight particularly active supporters to give them the recognition they deserve on your website to deepen the engagement.
  • Capacity to give: When you’re stewarding donors, it’s helpful if you have an idea of how much a donor is willing to give. This can help you better manage your time. With custom software and donor prospecting databases, you can conduct prospect research and wealth screenings to determine which donors have the greatest willingness and capacity to give.

Developing great relationships with donors is an essential part of maintaining your nonprofit, and custom software can help you forge these connections very effectively. All of these tasks can typically be accomplished with a generic CRM, but you can get more out of your software by taking the time to customize them or learn about the specific functions you need. Custom support and development can configure and integrate your platforms and software solutions so that they give you exactly what you need with the least amount of hassle. Using your selected data management and reporting features, you can make smarter decisions.

3. Save time on administrative tasks.

Administrative tasks might seem minor, but they can take up a lot of time. Fortunately, custom software can help you navigate these often time-consuming and draining activities. Here are a few administrative tasks that custom software could help you handle:

  • Donor data management: This NPOInfo guide on donor data management stresses the importance of clean donor data, which will make it easier to find what you’re looking for to make important decisions. Your custom software can help maintain your data and compile it all in a database unique to your organization, ensuring that it’s in the best shape for your team to reference. For example, the team at the National Trust for Historic Preservation improved the efficiency of their data management with a custom-developed data sync.
  • Marketing: You already know the importance of marketing for your nonprofit, and you also probably know that creating and sending marketing materials can take up a lot of time. With a custom software solution, you can automate several aspects of the marketing process to save you time and effort.
  • Donation processing: A streamlined donation process is crucial for your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts, and if you’ve run into challenges before, a custom software solution might be just what you need. For example, Water for People used a multi-step donation form to engage their donors and demonstrate how funds help to support their mission.

Saving time on these administrative tasks doesn’t necessarily require a complete custom software solution. Instead, you can customize your existing CRM with integrations and plugins designed to manage these issues. Even a little bit of customization can go a long way!

4. Grow with you.

One of the best parts about custom software? It’s completely scalable, meaning you can adapt it to fit your needs as they change.

For example, let’s say you begin to double down on matching gifts to increase your nonprofit’s revenue and deepen each individual donor’s impact. According to Double the Donation’s guide on matching gifts, helping donors utilize their matching gift opportunities can dramatically improve the overall donor experience. Even if your current software doesn’t include any integrations to identify matching gift opportunities, you can easily expand your customized CRM to include this capability.

Plus, custom software also opens up the possibility for more digital growth, such as with an app or microsite for a certain campaign. As your digital fundraising efforts become more ambitious, your software will easily be able to keep up, especially if you’re working closely with a developer. The only limit is your imagination!

While a generic software solution can help you get organized, it’s not the same as a customized version. Custom software allows you to create your dream suite of tools to help you do everything from securing valuable information to forging strong relationships with donors. Your nonprofit is doing some world-changing work (like those special agents from the beginning, right?), so you should have tools that are uniquely yours.

De’Yonté Wilkinson

About The Author

De’Yonté’s a late-80s baby who found his passion for web design and development during MySpace’s heyday, when he helped his friends create awesome profiles. He’s spent the last three years specializing in WordPress and conversion optimization and is an active proponent of coding guidelines. In his off time, he enjoys cooking, Rugby, and hanging out with his wife.