Fundraising System

Which Fundraising System? A Guide for First-Time Buyers

Many of us don’t have “Purchase Big Database” in our job description, let alone experience in what can be a substantial process and investment. This blog aims to give first-time buyers confidence by outlining a typical process of selecting the right system.

  1. Project Mission
    The first step is to define the purpose of this project – why are we doing this and what are we looking to achieve? For example, what if you could add $20k to your next appeal by working out what the giving patterns are and making more targeted asks? The more tangible you make the figures the greater the evidence you build for your case.
  1. Stakeholders: Who’s in?
    Identify your stakeholders. You’ll have primary users (e.g. the Fundraising Team) and other users (e.g. Corporate Partnerships, Volunteering) but also the decision makers who you’ll sell your idea to internally (CEO, CFO, Purchasing, the Board).
  1. Defining Your Needs
    Ask your stakeholders to identify their current challenges and what they’d like to see in the project. Plan how a new system should support you moving forward. For example, if you currently have 2-3 bequests coming in each year but plan to grow it by 300% over 3 years, how will the system needs to manage that increase in activity including donor relationship tracking and reporting? Think big about what you need to achieve, as you’ll be implementing a tool that creates a platform for the next 5-10 years. It’s useful to involve a Database Champion in this step – either the Database Manager or another role with a good working knowledge of your current processes.
  1. Writing a Tender Document
    Write a tender document to provide context to vendors on your current situation. Capture your needs in a requirements table and prioritise them by assigning a score to each. Define your selection process including steps and ideal timings. Vendors will ask lots of questions so the more you can cover in this document the more time you’ll save.
  1. Going to Tender
    Now it’s time to approach the vendors. Ask each vendor to spell out how their product will meet your needs over their competition.


  1. Presentations & Demonstrations
    The vendor should run through your requirements as agreed in the agenda. You may organise one-to-one sessions to take users through functionality specific to their roles. Afterwards, your committee can compare notes to evaluate how each system handles core requirements and weigh up the importance of each to help you decide.
  1. References
    Talk to existing users to gain a real-world perspective. Any good vendor should have referees to put you in touch with. It’s worth asking about the non-referenceable ones and why they aren’t as happy.
  1. Selecting a Vendor
    Select the vendor most closely aligned with your needs. It’s crucial to ascertain how much customisation is required to deploy a database and what will help you achieve your goals. Only go for heavy customisation if your organisation is extremely large or has complex needs – a good fundraising system will cater for most, if not all your needs.
  1. Contracts & Project Scoping
    You’ll want to be confident the vendor can deliver the project on time and to budget. Ask for a Project Plan and meet with a Project Manager to talk through the typical stages of a project. Ask where the areas of risk are, what level of technical competency is required and how you will be supported. The vendor should deliver a Scope of Work detailing all tasks and deliverables for both parties and the types of services and hours required to complete them. The Contract details all items you are purchasing, the type of term, agreement terms and special conditions such as discounts or payment terms. Ask for the contracts as soon as possible and provide them to your legal reviewers as this process can delay the start date.
  1. The Big Moment!
    Once you’re satisfied with all of the above it’s time to sign off. Be confident you’ve done your due diligence and you’re making the best decision for your organisation based on the information at hand.