Free software products can be tempting. On one hand, they save your team the time of researching products and determining what’s a worthy investment, as well as save you the money of making that investment.
However, these free solutions can limit your ability to fundraise effectively, costing you even more money than an investment in true fundraising software would have been.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of opting for a no-cost fundraising software platform. In this article, we’ll review some of the most asked about topics related to free fundraising and donor database software for nonprofits.
Get started with your research by reviewing these topics:
Ready to learn more about the facts behind free fundraising solutions? Let’s dive into this complicated subject.
Why is free fundraising software good?
There are many reasons why free fundraising software is tempting to nonprofits of all sizes.
First, you want as much revenue as possible to go right back to funding your mission. This requires saving money and lowering overhead expenses.
Second, most growing nonprofit organizations have little room in their budgets for big software expenses, and it can be tough to make the case to your board of directors that it’s a worthy purchase.
Advantages of free fundraising software
Ultimately, there are many reasons why opting for a free fundraising solution could be tempting to your nonprofit:
- You might be curious about the impact that paid donor database solutions can have on your nonprofit. Is it really worth it to make the big switch?
- You may be looking to compare systems and will evaluate the performance of the free solution against the software you already use or are considering using.
- You may have in-house expertise that can utilize software like Excel or Access to its full potential.
But remember, when it comes to free fundraising software, you often get what you pay for. In fact, relying too heavily on a free fundraising solution can spell disaster for your organization down the line.
Why is free fundraising software bad?
Your first instinct might be to assume that free solutions don’t tend to be built out for the specific needs of nonprofits. You’re not wrong to think this.
Free fundraising tools aren’t problematic simply because they tend to be lightweight solutions. Excel and Salesforce can be quite powerful when leveraged correctly! The main challenge with this type of software is that it isn’t designed with nonprofits in mind.
Even a free software program that is powerful enough to make a difference still must be properly customized and implemented. And unless you’re an Excel wizard who can write complicated formulas that calculate across multiple sheets and tabs or an experienced Salesforce admin, you’re going to have a lot of trouble configuring your database or you’ll end up paying someone.
Challenges with free fundraising software
We’ve converted many customers from Salesforce to Bloomerang. In almost every single case, the story was the same: they were drawn to the fact that the Salesforce nonprofit CRM was free, but found out later that they had to pay upwards of $15,000 for a consultant to set it up in a way that made it usable.
This means they ended up paying more than they would have if they had just invested in a dedicated donor database. They also had to endure a lengthy implementation period; it was months before the system was set up.
In the case of Excel, it can be tempting to cut the expense from your budget and downgrade to or start with spreadsheets.
There are several dangers associated with this, including a lack of:
- Features: You’ll need other software to send emails, collect online donations, etc.
- Accessibility: How will you share the sheet with others at your organization?
- Support: Who will you call if there’s a problem?
- Personal investment/skin in the game: If you aren’t paying for something, will you really use it to its fullest extent?
When nonprofits pay for their fundraising software, they put more thought into the platform and will pay more attention when using it to ensure that the investment is paying dividends.
Free fundraising software summary
It’s almost always better to seek out a paid solution built specifically for nonprofits.
You want to avoid free fundraising software because:
- There’s rarely a support team you can contact for help, and even if there is, they won’t be fundraising experts
- With no risk, there’s no reward for your fundraising strategy
- Free solutions are often limited in function, meaning you’ll find them less useful and have less of a reason to keep using that platform
- Free solutions often require a lot of work to set them up in a way that’s usable
The bottom line? Nonprofits that are serious about getting their tech strategy right will want to search for robust fundraising solutions to meet all of their needs, even if it means a little more investment up front.
Our fundraising software recommendation: Bloomerang
Your nonprofit doesn’t need to settle for a limited solution just because it’s free. In fact, you can invest in robust fundraising software without stretching your budget; you just need to find the right, affordable solution.
With Bloomerang, you can access the full functionality of our platform starting at $99/month. When it comes to your operating budget, that’s just a drop in the bucket (even for growing organizations).
Although our baseline plan is easy to afford, you’ll still get essential features like:
- Cloud access
- Unlimited users
- Access to Bloomerang Academy
- Unlimited online forms, including online giving and event registration
- Email marketing
- Free email and chat support
You’ll also get exclusive features not found in any other software, like:
- Constituent Engagement Level
- Constituent Generosity Score
- Ahern Audit
- Donor Engagement Surveys
- Sustainability Scorecard
- Donor Retention Wheel
Bloomerang’s baseline plan isn’t free, but it’s well worth the investment. Not only will you have access to all of the nonprofit fundraising essentials listed above, but you’ll also have the option to upgrade as your constituent count grows down the line.
This means that as your nonprofit and its needs grow, you’ll be able to continue using the same system you know and love. When you get started with Bloomerang, your team will have the peace of mind that you’re implementing fundraising software that’s built to last, not a flimsy, low-stakes system.
If your nonprofit is looking for a scaled-back solution, Bloomerang also offers Bloomerang Lite, a free donor database software for nonprofit startups. This is a great fit for brand new organizations looking to try out the Bloomerang platform before they jump into the main product. Even though it’s free, it’s still a product made specifically for nonprofits!
Want to learn more about what Bloomerang’s user-friendly, robust, and affordable nonprofit donor database has to offer? Download our video demo to find out how your nonprofit can leverage Bloomerang’s tools to better manage and retain your donors.
Before you commit to investing in a free fundraising software solution, your team needs to brush up on the basics. Now that you’ve reviewed the pros and cons of no-cost fundraising tools, it’s time to decide: is free fundraising software really worth it?
There’s still a lot you can learn about affordable nonprofit software. Check out these additional resources to help your team get familiar with how to make the most of the top nonprofit software solutions available to you:
- Fundraising Apps: 24+ Must-Have Tools for Your Nonprofit. Fundraising apps help you raise more for your nonprofit’s mission. Take a look at this comprehensive list of the best platforms available.
- Online Fundraising | Ultimate Success Guide + Tips and Ideas. Looking to revamp your entire online fundraising strategy? Check out this complete guide to effective online fundraising tips and ideas.
- Donor Management Software: Buyer’s Guide + 16 Top Solutions. Ready to commit to a donor database? Take a look at Bloomerang’s software buyer’s guide and ranking of the top donor management solutions.
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