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Fundraising Platform vs CRM: What’s the Difference?

A decade ago, the nonprofit I worked for used a straightforward CRM (customer relationship management) system to track donor data, view trends, and sometimes send out communications.

However, our four-person development team was barely scratching the surface of the program’s capabilities. Occasionally, someone would stumble upon a helpful function; we’d make a note of it, and move on.

But times have changed.

Today, nonprofits aren’t limited to a one-size-fits-all CRM system designed for large and international organizations. Instead, there are dozens of great options for nonprofits of all sizes. They fall under three categories:

  1. Fundraising Platforms
  2. CRM Systems
  3. Donor Management Software

Each of these tools is designed to track key data that can help you continue building deeper, more meaningful relationships with your supporters.

But which one is right for you? Let’s talk about the differences between fundraising platforms, CRMs, and donor management software.

What’s What? Fundraising Platform vs. Nonprofit CRM

There are distinctions, big and small, between fundraising platforms, CRMs, and donor management software tools. It’s important to learn about the functionality of each one to understand which one is best for you.

Fundraising Platforms

Fundraising platforms such as CauseVox allow nonprofits to manage all aspects of online fundraising, from crowdfunding and everyday donation pages to peer-to-peer and event fundraising.

While nonprofits manage these pages, volunteer fundraisers, often called personal fundraisers, are also encouraged to share existing campaigns and create their own fundraising web pages.

These tools are designed for cause-based organizations of every size and come with nonprofit-specific functionality such as personalization options, designated places to share your fundraising appeal, and technical support. Unlike traditional CRMs, an inside IT professional is rarely necessary with a fundraising platform.

Some, but not all, fundraising platforms offer some sort of donor management system for easy data tracking. And, depending on the fundraising platform you choose, it may be compatible with other nonprofit software programs.

Common uses for fundraising platforms include:

  • Online fundraising
  • Event fundraising
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising
  • Basic CRM
  • Integrations with other software programs such as MailChimp, Google Sheets, Salesforce, and Stripe.

Here at CauseVox, we offer a digital fundraising platform designed to help nonprofits acquire new donors, increase gift levels, and keep track of supporters activated for their cause.

Unlike clunky fundraising tools that make it hard to raise funds and setup, you can easily launch donation pages, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer fundraising on CauseVox. Get more fundraising done through CauseVox, with back-office automation and insights reporting.

CRM Systems and Donor Management Software

CRM systems are often developed for large businesses and used by corporate sales departments but can be modified for nonprofits to track every aspect of the donor experience, from contact information to touchpoints to sending out communications. Highly functional yet scalable to most nonprofit’s needs, CRMs often require the expertise of a dedicated IT manager or software expert.

On the other hand, donor management software acts like a CRM but is designed specifically for a nonprofit user with donor and gift-specific templates. Since these are created for charitable organizations and not businesses, there are limited capabilities when it comes to customizing the program and adding features.

Both CRMs and donor management software programs track the following data:

  • Donor contact information
  • Donation history
  • Touchpoint notes and all interactions (phone, direct mail, email, in-person, online donations)
  • General campaign data
  • Calendar with communication reminders
  • Data mining functionality to track how gifts are acquired, average gift size, and cost per dollar raised.

Common uses for CRMs and donor management software include:

  • Donation tracking
  • Donor and volunteer management
  • Event management
  • Online fundraising
  • Communications/receipts

Nonprofits, particularly those focused on building relationships with individual donors, often use CRMs or donor management software in addition to a fundraising platform like CauseVox. The two systems complement each other; as each one serves a different function.

Salesforce is a well-known CRM system most commonly used by businesses, but they offer a nonprofit-specific program called the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). This tool is popular and intricate and includes donor and donation management tools, along with data tracking.

In terms of donor management software programs, many nonprofits turn to Bloomerang, Kindful, or Little Green Light. These tools manage data that helps ensure donor retention and relationship management, including typical CRM tracking, donation management, giving history, and basic online giving.

Balancing Value & Function

Nonprofits operate on strict, limited budgets. That being said, choosing the right tools can help bring in more donations in the long run. The key is to balance value and function to find a system that works for you.

Fundraising Platform

Many fundraising platforms such as CauseVox offer a “free to get started” level, followed by pricing tiers that include unlimited CRM contacts and reduced platform fees. Keep in mind, depending on the size and scope of your nonprofit, you may need to invest in a donor management or CRM system in addition to your fundraising platform.

Average Cost: $250 per month plus platform and processing fees averaging 5-9%. The average cost of CauseVox is $155 per month and we have a Basic Plan for $0 per month. More info here.

CRM Systems

Because of their robust nature and customization potential, CRM systems top the scale when it comes to cost.

Cost: Varies. Programs such as Salesforce charge per user ($25), whereas Blackbaud starts their scale at $119+ per month.

Donor Management Systems

Donor management systems average slightly less than CRMs and are ideal for donation tracking and campaign and volunteer management. Systems that focus on individual fundraising charge less per month than those that serve nonprofits, foundations, advocacy groups, and educational institutions.

Cost: $19-$149 per month to start.

What does this all mean for you?

More often than not, smaller and medium-sized nonprofits may not need the full functionality of a CRM system. Plus, many feel hindered by the costs of setup, unnecessary customization options, and regular maintenance. In the end, they choose to save money without compromising on capacity by choosing a scalable donor management system and a fundraising platform.

At the same time, larger nonprofit organizations should consider investing in a CRM. However, if that program doesn’t have online donation functions, or isn’t user-friendly and intuitive, it’s important to maximize online donations and create a culture of strong relationship-building through a proper online fundraising platform.

It’s Your Turn: Selecting the Right Tool(s)

It goes without saying that what works for your nonprofit may not work for another. So, how you should you go about selecting the right tools for your organization?

Follow these helpful hints to get started:

Your nonprofit is already using a CRM system or donor management system.

  • Is your organization satisfied with the functions and scope of the program? If not, consider a more robust program, factoring in cost and time for personnel training.
  • Are you successfully fundraising online with the program? Explore a fundraising platform like CauseVox. Start small, such as organizing a crowdfunding campaign. Over time, look for ways to activate and rally your community in other ways so they can have a deeper role in promoting change, such as through an event or team fundraising campaign.

Your nonprofit is already using a fundraising platform.

  • Does it have a built-in CRM/donor management system? If not, shop around to find an online fundraising platform with a built-in CRM that automatically tracks and logs fundraising activities from website donation page gifts, personal fundraising pages, event registrations, etc. Remember, the data you collect with online fundraising is vital to help you build long-term relationships with these donors.
  • Are you fundraising online using diverse fundraising techniques? Trying your hand at various types of fundraising (donation pages, peer-to-peer, crowdfunding) over the course of the year can help diversify your fundraising calendar and engage a broader range of donors. The right fundraising platform will offer you a variety of ways to fundraise and engage your supporters!

Once you’ve determined the functions and programs you need to both fundraise effectively and manage your data, ask for a demo, or start a free trial to get a feel for the platforms. Note the appearance, ease of use, and customer service. Does it feel right? If so, it’s probably a good fit for your organization.

As you go through the journey of discovering new tools to help improve your online fundraising and relationship-building, remember that CauseVox is here to help.

CauseVox provides nonprofits, charities, and do-gooders a fundraising platform with everything you need to simplify and grow your fundraising like a pro. We provide everything you need to be a fundraising powerhouse, including an award-winning knowledge library, a suite of easy-to-use tools, and an experienced hands-on support team.

We’re behind you, every step of the way. Contact a team member today to get started.

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