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An Overview of Donor Management Software

A keyboard that highlights the word "Donate" with a red heart next to it

For nonprofits choosing a giving platform, how do you know which one to pick when you’re working with a limited budget?

Whether you’ve been using Salesforce with an integrated fundraising app for several years or just beginning your migration to a single point solution from an outdated multi-point one, it can be tempting to think you’ll save serious cash by using a free app to streamline fundraising efforts. But can you really get everything you need for free? Does it pay to save, or is it wise to spend?

What donor management software do we need?

For nonprofit technology to manage donors and donations, it’s key to first understand the difference between donor management software and fundraising software. Nonprofit Cloud is a platform with the Nonprofit Success Pack — a CRM for nonprofits – at its core.

You can use Salesforce to manage donations as well as marketing and programs. What’s different about Salesforce is that it’s not just a point solution; it’s a true platform that helps you track and understand your organization’s interactions with donors, volunteers, and constituents. It may be possible to access all the Salesforce licenses you need for free, but this will depend on your organization’s size and structure.

Certain fundraising functionality is separate and can be found on the AppExchange, the Salesforce third party app ecosystem. A number of highly reviewed apps integrate almost seamlessly with Salesforce. Most of these apps are similar, insofar as they all offer functionality to manage and increase funds raised, but each has slightly different features and pricing.

A good fundraising tool will give donors access to a connected, externally facing place where they can fill out information and submit donations to you. Beyond that, features aim to make raising money easier and even more fun.

A fundraising tool might help you run gala events like a silent auction, where guests text their bids while mingling and get alerts when they’ve been outbid. Or, it could help your supporters keep track of efforts to raise money as a group with custom landing pages that can be shared with friends.

Can we get nonprofit fundraising software for free?

For years, the two main pricing models for fundraising apps (like Classy, Rallybound, Click and Pledge and more found on the AppExchange) have been tiered or flat rate. How much they cost depends on how much they help you raise. Both have come with associated additional fees, calculated as a percentage of funds raised, plus fees deducted when donations are made or payments processed.

Note that fundraising platforms (like Salesforce) that help your nonprofit take donations are not credit payment processors themselves. This means it’s almost impossible to find one without a slight credit card processing fee associated with it. It’s important to understand the difference between the app company collecting a processing fee for themselves or offering access to payment processing via a third party who charges and collects a fee.

At the end of the day, it can be difficult to consider spending money to raise more of it, but it may be helpful to remember how time does equal money and credit cards are a convenience that comes with a cost. You could collect every donation by check in the mail, but someone would still have to spend time depositing the checks with the bank, which is the hidden cost of “free.”

How to choose the best donor management software

At Arkus, we make recommendations after detailed discovery and scoping sessions to help everyone understand exactly what functionality is needed. It’s a good idea to know your organizational needs before fully diving into possible options, but it can help to have an overview of choices out there before. Among the apps we’ve partnered with and helped clients implement are Classy, Click & Pledge, and Give Lively. Each of these is or has a free offering.

It can be difficult to compare them in the same way comparing cars can be tough. Is a truck that runs on diesel the same as a two-door electric car? They both have four wheels and get you from point A to B, but your exact needs will be specific to your organization. What matters isn’t the bells and whistles; it’s what you need it to DO. You wouldn’t use a sedan to haul freight.


Classy is perhaps the most well known fundraising platform for nonprofits at this time and for good reason. They can seemingly do it all. They support general donations, peer-to-peer fundraising, crowdfunding and event management. When it comes to cost, Classy has an option that is free to sign up for but clarifies, “the starter plan allows a nonprofit to create one donation form or one crowdfunding campaign without committing to an annual subscription fee.

This plan is typically used by smaller nonprofits or organizations looking to kick the tires before deciding on Classy Pro. The integration with Salesforce is not included in this offering.” There is also a 5% transaction fee for this plan, though organizations can invite their donors to cover this fee (and a vast majority of donors do).

Classy gives nonprofits the ability to fully customize and brand their campaign and donation pages, but it’s important to note that campaigns set up on the free plan will have a Classy URL instead of being white-labeled. Domain-masking is, however, a feature on Classy Pro.

This could mean that less web-savvy folks might question if they’re still in a secure payment-sending place or have clicked into a phishing site, but Classy’s custom questions on their donation checkout pages can help mitigate this. Classy has a strong following and we’ve helped many organizations get set up with them with great success.

Click & Pledge

Another option for nonprofits needing an all-in-one fundraising platform is Click & Pledge. They were the first to enter the Salesforce-integrated fundraising game and have 18 years of experience in the field. As of 2018, Click & Pledge uses a flat rate model, where access to everything on their platform is free and cost to use comes in a percent-per-transaction deduction, plus a small flat cost to process payments any day a donation is made.

Click & Pledge offers an established suite of features with many bells and whistles, including a new video feature called PledgeTV that lets users upload videos to donation pages. Basic support comes standard, and premium support comes at an additional cost.

Give Lively

Third on our shortlist, and newest to the nonprofit fundraising scene, is Give Lively. Give Lively is itself a philanthropic organization, funded by their founders, which means their free platform is not “too good to be true.” Molly Trerotola from the Give Lively team explains, “Our mission is to empower nonprofits, no matter their budget, to fundraise better online.

We fulfill this mission by building innovative fundraising tech and giving it away to nonprofits for free.” Give Lively partners with nonprofits to build out future (and “forever free”) features. They currently offer a simple Salesforce integration, as well as integrations with other platforms. Give Lively does enlist the help of Stripe to process payments, and Stripe collects a minimal processing fee from each transaction, but no money goes to the Give Lively team. Donors are also given the option to cover that Stripe cost and often choose to do so.

While Give Lively may not be a fit for certain organizations, but they encourage any interested nonprofit to reach out and take a look. At present their platform delivers unlimited fundraising pages, text-to-donate with live display, peer-to-peer functionality, event ticketing, and embeddable widgets. That includes a just-released streamlined widget designed in partnership with the Malala Fund that allows nonprofits to fundraise directly on their own websites.

Which donor management software is the best?

One of the nice things about a free app is that it makes it safe to check out the tool before you fully link it to Salesforce so you can make the call with little to no risk. While we have preferences, a nonprofit’s choice will depend on the unique needs of their organization.

The beauty of Salesforce is that it can be configured with clicks, not code, and further customized to a nonprofit’s exact needs with components and apps. A nonprofit interested in fundraising software is encouraged to do a bit of digging to get a feel for each offering out there and to talk to a consulting partner like Arkus about how to best meet your exact needs.

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