Today’s seamless digital connectivity has empowered non-profit organizations to mobilize various mission-driven initiatives at a scale never seen before. This significant awakening in philanthropy has spurred people and society at large to make notable steps to assist the communities and causes they care about—the most prominent of which include environmental protection, poverty eradication, medical research, and education.

As noted by the National Philanthropic Trust, the latest annual report by Giving USA highlighted that charitable giving at home reached a whopping $471.44 billion in 2020—a 5.1% increase from the previous year. As the social consciousness to uplift those at risk continues to take hold, an increasing number of non-profits turn to software technology to cultivate better strategic planning and resource management.

However, given the limited operating funds available, many non-profits remain hesitant about developing their own custom solution and instead rely on generic business software to carry out their operations. While the off-the-shelf kind can certainly get the job done, unfortunately, its inherent lack of integration and interoperability severely limits the scope of what non-profits can achieve. And in the long run, this translates to higher operating expenses and inefficiency—belying its initial purpose.

Conversely, a custom solution allows non-profits to bridge the existing gaps in their operations with necessary system integrations—automating various processes to keep the expenses at the minimum. However, customizing your own non-profit software is a huge decision, and there are several crucial aspects to consider before taking the leap. With that said, here are five reasons why custom software is the best investment your non-profit can make.

Keeping track of solicitation touchpoints

Cultivating a trusting relationship with donor prospects is crucial for two reasons: to convert them into staunch supporters of your cause and to maintain a steady flow of funds into your operation. To reach these end goals, you must establish consistent touchpoints across the donor relationship lifecycle, from awareness and acquisition to retention and stewardship. These touchpoints consist of virtual channels like your website, drip email marketing campaigns, newsletters, and social media posts, as well as direct engagements like activation events, partnerships, media coverage, phone calls, and direct mails.

Activating these touchpoints across campaigns can be difficult with just a conventional approach. Fortunately, bespoke software lets you easily organize and deploy your communication channels all in one platform. With a custom solution, you can create a data-rich dashboard that monitors the progress of each prospect and prescribes the most appropriate engagement avenues based on their level of interest. By filtering your prospects in this fashion, you can hone a sharper focus on your solicitation effort with the right message to the right people on any device.

Efficient constituent management

A non-profit’s success in fulfilling its founding mission hinges on strong management of its inventory, finances, and workforce. As resource constraints loom over the non-profit landscape, the need for lean operations, thus, becomes inevitable. As a solution, non-profits may invest in custom software programs to simplify complex logistical processes and improve coordination among staff members and other important stakeholders.

To start with, you can implement a CRM (constituent relationship management) system to store and track all the vital information about your organization’s members, volunteers, partners, and donors. By centralizing this information in a secure database, you can gain a holistic view of your constituents and their behaviors based on their past activities and relationships with other stakeholders. Moreover, these vital insights can help you tailor on-ground activations, such as community outreach programs, volunteering opportunities, and fundraising events, at the most opportune time to create a bigger impact. The system’s high customizability also means that you can add custom modules and features as necessary to support your expanding initiatives.

Our experience in developing proprietary CRM software for WTCA (World Trade Centers Association), a not-for-profit trading and investment association, aptly exemplifies the management efficiency explained above. During the first phase of the project alone, the bespoke software solution successfully doubled the organization’s membership engagement rate and improved the precision of its real-time data verification processes by nearly 95%. In addition, the software solution reduced the organization’s hosting and licensing costs by almost two-thirds, thanks to further optimization introduced to various functions across the system.

Automated bookkeeping and reporting

Demonstrating accountability is central to non-profits’ overall conduct as their revenue primarily comes from grants and donations provided by generous benefactors. To maintain transparency, these organizations must keep track of their cash flows through proper bookkeeping and constituent reporting. This often means that they need a robust reporting system that can automatically track incoming donations across solicitation activities, offer comprehensive financial summaries and other critical insights for periodic reporting, and streamline grant requests and approvals for eligible recipients. In some cases, certain funding pipelines necessitate adherence to a welter of reporting procedures, which are manually tedious and only navigable with an advanced accounting tool.

Due to these bureaucratic intricacies, your non-profit stands a better chance at meeting your reporting needs with a customized accounting program. An ideal software design would typically provide a host of functionalities to make your life easier, such as a multifaceted matrix of financial accounts, fraud prevention mechanisms, and auditable accounting records. You can also set up your software to comply with the FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) reporting guidelines and integrate it with existing programs, such as CRM, fundraising software, and even proprietary charity apps.

More effective fundraising

Custom fundraising software allows you to quickly raise more money to fund your operations. It can do so by keeping tabs on past transactions, mapping out the underlying trends from those activities, and highlighting the ones with the most successful outreach. The data gleaned from this process serves as a critical reference point on how to cultivate your constituents in future fundraising efforts.

More importantly, a well-designed custom solution can expedite various labor-intensive tasks so the staff can focus on more high-value objectives. To illustrate, upon receiving a donation from a benefactor, your non-profit can assign an automated system to send an email or a text message to acknowledge the contribution, update the ledger with a new journal entry, and record the transaction for reporting purposes. Besides cutting down overheads, this process dramatically eliminates human error during data input.

Likewise, custom software must be equipped with clever features to handle unique digital transactions, including in-kind donations, membership plans, matching gifts, and pledge fundraising.

Boosting donor retention and engagement

Nothing is more rewarding for donors than knowing their hard-earned money goes to a noble cause. Providing feedback is crucial to retain their support and motivate them to make similar donations in the future. To that end, good custom software ensures that each contribution receives a well-tailored token of acknowledgment, ranging from a simple thank you note and, in some cases, a retail voucher to an award and a commemorative plaque. 

Interestingly, non-profits can enhance donor engagement through many creative strategies. The most effective method is to connect donors with a community through powerful storytelling. By visualizing the data with digestible content and putting a human face to a cause, you can invoke your constituents’ genuine sympathy and awareness, which would then manifest into a commitment and a tangible action. Another effective strategy is to gamify the giving experience by pairing certain milestones with unique reward points or scores every time a donor reaches a certain target.

Custom software is a powerful tool to bring your philanthropic mission to fruition—broadening your non-profit’s scope of operations and outreach with sophisticated processes and systems. With custom software, your organization can secure more sustainable funding, foster better rapport with your supporters, and maintain transparency to your stakeholders. While all of these benefits are certainly within your reach, developing this ingenious technology from scratch involves careful planning, research, and strong technical proficiency—an endeavor that requires a trusted expert to guide you through every step.

Need to develop custom software for your non-profit? Reach out to us with your development inquiries, and let us build the solution that matches your organizational needs.

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Client Success Manager

Sindhu is a tenacious and impassioned digital product and project manager specializing in driving client success across complex healthcare technology implementations and integrations. She is a certified Agile Scrum Master and holds advanced degrees in computer science and software engineering. Her philosophy is that “work is where the heart is” and believes the key to success is creating a solid, supportive, and cohesive team.