6 Questions Every Nonprofit Needs to Ask Before Choosing an Online Fundraising Platform
Online Fundraising platforms can now let your organization raise money by producing live auctions, peer-to-peer fundraisers, text-to-give campaigns, and much more.
But which platform is right for your nonprofit and the type of fundraising event you want to host?
That’s the big question professional event planner and auctioneer Emily Quinn urges all of her clients to ask themselves before investing in any type of software.
“A lot of times, organizations will search for the platform before they even think about their event,” she says, adding nonprofits that do this can end up spending a lot of money on an overly complicated platform. “For me, that’s like finding the solution before you know what your problem is. What happens is you end up building your event around the solution that you have instead of finding the platform for the event you want to host.”
To keep your organization from incurring unnecessary expenses and problematic software, we’ve put together a list of six questions your nonprofit or charity event team should ask before choosing a platform for their in-person, virtual, or traditional fundraiser.
1. What features do you absolutely need on your fundraising platform?
Quinn finds many platform providers spend a lot of time during sales calls highlighting their platform’s features and talking about how their software lets users customize websites, build complex fundraising campaigns, design professional-looking documents, and more.
However, she cautions that nonprofits will need to pay for all of these “bells and whistles” whether they need them or not.
Moreover, to use these features, your event team will need to learn how to use the software, which can be time consuming and complicated.
Instead of being lured in by a sales pitch, Quinn advises the event team to focus on their gala goals and decide what they need their software to do before they go shopping.
In fact, Quinn finds that most nonprofits only need some very basic features in their online platforms to host successful fundraisers.
“With 99% of events, you really just need a way to get people to buy tickets, build a landing page, and track their movements across the systems,” she states. “I have not come across clients who are wanting to do something that PayBee is not able to do.”
Of course, some nonprofits – particularly big ones that need to brand and customize all their content — may need extra features to promote their fundraisers. As a rule, however, Quinn advises clients to only invest in what they need.
2. Will this fundraising platform lock you into a multi-year contract?
Some companies, like PayBee, offer transparent pricing with no hidden fees or contracts and allow nonprofits to hold unlimited events for two years after paying their entry fee. Other businesses require you to enter into a yearly or even multi-year contract to use their fundraising platform, something Quinn advises against.
“I do not believe in multi-year contracts,” she says. “If a company’s product or service is good enough, then your client will come back next year anyway.”
She recalls clients who’ve had to host their fundraisers on the same platform for years even after they discovered they didn’t need to use many of the features on the platform to host their galas. This locked them into paying high fees they didn’t need to.
By contrast, PayBee’s lack of contracts, coupled with its low platform fees for in-person, virtual, and hybrid events, gives nonprofits and charities the flexibility to test its services without any long-term obligations.
3. Do you really need to invest in an expensive fundraising platform?
“There’s a fallacy that happens a lot of times when big organizations are raising a lot of money and think they need to pay for a more expensive platform,” notes Quinn. “So, when I recommend PayBee, they’re like, ‘Oh, the entry point is just a few hundred dollars.’ But then I’ll point out they probably don’t need to pay for all the services that this other platform is offering.”
Given that some companies can charge nonprofits over a thousand dollars to use their fundraising platforms, it’s to an organization’s advantage to understand the range of prices different providers charge — and the features that come with this expense.
This is particularly relevant to smaller nonprofits with limited budgets. When you’re just looking to host a basic virtual fundraising event that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles other online platforms offer, a platform that offers basic features will be easier to use — and lighter on the wallet.
Keep in mind that expenses can come from other places as well. Some companies charge higher processing fees for online donations based on how much a fundraising event makes. Thus, a smaller nonprofit that may only raise a few thousand dollars at their event may actually end up paying more in fees than a larger organization capable of raising two or three times as much.
To avoid taking on these extra expenses, see if your platform offers the option to pass on processing fee charges to your donors. PayBee provides you with this feature — and we’ve found that 90% of the time, most donors are more than happy to take on this expense.
4. How simple is the onboarding and learning process?
For this reason, Quinn advises clients not to choose platforms that contain multiple features they don’t need to use in their fundraisers.
“You want the onboarding and learning process to be as smooth as possible,” she states. “When you have platforms that do a lot of things, that means the user interface is going to be more complicated. And that’s not what your tiny nonprofit needs to be dealing with.”
One good way to judge for yourself how easy a platform is to learn is to register for a demonstration of the software. By experiencing first hand how well you can familiarize yourself with a fundraising platform, you’ll have a better idea of how well your event team and guests will take to it.
Learning the type of training resources that a company provides to assist in the onboarding process is also important. Some companies, like PayBee, offer video tutorials and walkthroughs as well as how-to articles and live customer support.
5. How available is the customer service team?
Even with excellent training resources and a user-friendly platform, issues can arise when an event team is getting familiar with new fundraising software.
At times like these, it’s important for you to know you can reach out to your company’s customer service team and receive help from an actual person and not just an online resource.
“I’ve always been really impressed with PayBee’s customer service and ability to educate the client,” states Quinn. “If at any point you’re having any trouble, instead of sending an email telling you to contact customer service, most of the time someone at PayBee will say, ‘Oh, let me help you with that.’”
6. What do other clients say about the platform?
It’s always helpful to do your own research on a fundraising platform before approaching the company to see what past clients have had to say about the software — both good and bad.
Spend some time reading online reviews of different platforms. Become familiar with the pros and cons other users have noted about the software and think about how this could affect your fundraiser.
One very important thing to watch out for when assessing fundraising platforms is how easily people can make donations with the software.
Some guests who have attended multiple fundraisers hosted on the same online platform have found the system can mistakenly send them to past online events instead of the current fundraiser.
They also have a hard time updating their information, which can make checking out and even donating money an issue.
Since the entire purpose of a fundraising platform is to encourage donations, making sure your software can recognize all of your guests and facilitate their payments is extremely important. Take into account the past experiences of others to make sure your future fundraisers will perform smoothly.
These days, fundraising software allows nonprofits and charities to host any number of virtual and hybrid events — from luncheons to live auctions to major concerts.
However, rather than get caught up in the possibilities of your next virtual fundraiser, make sure your event team narrows down the needs of your next benefit. Decide what you want to accomplish and what type of technical features and support you need to host a successful gala.
Doing this helps narrow down your search and create the questions you need to ask a company when the time comes for you to look for an online fundraising platform. It’ll help you avoid unnecessary expenses and ensure that you have the proper support team in place to help you hold your fundraiser.
Looking for a place to start? PayBee offers a free demo of its fundraising platform that lets you experience first-hand what your supporters and donors will enjoy during your virtual fundraiser. You’ll be able to participate in a mock live auction and ask your questions to our team of experts. Sign up for a free demo and find out for yourself if our platform is right for you!