Fund-Raising Software: A Raised Profile


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It’s no longer an afterthought to fund accounting.

On the one hand, a shaky economy is making it tougher than ever for nonprofit organizations to get would-be donors to open their wallets. On the other hand, the government has increased its scrutiny of not-for-profit financial statements in the wake of September 11 and the unprecedented outpouring of charitable donations-and the questions that arose as to where exactly all the money was going. The combination is proving a boon for fund-raising software.

“I’ve noticed an increase in organizations looking for donor tracking. I see it a lot more on Request For Proposals,” says Linda O’Neal, manager of Finley & Cook, an Intuit FundWare partner and Shawnee, Okla.-based accounting firm. She adds, “With larger organizations, the fund-raising can even drive the [software] purchase.”

Partner Insights

Finley & Cook, which also implements fund accounting packages from AccuFund and Serenic Software, counts tribal organizations, college foundations, and religious societies among its not-for-profit client base. A lackluster economy is spurring demand for fund-raising solutions, suggests O’Neal. “Now funds are harder to raise, so [NFPs] need to be more efficient. Software can be a real enhancement,” by making it easier to do group mailings and track donors.

eTapestry Weaves a Referral Net

Indianapolis-based eTapestry has enlisted approximately 150 channel partners for its Consultant Referral Program, "probably 10 to 15 percent" of which are CPA firms, notes chief executive and co-founder Jay Love.
The eTapestry offering is an online, subscription-based package for tracking donors, prospects, or alumni while managing gifts, pledges, and payments. NFPs with five hundred to a thousand donor records pay a basic monthly fee of $31 for one user and Web support.
Referral partners, who also include direct-mail houses as well as fund-raising and technical consultants, register prospects online in exchange for a referral fee. Consultants commit to participating in eTapestry product Webinars. There are also about fifteen resellers in the U.S. and Canada who need to commit to training, a full-time dedicated employee, specified marketing activities, and an agreed-on number of orders in the first year.
Nonprofits are turning to the Web because "the vast majority have no IT expertise [in-house] or help available to them," according to Love. He cites studies that indicate as many as 92 percent of NFPs in the U.S. have operating budgets below $500,000. He notes that eTapestry runs on "security-hardened" systems. "Nobody in the nonprofit world can afford to provide this kind of security in-house," he says.
Founded in 1999, eTapestry is nearing three thousand customers, of whom a third pay nothing since they have fewer than five hundred donor records. "It's our way to give back to the sector," remarks Love. But there's often a return on that investment. "It's become a real feeder system," he notes. "As they become more successful, they add more records and they become paying customers."

Fund-raising packages are also highlighting their enhanced reporting capabilities to ensure compliance with FASB 116 and 117 rules covering NFP financial statements and revenue recognition. “Accurate reporting is critical for nonprofits to continue to win grants and donations,” states Kent Hollrah, president of Best Software’s Nonprofit and Government Division based in Austin, Texas. He adds, “This was vital to nonprofits even before the current focus on corporate responsibility spilled over to the nonprofit world.”

There’s been a flurry of activity among the accounting community to satisfy this spike in demand for automated fund-raising. Developments include:

● Best has strengthened its fund-raising arsenal through a pair of acquisitions over the last year. The purchase of KTS Group brought into the fold both GT Pro, for small and mid-sized nonprofits including Jewish Federations, and the Rainbow campaign management package for United Way divisions. The earlier purchase of JSI Fundraising Systems gave Best access to Paradigm for smaller NFPs, and to the upper-end, Web-based Millennium package, which typically supports twenty-five to hundreds of employees and campaigns exceeding $100 million.

● Cougar Mountain Software recently joined forces with Manchester, N.H.-based Campagne Associates to develop a link between their respective Cougar Mountain Fund Accounting Suite and GiftMaker Pro. The latter handles donor management, as well as event, volunteer, and membership tracking.

● Serenic Navigator (originally marketed as Fund Accounting for Navision) will be joined any moment by a donor management module, according to Serenic president Jay Malik. Pricing will start at $15,000 for a five-user system. “There are some pretty compelling reasons why prospects are looking for an integrated solution,” notes Malik. These include being able to drill down to a donor subledger when running a financial statement, and being able to integrate in-kind contributions (such as a donated car) with Fixed Assets.

● Signaling the increasing verticalization within the NFP marketplace, Blackbaud has formed a new division for nonprofits that both raise money and sell tickets. In a related move, the Charleston, S.C.-based vendor acquired the assets of Intelitix, whose patron management software is targeted to performing arts organizations.

● On the low end, the brand new QuickBooks Nonprofit Edition features basic fund-raising capabilities such as entering donation receipts, tracking donors and outstanding pledges, entering to-do memos when following up with donors, and generating both fund-raising and thank you letters. Specialized reports include Biggest Donors and Overall Donors/Grants.

Nonprofits, large and small, are likely to welcome this opportunity for greater choice. As Jacqueline Tiso, president of MIP business partner JMT Consulting Group, headquartered in Brewster, N.Y., observes, “In today’s economy, with funding cuts and greater numbers going after the same limited pool of giving, raising money is a vitally important ability of an NFP to survive.”

Fund-Raising Software Solution Vendors

Development/Fund Raising Management
Needham, Mass.
(877) 872-2228

Ansin Technology Group
Specialized Office Solutions
Newton, Mass.
(866) 322-4530

FastFund Raising/iDonate
Cary, N.C.
(919) 319-1770

NonprofitBooks Office
(312) 492-3900

Best Software Nonprofit and Government Division
GT Pro, Millennium, Paradigm, Rainbow
Austin, Texas
(800) 811-0961

Raiser's Edge
Charleston, S.C.
(800) 443-9441

Campagne Associates
GiftMaker Pro
Manchester, N.H.
(800) 582-3489

Encore Business Solutions
FundVision, Grant Management
Winnipeg, Manitoba
(204) 989-4330

(317) 513-8000

Executive Data Systems
Donor Records
Marietta, Ga.
(800) 272-3374

Fund E-Z Development
Fund E-Z
White Plains, N.Y.
(914) 696-0900

Serenic Software
Serenic Navigator/Donor Management
Lakewood, Colo.

Fort Washington, Pa.

Amherst, N.Y.
(800) 442-9211

Palo Alto, Calif.
(800) 676-5831

Automated donor management can give a nonprofit the competitive edge it needs, suggests Tiso. “Using the ‘giving’ information to understand why donors contribute allows fund-raisers to personally target their solicitations and provide a better cause for bigger gifts,” she explains.

It could be, of course, that a hands-on development executive scrupulously remembers all this information. But what if he or she leaves? Tiso indicates yet another reason to go with automation. “Fund-raising software is a critical foundation for the NFP [in that it functions as] an insurance policy that donors, their interests, and their history are not forgotten.”

Build, Buy, or Partner

Only a few software houses offer an all-in-one fund-raising/accounting package. One that does is White Plains, N.Y.-based Fund E-Z Development, which markets an integrated solution for $1,980 that provides basic donor, gift, and pledge tracking. The company is adding built-in word processing abilities to facilitate merges.

Most of the leading accounting software publishers in fact rely on vertical partners to provide fund accounting and fund-raising functionality. Microsoft Business Systems, for instance, has several fund-raising partnerships in place, such as its alliance with Canada’s Encore Business Solutions for integrations between Great Plains Edition and both FundVision and Grant Management.

Then there’s the acquisition route pursued by Best Software. Best’s portfolio of fund-raising packages-GT Pro, Rainbow, Paradigm, and Millennium-not only integrate with, but also provide a complementary migration path to its NPS Intro, NPS Pro, and Advantage NonProfit Series fund accounting solutions. So far, only Paradigm is available through qualified resellers, although Best is “actively preparing” its VARs to sell and install GT Pro as well. The high-end Millennium package will continue to be sold directly “for the immediate future,” according to Hollrah.

Even the smallest nonprofits need to automate their fund-raising these days, contends Hollrah. “A nonprofit invests in fund-raising software to increase their revenue, not just record it,” he says. “The gift processing features offered by the MIP fund-raising product line allow the management of very complex structures of pledges, donations, memorial gifts, even grants and endowment management.”

NFP Technologies in Monument, Colo., a MIP reseller, is already handling Paradigm. Managing partner Jim Gifford is predicting it will be a hot seller because “You not only can set up attributes, but you can actually report off those attributes. That’s big. Also, the volunteer and events modules are pretty powerful.”

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