Before You Even Call A Vendor: Know The 3 Buckets of Nonprofit Marketing Tech

Before Googling Nonprofit Technology Options

Buying the software to power your nonprofit is an intimidating task. Your ability to fund-raise, advocate, and create meaningful change rely on this one big choice.  Not to mention it is usually one of the largest costs for an organization. In this article, we get a fresh perspective from LeadPup on how to classify and steps to take before calling a nonprofit technology provider which specializes in marketing technology. 

The Wrong Way to Buy NP Marketing Tech

In a hurried rush to alleviate their current CRM bottleneck, or even mish-mash of cheaper software solutions, organizations will often start searching the web for every product that looks like it could do the trick.  Unfortunately, this often leads to time wasted and the wrong software choice.

Make your search more efficient and effective.  This saves you time and money throughout your tech search, and more importantly, allows your organizations to improve its fundraising and communications.  And of course, better execute on your mission.

Understand This Framework BEFORE You Look at a Single NP TECH Vendor

All-In-One NP Tech for Marketing 

AIO, All-In-One, solutions attempt to support an entire marketing organization with a single platform. The value of an AIO solution is easily calculated by determining the extent to which the system supports each of the critical marketing functions that an organization requires. Often, when a marketing team selects an AIO solution, the tool works well to meet the program’s needs; however, if the organization’s marketing program evolves and the AIO solution is not improved at an equal pace, the value of the system can plummet quickly.

In the nonprofit (NP Tech) space, a dozen viable AIO solutions have been on the market for the last 15 years. While there are of course exceptions, entry level AIO systems can cost a minimum of $10,000 to deploy and as little as little as several hundred dollars per month for marketers with small email lists. Sophisticated organizations should expect to pay six figures to support deployment and integration, with monthly costs ranging from $500 to $50,000 per month in software fees. 

We feel that AIO solutions are good solutions for organizations whose programs are fairly simple or are relatively new. They allow organizations to fix their investment in marketing technology, while maximizing their options for the team or internal staff who manage the system. 

Examples: Blackbaud Luminate, Engaging Networks, Salsa 


Best-In-Class, BIC solutions, provide organizations with the strongest, most unfettered options for the components of their marketing technology stack. Many BIC solutions are deployed to accept data from hundreds of different sources and deliver upwards of thousands of campaign files on a monthly basis.

The vast majority of organizations that use BIC solutions contract with a vendor who procures, deploys, and manages all of the technology and marketing services associated with the stack. The solutions involve the integration of strong commercial software applications along with proprietary code to support things like consumer data integration. The BIC solution does what it says, offering the customer the best possible options for all pieces of the marketing tech stack.

These solutions are used from mid-sized retailers to leading insurance companies but, to a much lesser degree, large nonprofit organizations. BIC solutions cost between $500,000 to $1,000,000 to deploy and anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 per month for support and technology.

BIC solutions are best for marketing organizations that manage established, sophisticated programs across many different media and channels. Their cost for performance is best realized by marketing organizations that have extremely high volumes of consumer and transactional data files coming into the system. Lastly, organizations that use these systems tend to be managing 100+ campaigns across media per month.

Examples: Jackson River Springboard


Best-Of-Breed, BOB solutions, attempt to provide organizations greater performance through broad choice of the components used across the stack. A BOB solution is often anchored around one open and flexible component in the stack – usually the contact or campaign management component.

The consumer data integration, promotion, and public facing forms are integrated into the anchor application. A high quality BOB solution can provide greater performance than an AIO solution for a similar cost after the initial deployment and configuration is complete. BOB solutions can be deployed with a progressive strategy that allows new components to be added or replaced over time, as a marketing program evolves.

BOB solutions are most successful when adequate resources are allocated for ongoing support and change management. This support is most often provided to organizations by a 3rd party vendor who provides strong support for change management.

Budget wise, they are best for organizations that can afford a deployment cost of several hundred thousand dollars and $20,000 to $40,000 per month in software costs and support services.

BOB solutions are best for marketing organizations that are rapidly innovating or are dedicating significant resources to improving an established program. They are often best for programs that focus on relatively few promotional media (i.e. email and direct mail) and have a moderate volume of campaigns (e.g. 15 per month).

Examples: EveryAction

The 3 Buckets – Side-by-Side Comparison of NP Tech for Marketing

In the chart below, we compare the three types of nonprofit marketing technology solutions with each of the major components of marketing technology. These are of course generalizations, but having reviewed and built hundreds of software applications and solutions, we are confident that these assumptions hold true for the NP Tech community.

Compare Nonprofit Donor Fundraising Software

Applying This Framework – Pick Your NP Tech Solution Type

  1. Identify which features are most critical to your organization (green boxes).
  2. Start your search by identifying these features in a software solution (perhaps starting with a list from SmartThought Solutions…).
  3. Use Those Free Trials!!  Never make such an important decision without getting your hands dirty in the program. 
  4. Make Your Purchase!
  5. Take advantage of all services to help you migrate your data.  You just paid a lot of money, get all the support you deserve. 
  6. Get back to work – knowing that your tech will help, not hinder your cause!

We are proud to offer this great content on NP Tech written by LeadPup. Who is LeadPup? LeadPup helps organizations find and cultivate strong donor and membership leads.  We also regularly produce resources to help nonprofits with their marketing.  Join us here to learn more.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts mind.

NPTECH reviews and reports

Virtuous CRM Software For Nonprofits Review

Virtuous CRM Software Review for nonprofits

Isn’t it time to drop kick your outdated donor management software system for something virtuous!?  If so, the team at Virtuous CRM For Nonprofits believes that they have the best All-in-One donor & fundraising CRM for your nonprofit.

Virtuous CRM Software Review

In our ongoing “Search of a Nonprofit CRM Software Series”, we have prepared a quick look at Virtuous CRM, a nonprofit Constituent Relationship Management Software. This tool helps charities create personal relationships, reduce costs and maximize impact. For those interested in learning more about Virtuous CRM, we are available to share with you are thoughts about the donor fundraising software and how it fits in the donor database software market today.

In addition, we have curated, interviewed, and prepared more detailed information for executives employed in the not for profit industry to set up a time to discuss as well. Our agnostic insights and software reports are designed for those who would like fair and objective insights into the capabilities of this CRM software for nonprofit program.

Introduction to Virtuous CRM Software:

The needs of the modern nonprofit have changed just as much as the software industry in the last two decades. Unfortunately, charities are often asked to to accept an archaic donor management systems or traditional CRMs built for sales instead of generosity.

With so many donor database software programs in the market today, it is often hard to discern the best fit. The good news is that nonprofits don’t have too. Virtuous is the nonprofit CRM helping charities raise more money, inspire more action and do more good. With Virtuous, they aim to help accelerate a charity by helping them see donors as relationships instead of transactions.

When asked about the name, here is the response from David Cady, CRM Evangelist, at Virtuous:

“We believe that fundraising and the nature of what we support is a high-calling and endeavor to admire. With our name we wanted to bring a human and compassionate element to donor management software”.

From all accounts, Virtuous provides an elegant and easy-to-use donor software designed to serve your entire staff – but feature-rich enough to meet even complex fundraising needs.

An example of going beyond the options in the market, Virtuous CRM contains marketing automation features. These features are designed specifically to help nonprofit staff reduce costs while increasing generosity using best practice templates and the ability measure & optimize. Simply put, unlike many other donor databases which have email marketing, Virtuous goes beyond just email to provide full moves management-style email automation PLUS the ability to automate tasks, tags and other data.

Virtuous CRM Marketing Automation Examples

Another advanced aspect of this tool is the blending of Social and financial data inside the analytics. Users can see how they’re connected to givers geographically or by social network. Using this data, the Virtuous CRM dashboard will suggest next steps with each giver based on financial data and relational data. So, Virtuous Software will suggest when to ask for a gift, and what amount, but it could also suggest you invite someone to a fundraiser or informational meeting. Cool stuff!

Purpose Statement from Virtuous CRM: 

Virtuous is set out to fundamentally change how nonprofits interact with their donors. Their software can enable you to tell your story at scale. You are able to make personal connections with your next 10,000 donors in the same way you did for your first 10. Virtuous does this by taking givers financial data, social data, and giving patterns to intelligently recommend the next best ask for each giver. This allows you to intelligently manage your interactions so your fundraising effort creates the most value for the organization. Virtuous creates an accountable and sustainable environment that fosters human connections and a relationship first organization.

“Their relational tools allow you to understand your donors and where you have common interests, based on publicly available information as well as the information gathered over the relationship as it’s been built,” said Tj Abood of Access Ventures, and investor in Virtuous Software.

Key Functional Areas of Virtuous CRM: 

All the functional areas of Virtuous CRM are developed with the following benefits in mind: save staff time and grow giving, allowing your organization to get to know your donors, tracking engagement, and getting the data your executives need to make decisions better.

The three main functional areas of the CRM system are:

  1. Donor Management for Elegant and easy-to-use donor software designed to serve your entire staff – but feature-rich enough to meet your complex fundraising needs.
  2. Marketing Automation / Moves Management: Marketing automation platform designed specifically to help nonprofit staff reduce costs while increasing generosity.
  3. Online Giving: Virtuous includes several options for a fully-integrated, digital giving experience. From complex giving requirements such as in-kind donations and stock gifts, to simple forms to accept credit cards at an industry low cost.

Key Features of Virtuous Fundraising Software: 

  • Suggested gift asks – and suggested ‘relational’ asks – help prompt you to make the right ask as the right time
  • Full Marketing automation to personalize donor communications and outreach based on unique donor profiles
  • Social media scraping with social profiles embedded
  • Donor scoring based on relational and giving capacity
  • Impact updates for projects – Track funding goals/impact, and even expenses, for projects you fund
  • Identify givers by their passions, persona, group affiliations or communication preferences

Where does Virtuous CRM Fit?

The company is targeting nonprofits between with $500,000 to $1 million in revenue. In other words, the “SMB” of nonprofits.

When asked where Virtuous fits, the response from David Cady was the following:

We work exclusively with nonprofits, and the best fit is organizations who have a variety of funding sources, but most importantly a diverse amount of individual givers.

Virtuous Fundraising Software Visual: 

Virtuous CRM for Nonprofit Review

Is Virtuous The Best CRM Software? 

We don’t espouse to the belief that there is “one best CRM” for everyone. But, Virtuous CRM may very well be your best fit.

However, to answer this question with certainty, we need to know more about what makes you unique. And, discuss other insights about this platform which we have curated, clients interviewed, and discuss more detailed information beyond just this summary.

Please know that our detailed analysis and expertise is available upon request. To be sure, our software analysis is not a “pretty brochure”, “marketing noise.” or a “sales pitch.”

Rather, we provide a free objective dialogue and insights designed to help nonprofit executives make a smarter software business decision.

If you are interested in some help with reviewing your options and comparisons, please check out our “vendor matching” services here.

Want More CRM Software Reviews?

Please stay tuned to our ongoing “Searching for A Smart CRM Software” where we will continue to provide further insights into membership database software options designed for our 501(c) 6 membership focused organizations.

For the most recent published reviews, please click below:

And, to obtain a sample list of the database software reviews we have, you may follow the link here 

If you work for an AMS or CRM database software system and you would like us to include your firm in our software review process, please contact us.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind. Happy Software Buying!

virtuous crm software review for nonprofits


Super Tip: Join The Software Users Group

Database Software User Groups

In our search to secure the best software database, we tend to seek just the right features to help achieve our mission. Right? We buy software so that we can increase efficiency, improve our ability to serve our members and donors, and gain measurable results. Surprisingly, support, documentation, culture, and community are far down on the list. In this article, I discuss the impact of a software users group in order to increase the happiness of users and their productivity.

The Impact of Software Users Group

Software Users Groups include people meeting and discussing how they use their software solution. Whether it’s a simple online forum or a large event where your surrounded by like minded individuals, you will derive measurable value in participating in the community of your software. The medium may be an in-person meet-up, conferences, training sessions and boot camps.

In my 20 years of experience in the software industry, I have seen the net benefit of software users groups on the entire community. Although anecdotal evidence, here is what I believe is the impact:

  • Users are much happier and more engaged.
  • Users use the tool more often and also get more value out of the product.
  • Users become more efficient and produce higher value with using the software.
  • Users have better expectations with regards to the software capabilities now and in the future.

Obtaining Support & Answers From The Software Users Group

It doesn’t matter what software you use. We all from time to time get frustrated, right! With access to a software users group, before picking up the phone and paying for tech support again, a software users group will provide you a third level of support to answer your question. At a bare minimum, an online community provided by a software vendor or independent users group can help you find an outlet to get situations resolved independently.

There is an interesting thing about online communities to note. You will find software users there but you may also enjoy the value of knowing that a software support team is also likely lurking to help answer your questions too. So, if you are having a tough time convincing your Executive Director to pay for membership to a software users group, tell him that one call or tip could save the organization several hundred dollars each year.

Professional Development & Education via The Software User Group

The software users groups mission is primarily to provide a means to be educated and develop your skills with the software. Like iron sharpens iron, so to do users sharpen themselves with training.

A larger convention form affords you one to one direct interaction with fellow software users from other organizations faced with similar challenges but provides access to industry experts to provide you with the training, education, and tips to save both you and your organization time and money.

Beyond the conference, many offer onsite training throughout the year. Higher Logic User Group (HUG) has frequent activities on a regional and national basis. Their group fosters and online and offline community to help users solve problems, network and improve productivity via training.

NiUG International, iMIS user’s group, hosts both workshops and conferences each year in various locations throughout the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe. The format for training usually includes a curriculum for learning in the form of in-person training classes, followed by the users conference which consists of several general breakout sessions on topical issues surrounding iMIS and related products which may be used by the community too. They have awards and after hour events for all to enjoy!

Informz,marketing automation software provider, has their own SuperFan Summit. They provide a two day educational forum for users. I was informed (pardon the pun) that this year, it will include three tracks on one session day — marketing, design, and tech — and a full day of hands-on training on day two.

From online, local, and conferences formats, professional development and education by users for users is critical to software success.

A Direct Voice to the Software Vendor 

Make your voice heard! While performing a software assessment, I hear often, “I was told the software couldn’t do that”. I play devils advocate quite a bit in the software assessment process because I know that often times organizations desire to drop kick their existing system before they have all the facts. Participating in a software users group provides you with a direct line to the software vendor to know what is on the product road map but also affords you the opportunity to ask for a feature too.

Some software users groups have a formal Product Advisory Committee (PAC). This group usually has a great working relationship with software vendor. It is generally thru this type of relationship; participating members can impact and make changes and enhancements to their product- maximizing their investment.

Recent Experiences at Users Conferences 

This past month, I was grateful to be invited to “Xperience 2016”, YourMembership’s Annual Users Conference in Florida. At this particular conference, attendees participated in multiple sessions on upcoming features and product road map announcements. The education sessions were great. Every session was packed and the questions were always applicable to almost everyone in attendance. I even overheard several folks say, “I wanted to go to that session, but I just didn’t have enough time”.

YourMembership’s company leaders were available for everyone to mingle with and talk to. So, every participant had a direct line of communication to the CEO and other Executives to voice their opinion on what was important to them. This is valuable access which will provide ongoing success for all parties participating in such a venue.

Earlier this year, I was also thankfully invited to attend the Abila Users conference in Austin. Abila’s conference was filled with complimentary software vendors who supported their product lines, training tracks for the various products, & general sessions comprised of company news and product road map announcements. At the end of the product road map session, Abila had a live “voting” for the top product enhancements expressed by the attendees along with a piece on “what items were completed” from last year.

Personally, I was pleased to go to Act-On Software, marketing automation software provider, “iHeartmarketing” users group. It gave me the opportunity to network and mingle with other Act-On users and success managers, so I could sharpen my own skills.

I am looking forward to attending Nimble Users, Nimblepalooza, Bloomerangs, BloomCon, and many other software user conferences in the future. I hope to be able to go to more!

Super Tip, Community Collaboration Counts

Yes, the features and capabilities of the software are important in your software search. I understand. But, I believe with many others that there is more to a successful software match than just the features found on that comparison score sheet.

Looking for signs of commitment by the software vendor should be equally important in your search for a partner. It is so incredibly important to look at a vendors support, documentation, community & even involvement of the software users. In my opinion, a software users group (supported by a software vendor or independent) is good evidence of long term viability and continued maturation of a software database.

Super tip: Don’t overlook the power of a software users group!

For more information, please contact us. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

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