Reclaiming geekdom: making big data sexy

It’s time for Phil to come out of the closet. We’ve been waiting to share this one for a while and we are ready for non-profits to know.

Oh we’re coming out already… Big time.

Ok, ready?

We’re geeks.

There. We said it. And just so you know, we’re not always the cute kind of geek. Usually we’re the talk-your-ear-off, wagging our tails like Raven (our office dog), jumping up and down on our medicine ball chair excited about a new discovery in non-profit trends, or come across an article that shares many our suspicions about the non-profit ecosystem. It’s downright awesome and we wear our geekdom loud and proud.

So, why do we decide to share this with you now?

In the coming years, big data aggregating software used to track/ connect with donors and measure impact performance will become increasingly important for non-profits to understand. All non-profits, big and small, highly endowed and more intimate, need to become more tech literate.

But how can they when all of the articles and reports are so dry to anyone that isn’t a self-professed geek? Honestly, with everything on their plates we can’t blame the non-profit professionals for not taking the time to brush up on big data software trends and reports.

It’s up to us, the curious and friendly tech geeks to help make these softwares accessible by drawing the parallels between the answers non-profit professionals (NPP’s) need to fundraise effectively and the solutions that softwares offer.

So in our first tech article of this new year, here is Phil’s 2016 Making Data Sexy pledge: We promise to always do our best to make our geeky excitement for non-profit tech translate into articles that are easily-digested and comprehendible. We will attempt to bring big data alive by translating its applications to real life offline.

This article will take on that promise by reviewing a recent report.

Software Advice, a company that recommends software to other companies and organizations for over 280 software categories recently released their 2015 annual Fundraising and Donor Software Report. We like this report because it does just this. It shows what NPP’s want in their software. It also gives anecdotal analysis of the graphs! Like real people! Their research is based on a random sampling of thousands of NPP. As Phil evolves to include fundraising as one of our main services bolstering non-profit efficiency, we are learning about what non-profit professionals look for in their fundraising software.

Phil’s jump coincides with proven, ongoing shifts in the non-profit tech landscape. The necessity for non-profits to have big, applicable data proliferates all over the (trite) 2015 in-review and 2016 projection listicles–for example, here, here and here (from 2015 but still very relevant). Without it, the other biggest buzzword in 2016–donor loyalty–(here) is relatively impossible.

So naturally, we wanted specifics to dig into this trend. We want to know exactly how this differs from 2015 and where non-profit professionals are turning.

If you are a NPP and looking to either get or replace your current software, reading these findings can help you avoid buyer’s remorse when you realize that your software lacks a crucial ingredient reflected in the buying decisions of other professionals.

Here is what the report found.

Software Advice’s report conveys first three key measurements, all interesting (we’re biased).

  1. More functionality and the ability to upgrade an existing contract were the top drivers for 27% and 22% of buyers, respectively.

  2. 42% of buyers requested a built-in email marketing tool. This is a 133% increase from last year!!

  3. From the buyers that want fundraising software that integrates with another application, 57% want accounting integration.

Here’s their graph to accompany the first finding

phil graph

This graph represents the reasons why people changed their software. Therefore functionality and allowing the upgrading of a contract are absolutely mandatory when picking a software. While functionality is decidedly a vague descriptor, the key take-away from this metric it that it is important to test the software before making a purchase to ensure it fits your needs. The rest of the report also discusses many of the top functionalities NPP’s demand in a software.

The mandatory upgrade is somewhat irrelevant as it means that the software company is shifting operations and forcing the buyer to upgrade so they switch software providers. It isn’t factored into the purchase decision normally, but if the software company you are considering is in the midst of changing hands or is due for an upgrade, you may want to steer clear.

Email marketing!


As we already very well know, communications is a crucial aspect of fundraising. While automatic acknowledgements was listed as the top comms functionality in 2014, that has been enormously surpassed by email marketing which made the leap from 18% to 42% in 2015. Automatic acknowledgements still are important, but these can sometimes be incorporated into email marketing. With email marketing, what once took a team can now be managed by one person.

Automatic acknowledgements, Reporting, Campaign management


This graph reiterates what was learned in the above graph but adds the importance of reporting, campaign management, direct mail tools, online donation portal, event planning, and interaction tracking. 23% say that donor reporting is a “must have”. Campaign management includes campaign progress and cost across channels. Integration provides a way to keep detailed notes on all touch points with donors–including phone calls, events, in-person visits, digital and print mailings or other custom interaction types.

For example, when a donor comes by the non-profit to deliver checks and gifts, it’s difficult to track a follow-up with them or measure the amount of donations received this way. With interactions like this tracked, donors’ efforts don’t go unnoticed. NPP’s can also then track the major ways that donors interact with the organization and ensure that those touch points operate smoothly and efficiently.

Integration with accounting software

Out of the professionals who wanted their donor tracking software to integrate with other software, 57% requested integration with accounting software!


Integration with other softwares–specifically accounting–will ultimately reduce or eliminate the the need for duplicate data entry requirements. Users will be able to input contribution details in the fundraising and donor management system once, which then syncs that data with the accounting system.

Email marketing and other communication tools, reporting functionality, and integration with accounting software are the top requirements for donor software shown in this report from Software Advice. These findings make sense given NPP’s needs for fundraising.

We hoped this post was both informative and interesting! As our services helping clients understand their donor data options grows, expect more posts evaluating softwares. In the meantime, feel free to ask us questions about donor softwares, big data, or how to bring your operations into the second decade of the 21st century!

Contact us today: [email protected]