Is the Donor Management System Dead?


“In another 10 years, there will be no such thing as a donor management system.”


That’s what Tompkins Spann, Vice President of Business Development at KELL Partners in Austin, Texas, told me a few months ago as I was researching an article about donor management system trends for the Nonprofit Times. 
The statement was intentionally provocative and comes with the caveat that Spann and his colleagues at KELL focus their consulting exclusively on helping nonprofits work with Salesforce—a CRM system. But it also had a ring to truth to it. 
Other experts I spoke to talked about the “CRMization” of donor management systems or recounted how often they heard clients express a wish for an all-in-one system that includes marketing automation, fundraising, payment processing, website integration, volunteer management, and event management tools. There’s a current of dissatisfaction with the limitations of most donor management systems.
But is it possible? Can one system really provide everything an organization needs while still being affordable? How well can one vendor develop and maintain such a diverse range of tools? 
Some think Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT can pull it off. Others are betting that Salesforce and its massive AppExchange will offer an increasingly simple way to put together a customized system that has everything an organization needs.
At the heart of the problem is the question: How good is good enough? For example, it’s unlikely that a vendor will be able to offer an email tool that’s better than MailChimp, Constant Contact, and VerticalResponse. Are you willing to pay enterprise software prices for a second- or third-tier tool?
Integration is potentially a way around the problem of settling, but even with Salesforce, different tools and systems are not always good at communicating with each other and the power of your tool may be dimmed by the limitations of your integration. 
And for many small organizations, a CRM system might be too big and not user-friendly enough to entice them to switch. Tech consultants and IT geeks may be thrilled with the power of a system with multiple modules or integrations, but for people on the ground, smartphones and tablets have taught them that technology should be powerfully simple. What Tracy Kronzak of BrightStep Partners in San Francisco calls “button-click ease” is something we’re all starting to take for granted, but that’s not always easy to build, especially when not everyone wants to press the same buttons.
For now, the donor management system has an important place in the market. However, if vendors begin to cooperate to make integration easier or the individual tools continue to be commoditized and only slightly differentiated, we may see donor management systems scramble to become CRM systems or get squeezed out entirely. Maybe check back in about 10 years.
Learn More
For a rundown of the latest donor management system trends according to experts across the nonprofit technology community, read The Evolution of Donor Management and its Fundraising Future at the Nonprofit Times


Yes the DMS is dead! Introducing Engagement Management Systems

Disparate systems and databases are creating barriers to effective organizational management by requiring customizations, multiple systems, multiple databases, staff trained in multiple systems.

At ASI we see the problems not-for-profit organizations face and in response set out to build an "Engagement Management System" where almost everything that a not-for-profit organization needs to do can be done in one system; "one system engages everyone"; donors, members, volunteers, leadership, committees, boards etc.

Yes, the naysayers claim that it cannot be done, but that is the same mindset that brings our not-for-profit organizations silos, separate technology systems for each department (the fundraisers have their software, the marketers have theirs, so on and so forth), multiple databases and failed organization-wide systems when integrating the disparate systems fails. 

Creating a healthier team:  A system that encourages departments to work together in the same system creates an healthy working environment for the organization where cross training can readily occur because everyone uses the same system.  When leadership, when anyone in the organization for that matter, needs data to make decisions most of the data resides or can be imported into the same place making the creation of reports and dashboards easier.

Finally, big picture, while all organizations would like to raise more money, what most of them are telling is that long term this will happen if their donors and members are more engaged.  Increased engagement requires cross department cooperation, an organization-wide effort; this type of teamwork is inhibited when everyone has their own tools, process and data and besides the cost of ownership of a system with this many moving parts (disparate systems) is more costly.