Sunday, July 18, 2010

A New Online Fundraising Management Database and Tool Offers Easy Fundraisng & Social Media Management, Too, But...

My husband is a techie and on Mashable , this weekend, he spotted a new online fundraising tool that combines fundraising software, a donations/donor database, and a social media fundraising system combined into one "easy to use" online fundraising tool called Stay Classy (and though it does not matter...the name really bothers me).  Stay Classy refers to social media fundraising like raising donations through a nonprofit's website, a nonprofit's Twitter account, or a nonprofit's Facebook account, etc. as "social fundraising".  To quote the Stay Classy Site Demo video, "Social fundraising happens when an individual taps into their own personal network to raise funds on behalf of a organization or cause."

Stay Classy is in a Beta or trial stage, currently, but is being used (or tested) by some large nonprofits such as the American Red Cross.  According to the article on Mashable, SaaS Startup Helps Non-Profits with Online Fundraising, the software will be released to the general public in August 2010.

It is described as geared towards any sized nonprofit organization for use in mostly online but also special events fundraising campaigns, especially those aimed at social media fundraising.  The software, itself, is free to use; but there is a charge, per transaction (i.e. donation or event ticket/fee) that the organization charges and is described on their website as "2.0% + $0.99 (per ticket or donation) No upfront costs.  Pay only when you make a sale!"  They do not make it clear whether these two specific charges are incurred by both PayPal and Stay Classy, but I am guessing that they are.  In other words, for each transaction on Stay Classy, you are charged by both PayPal (and of course you are always charged for each PayPal transactions) and Stay Classy (which means that each transaction results in income for Stay Classy: no nonprofit will receive 100% of the money they raise or make on Stay Classy).

When considering using Stay Classy, I would urge a nonprofit's leadership to have already researched, independent of any option or policy, and to have already discussed, debated, and then formalized their nonprofit's social media policy and goals.  The nonprofit's fundraising committee, staff, or volunteers should learn what social media fundraising is, how all it is conducted, what the best or most effective methods currently are (i.e. Facebook is fast becoming a powerful tool for nonprofits to raise funds (who know what they're doing) and costs nonprofits who use it only the charge of the online transaction (i.e. PayPal, etc.)); and coordinate what the organization's online social media goals are, with all current fundraising goals and campaigns, and formalize how best to achieve all for the nonprofit's own goals and needs.  For instance, many nonprofits that have their own organization website offer online visitors the option to donate through their website.  This is one form of social media fundraising and may be cheaper than other options, especially when weighed against a specific nonprofit's fundraising budget and current online fundraising goals (and policies).  In other words, every nonprofit's abilities, needs, and goals are going to vary and should be considered before any decision is made for any form of fundraising.  Also, it is a fact that successful fundraising is based in relationships between that nonprofit and its various donors and how this can be best obtained, managed, and developed should be a serious consideration, too.

I am 'old school' having used, as a staff member of a medium sized independent nonprofit, a traditional 'out of the box' fundraising software package that tracked donors, donations, volunteers, all fundraising campaigns conducted, and allowed for the creation of any type of correspondence (so, anything from thank you letters in response to donations, to annual appeal letters (another type of fundraising campaign), etc.), allowed for the organization to create and track relationships (i.e. this donor is related to that volunteer, here), and the ability of the software to query and develop various different types of mailing lists, volunteer lists, phone lists, e-mails, donors giving at different amount levels, who gave at different dates or date ranges, lists of board members and their giving at any selected time or time period, and more.  It came with the ability to upload to or receive downloads from any word processing software or operating system that used the standard database formats (i.e. ASCII, tab delimited, etc.), it merged easily with these operating or word processing systems, and a free training (that was done online and was professional, extensive, and run at the pace of the trainees ability to learn: it was excellent) at any time a new volunteer or staff member needed training on the software.  I'm not stating what the software package is because unbelievably, the maker no longer makes or supports it.  I truly was shocked when I learned, in around 2006 or 2007, they'd decided to forgo this product as it was excellent.  To be clear, I still judge any software package designed to enable a nonprofit to fundraise better, by the software that I used and just described.

Also to be clear, I have not used Stay Classy and I did not receive anything from them in exchange for this post or its content.

From the description in the above Mashable article, their own self description in the video there, and from what I read on the Stay Classy website the product's strengths appear to be:
_ easy of use;
_ this software came out of SaaS conducting their own independent grassroots fundraising campaigns on the streets of San Francisco for nonprofits they chose to support, on their own;
_ any nonprofit may sign up and once signed up a profile is created for donors to find your organization (for free) ;
_ it will track donors, donations, relationships, allow for notes on donors, and recall donor contact info, donation info, and allow for thank you letters to be auto generated/sent upon donation received, and other reports by user, fundraising campaign, and by donation of those who donate or fundraise for your organization via Stay Classy;
_ it will coordinate a presence for a single fundraising campaign or event up to an unlimited number of fundraising events;
_ anyone who wishes to may fundraise online on behalf of your organization and can get your organization their raised funds through Stay Classy;
_ flags or graphics for online fundraising is created in Stay Classy and can be used by your organization and anyone else who wishes to assist, online, with your organization's fundraising for each online campaign;
_ there is no cost to use the software (but there is a fee or two fees per transaction, and its not clear which);
_ Stay Classy software resides online (or as they say "in the cloud") so no loading software onto a computer;
_ you can upload your current donation/donor software database information up to Stay Classy;
_ you can conduct social media messaging and coordinate fundraising campaigns to reach your organization's Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms accounts for messaging to appear in those places, after creating messages once in Stay Classy;
_ and more

My questions about Stay Classy are:

_ Everything that this software package does is focused on online or social fundraising which is not the only way or venue in which to raise funds, though it will increase in its use and popularity as it already has over the years (but it will never be the only place or method (and it should not be the only place or method) through which any nonprofit raises all of its funds, even in the future);
_ The fee structure is unclear: do both Stay Classy and PayPal charge per transaction and if so, how much is each charging per transaction?
_ Any nonprofit that uses Stay Classy really should both research what all fundraising software options exist right now; how much each costs (online or a traditional software package that is loaded to a computer); what features each fundraising software package option offers (because many will coordinate both donation thank you letters and online or social fundraising messaging in one place for multiple social media outlets easily, too); and further I'd be sure to then (once you have all of the options' costs and features or attributes) conduct a cost benefit analysis.  For instance, that software package that I used when I was staff cost the nonprofit that I worked for a one time fee and they took no portion of each transaction we conducted as a charge or income.  In other words, I believe it cost about $2,500 but once that was paid the organization never paid the software maker anything else and received unending software support and trainings.  Over time, over the duration that Stay Classy will be used, how much will it cost the user nonprofit?
_ Does Stay Classy include a Mobile Application creator for each nonprofit that signs up with it?  This is a real emerging platform that is also online but specific to anyone using their iPhone or other type of Smart Phone to surf the web and those who own these phones are surfing the web using these specific gizmos.  Also, Smart Phones are the wave of the future, so if Stay Classy is not smart phone or mobile application enabled: when will it be, if ever.
_ How responsive, helpful, and consistent with their support be?  This can often be what makes or breaks a software maker's software package's reputation  (whether the software resides online or downloaded to a user's computer).  Customer service is paramount;
_ What is the volunteer fundraiser who chooses to raise funds for your organization using Stay Classy, and also the donor who donates through Stay Classy to your organization think of the experience;
_ How much does your organization want to manage both the Stay Classy donation software and any 'in house' or 'in office' fundraising administration and campaign management it will need to?  In other words, will Stay Classy help out to the extent that your organization needs, with all of your nonprofit's fundraising administration and management, or will it be one more and additional thing to have to do, each day?
_ Does using Stay Classy improve or help to improve a nonprofit's reputation and interactions with its public or diminish or lessen them?
_ How much does any nonprofit's staff or volunteers considering using Stay Classy really and truly know about online fundraising, social media fundraising, and online fundraising software packages?

If anyone reading this post has either fundraised for a nonprofit using Stay Classy (as either a nonprofit volunteer or staff member) or is a person who has donated to a nonprofit or volunteered to fundraise for a nonprofit through Stay Classy; please share with us, by Commenting below on this post, what your experience was.  It would be greatly appreciated.

As is always the case, it is best to really research a nonprofit's options when deciding to go with any new tool, method, or package, for any nonprofit operation or organizational need.  Any solution that a nonprofit goes with should, ideally, really lessen a nonprofit's expenses, lessen time that a nonprofit's staff or volunteer currently spends on related tasks, and make things easier for the organization and its staff and volunteers.  The only way that this can be determined is to really research what all options are, at the time, and then cross compare also including a cost/benefit analysis (and one that is scaled for two to three years out).

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