Are the tools you're using to fundraise for your organization actually helping or just holding you back? I interview Sara Mayer of Sara Mayer Consulting about how to patch the tools holding your organization together with duct tape and swap them out for the types of systems you need to boost productivity and make fundraising easier.

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Fundraising Tools to Make Raising Money Easy

Are the tools you’re using to fundraise for your organization actually helping or just holding you back? Join me as I interview Sara Mayer of Sara Mayer Consulting about how to patch the tools holding your organization together with duct tape and swap them out for the types of systems you need to boost productivity and make fundraising easier.

Fundraising Tools to Make Raising Money Easy Cliff Notes:

Q:  Introduce yourself!

A:  I’m Sarah Mayer, and I have the consulting company, Sarah Mayer consulting. I’ve worked in higher education, both for profit and private, and then in the nonprofit sector, as a director of operations. One of my roles was to help fundraisers into streamline the operations, so that fundraisers could raise money in the easiest way possible.  So now I work with clients who are not in the nonprofit sector or in for profit to help them streamline their operations.

Q: How did you become a master of processes?

A: I always start off any position by really thinking about the journey for the customer, the donor. I also ask myself, if I’m a board member or volunteer trying to fundraise, what will my journey be?  How do they raise money? How do they do their job?  Then I start asking them questions. Sometimes they tell me they’re using tools or processes that were in place before they joined the organization and that’s how “we’ve always done it”.  Sometimes they’re trying to use software to do XYZ task, but that software is really developed to do something completely different. Sometimes it’s expensive technology that they’ve purchased that they probably don’t need, or the opposite; they need better technology or better tools and it’s time to upgrade, but they’ve put that off.  Sometimes the decision makers aren’t familiar with the process their donors go through on their website. I help organization unravel those things and put together new processes. 

It’s a similar approach to designing user interfaces; just because we get used to doing something a certain way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to do it. 

Q: What types of tools does a nonprofit need for their fundraising?

A:  The first thing you need to have a clear, easy path for people to be able to donate online. The second thing is you need to have an easy, efficient place to track their donors.  The third thing you need is to have an easy, efficient way to track your prospects.

Q: What are good examples of tools that might make donations and donor tracking easier?

A: Flipcause is a good customer relationship management tool for smaller nonprofit groups. They do event management, they have a CRM, they process your fees through your credit card and they do have a really good guaranteed rate. It provides the access you need and the ability to do what you want.

A more sophisticated, higher-end tool that many organizations use is Raiser’s Edge fundraising and donor management software. 

When deciding what tool to use, it’s important to make sure the people who are fundraising for you are part of making those decisions.  What’s important to board members is often very different than what’s important to the staff. Consider the needs of the people who will be using the system the most when choosing features and functionality.

When I pick systems for people to integrate with their website, I always think about it like I’m hiring for a job. All the different things that I want this thing to do for me now and what I might want it to do for me in the future is the job description.

Q: Are there other tools that nonprofit organizations absolutely have to have?

A: A website that works!  Often I’ll ask people to view an organization’s website and then tell me what that organization does.  They’ll either not be able to figure it out or rattle off ten things – there’s too much information and it’s overwhelming.  You must have a website that very, very clearly says what you do; “This is why we need your help and here’s how you support us”.  You don’t need six pages to do this.  It can be one page.

Q: Regarding a nonprofit’s website, what other recommendations do you have?

A: Your website doesn’t have to be all things to all people.  Sometimes organizations will have the people they serve going to the website, the donor is going the same website, the board going to the same website to find out when the board meetings are, etc…. It’s best to break those things up.  The focus of the donor website should be “this is the client that we serve, this is our mission”.  Remove the extra noise that obscures your site’s primary focus. The donor should just see donor stuff.

Q: How do you evaluate and overhaul the tools, processes, and systems an organization has in place?

A: When a volunteer or staff member has to go outside of the system to do something – like if you have a CRM, but still have to go manually enter data in an Excel spreadsheet – you know something’s up. I might ask, “Why are you using six spreadsheets when you have a CRM to do the same thing?”  In some cases, it might make sense to do that, but usually it doesn’t.  Whether you’re just using outdated tools or the organization is growing beyond the capabilities of the tools, it’s important every couple of years to do a systems check and evaluate the steps people are taking to accomplish a task.  Not just your internal steps, but also end user steps.  I always like to say “It’s 2021… if anybody is asking you to download and print a form, there’s a solution for that.”

Q: Is it possible to overdo it when upgrading tools?

A: Spending money to save money isn’t always the best approach, especially if it’s spent on the wrong things. Sometimes we think we need more technology than we actually do. The donor experience is really a relationship. Sometimes, fancy emails and newsletters with lots of pictures and moving parts aren’t the best way to strengthen that relationship.  It gets sidelined by the spam police, or simply doesn’t come across as sincere and personal.  Sometimes a simple, heartfelt thank you – or even that handwritten card – will go a much longer way with donors than a production company showing up to do an impact video. 

Q: How would you recap what we’ve talked about today?

A:  To make fundraising easier:

  1. Make sure that your tools are set up so whoever is doing the fundraising can easily figure out who their top prospects are, who their top donors are, go out and make an ask or a thank you, and then be able to report that information back. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
  2. Make the donating process as easy as possible for donors.
  3. Make your information easy to find and understand for the public: Why should I donate? What does your organization do? How do I get involved?

Q: How can people get a hold of you?

A: You can get in touch with me via my website: https://www.saramayer.com/.   You can also email me directly: [email protected].  I also have a free Facebook group called Bold Goal Crushers – we tackle all those things you want to do and everything that gets in the way.


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