Charity database software can seem like a minefield. How do you choose from the many options?
This post does the hard work for you by listing the publicly available information on the most popular systems and providing guidance on the strengths of each donor database system. Sadly not all of the systems featured are entirely transparent about their pricing but we’ve done our best.
There are lots of names used for charity database software (fundraising database, supporter database, charity CRM, etc) but they all refer to a system that organises a charity's relationship with people and organisations. Beyond a contact database, many charities also need to track a whole host of information about their charitable activities and impact in order to measure performance and report back to donors. That’s not something we try to deal with here.
Key considerations for charity databases include management of donations, major givers, volunteers, members, sponsorship, corporate support, grantmakers and other types of supporters. It is also important whether the CRM is tailored for UK charities and nonprofits.
Charity database software - the best of the bunch
White Fuse (UK)
White Fuse is all-in-one CRM software for charities, particularly those with a membership component to their work. It includes comprehensive tools for managing membership, fundraising and email marketing. It also includes website tools that can be used to build a full website or a member portal alongside your current website.
Beacon CRM (UK)
Beacon is one of the newest entrants to the charity database/CRM market and it's adding new functionality at a rapid pace. Beacon is clearly targeted at UK fundraising charities with attractive functionality covering fundraising and gift aid management. It follows Google's design principles so the administrative interface is modern and presents information clearly.
Harlequin Software (UK)
Harlequin has been around for a long time. It is particularly big in the hospital and hospice sector and target medium-sized charities. The products covers CRM, finance, fundraising, membership and service delivery (so pretty much the whole works).
Donorfy has been providing fundraising database software for around three years and it is a modern cloud-based platform based in the UK aimed at small to medium charities. The system has been well received and grown quickly. As the name suggests, it is a contact database that focuses on fundraising and has lots of functionality for organisations where fundraising is central to their funding model.
Lamplight is another product aimed squarely at small charities. Unlike most of the other options in this post, it's not directly focused on managing supporters, though it does have some functionality in that area. Rather it's meant as an all-in-one database system for managing charity operations including service delivery and impact evaluation.
Access ThankQ CRM (UK)
ThankQ is another UK company. It has been around for a long time and is a more old-fashioned system. It has lots of flexibility but its website integrations lack polish.
- Their prices are much steeper than the more modern cloud-based SaaS alternatives on this list because their process requires more client-specific customisation. These prices are not publicly available.
In addition to tracking donations and events like most databases, Donorflex offers a range of more distinctive supporting features like lottery and raffle modules.
CiviCRM is quite different from the other database solutions on this list because it is open-source. There are a bunch of things to consider when weighing up open-source vs modern cloud-based 'software as a service' tools which we discuss in detail in our open-source vs SaaS post. In summary, CiviCRM is a very powerful tool in the right hands but you need to have serious developer expertise on-hand because you are essentially crafting and maintaining your own database system, albeit from a set of pre-existing tools. It's a very different proposition. For membership charities, White Fuse is a powerful CiviCRM alternative.
eTapestry is the entry-level offering from Blackbaud, the US-based global giant of charity CRM and fundraising software. Blackbaud also owns Raiser's Edge NXT and announced their intention to buy JustGiving in July 2017. As you can imagine from the biggest company out there, the offering is solid but not particularly innovative. It includes good website integration tools and competitive pricing so is definitely worth a look.
Donor Perfect (US)
Donor Perfect is a US outfit with a broad and mature offering that allows you to track all kinds of constituent data including corporate donors, grants, etc. While it’s clearly a US focused system it allows the system to be tailored to some extent for a UK audience.
Bloomerang sells itself on its easy of use. Their website offers lots of screenshots and case studies and it does look like it’s considerably more user-friendly than a number of the alternatives on this list.
An action focused system with lots of tools to capture supporter engagement like forms, donations, event registrations, etc and lots of tools to manage and automate email follow up.