After 5 years of using FundRaiser Basic, the organization I volunteer for decided to move to FundRaiser Spark. The 5 years we've been using Basic have been good to us, and Basic has played a significant role in that. The organization has stabilized donations at the level needed for our operations, and increased fundraising to create 'a little extra' each year. In a kind of feedback loop between success with fundraising and growing confidence, we've also been willing to try new things and expand our impact. Although quite happy with what we've been able to do with Basic, the time seemed right to give ourselves more power in our donor management software and to explore having a greater impact in our community.
The move from Basic to Spark has been enjoyable and interesting. I've learned two basic things--
On the practical side, there were some questions about paying for the software and actually managing the move and the extra time needed to learn the software and implement new routines and efforts. On the cost, this year we raised more money than anytime in the past 5 years, so that issue was easily dealt with. This was not a direct result of the software because we were still moving in to Spark during our fundraising campaign, but was certainly a reflection of our confidence. We felt that we are an organization worth donating to-- now and in the future as we grow our impact in part through using Spark. That confidence was felt by our donors and we achieved our basic goal faster than ever and exceeded that goal by a significant amount by the time the campaign was over.
We started off with both staff members who plan to use the software taking an Overview session. Besides the benefit of the information, it was also very helpful to take the class together. As we went through the class with the FundRaiser trainer, we had thought about how to use the features, and we were able to mention that to each other in the moment as they occurred to us.
On moving data from Basic to Spark, we asked for and got great help from the FundRaiser Support Team. Although I've worked at FundRaiser myself for many years, my area is Social Media. The details of how to move from one program to another are not my area. I had numerous questions, mostly little ones about setting up fields and how to handle some things that are particular to our organization. I got satisfactory answers every time, and usually the Support Technician did a remote session with me so that everything was perfectly clear.
One of the biggest surprises I had was how much easier it was to browse the data. I had been quite happy with using Basic, and although I realized it was limited in many ways (for instance, limit on number of codes, and fewer features) I hadn't realized that it was also much easier to get an overview of my data in Spark. When I did get that overview, I was able to clearly see how much data clean-up was needed. The data in Basic (the organization's first donor management database) had been imported from 5 different Excel spreadsheets that had been created over a period of several years, and with somewhat different data included in each one. Much of the data was out-dated, but in Basic, I had simply ignored entries that weren't really functional, and worked around them.
In Spark, I could clearly see it all, and it was a real pleasure to take the time to eliminate donor records that were incomplete, had wrong addresses and from which we'd had no response in all the years I'd been working with the data. With that all cleaned up, it feels good to establish the codes we know we need. After the years working in Basic, we have a good idea of what is needed at least as a foundation.
I can't wait to see where we go from here. The by-line for Spark is 'Start something Big" and it feels like that is in fact what we are doing.
To learn more about Spark, check out the information here.