I’ve taken great pains, in previous posts, to persuade my readers that selecting software for your nonprofit software should start with a needs assessment, and that your list of required features should be built around your needs and goals. But, if you’re looking for a shortcut, read this.

It’s likely that your nonprofit organization is experiencing some of the same problems that are typical across the sector. Even without a deep understanding of your unique situation, I can point you toward a generic list of popular features and considerations, as a starting point.

Here, in no particular order – except for the first item which IS the most important – are 10 key features to look for.

  1. Support – Adequate technical support, training and manuals are available.
  2. Access – You can get to the software when and where you need to, whether cloud-based or on a network.
  3. Contact History – It tracks online and offline interactions with constituents.
  4. Relationships – You can see how constituents are related to the organization and to each other.
  5. Integration – The database is integrated with or includes tools for email, web (online forms), and social media.
  6. Mobile – Constituents can use the tools on mobile devices (e.g. online donation). This is of growing importance.
  7. Customization – The software is configured and personalized for you, and you aren’t stuck with a cookie cutter product.
  8. Ease of Use – It feels intuitive and efficient. You must balance this against sophistication of features.
  9. Upgrades – The software is kept up to date, and upgrades provided, preferably at no charge and requiring little to no effort from you.
  10. Import/Export – It’s easy to move data in and out in a standard file format.

What’s number 11? Tell me in the comments.

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