How to select the best data collection software for your nonprofit?

Data. You’ve got it, and you worked hard to get it, too. You’ve mired yourself in questionnaires and surveys, dug deep into a thousand spreadsheets to get tangible figures, and carefully tracked the results of every email, letter, or flyer you’ve sent out. You’re up to your eyeballs in numbers – now what?

Best data collection software for nonprofits

It’s time to organize that data and make it work for you! You’ll need a database to store your precious percentages and integers, but you’ve got a few options. All those facts and figures making your head spin? We’ll help you determine the best database for your nonprofit.

 Let’s go over your options:

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Database:

These databases are most useful for tracking your clients and donors as well as your marketing efforts; the overarching goal is to create better relationships with clients. You’ll want a CRM database with an easy to read set-up, or you might just drown in a glut of unimportant numbers. Good CRM software will help you clean up your information and present the most relevant data. 

You can use a CRM database to classify your clientele and employees as well as your donors. At a glance, you’ll track how a client is faring, which form of marketing works best for a specific donor, or the productivity of an employee. This information can also help you manage your email lists.

 Look for features like easy integration with the software you currently use, such as Excel or Outlook, and connectivity with social media. Online accessibility is also a must-have so you can view your carefully curated information no matter where you are. 24/7 tech support can be invaluable, too.

 Let’s talk budget. Many CRMs charge per user on a monthly basis, like a subscription. Others charge annually instead. It’s also possible to purchase a single-payment license from a CRM, but the cost is much higher, and the onus is on your company to keep up with lifetime maintenance. Thus, while they may seem budget-friendly when divided over your company’s lifetime, they’re usually too pricy for a younger organization.

 You can likely choose from a number of pricing schemes, from a “basic” package to a pricier “advanced” package with more bells and whistles. As your nonprofit grows, you might have to reevaluate your goals and upgrade your CRM’s features.

Free, no-frills software exists, as well. If you’re just starting out, a basic CRM might be just the ticket, but be aware that as your organization progresses, you may need to shell out some cash to upgrade and expand the service.

Client Outcome Database:

As databases go, these are a little more on the warm, cuddly side, versus a CRM, which gives off a “strictly business” vibe. Of course, a database can only be so loveable, so take our adjectives with a grain of salt.

 There are still numbers involved, naturally. This data helps track your clients as they move through your organization. While much of the information involved will help you analyze their demographics, other data seeks to quantify the way your services affect clients. Utilizing this data, you can determine cause and effect and focus on what’s working for your clients as well as where there is room for improvement.

 As with CRMs, many Client Outcome Databases charge a monthly subscription fee. You’ll likely want software that is internet-based so it’s easily accessible. Be sure to check into security features to keep your precious data safe.

 AMS (Associate Management System) Database:

An AMS database is the multitasker of the database world. An AMS database can usually perform basic CRM database tasks, but it takes the data to the next level. It can manage workflow, create a directory, and send out automatic emails. Fusing data and action makes these databases useful and efficient.

 AMS databases are most useful for organizations categorized as associations. Alternately, they can be used by nonprofits that bring together many groups of people. These groups can then use the database to acquire shared information and resources. Generally, those who utilize the system pay a membership fee for access.

 Whew, that was a lot of acronyms! It can feel overwhelming; there are a lot of choices out there. While some of the databases are similar or share attributes, you’ll want to think about your organization’s goals, needs, and budget when choosing between them.


Need help deciding? We at Mockingbird Analytics work with and are certified administers of multiple platforms, and we’re here to help! Check out our Database Administration Services page for more information.


At Mockingbird Analytics we believe in the power of nonprofits and social good organization to create exponential impact in our communities. Contact us to help you build the infrastructure needed to be able to tell your story to the world.