How to Choose an Event Fundraising Platform for Your Small Nonprofit

How to Choose an Event Fundraising Platform for Your Small Nonprofit

How to Choose an Event Fundraising Platform for Your Small Nonprofit

These days, trying to plan a nonprofit fundraising event without a comprehensive, all-in-one software platform is like trying to build a remote controlled airplane by yourself with all the parts but no instructions. It’ll be a frustrating, sticky mess and might just crash and burn. But which platform should you pick? Here’s what to look for when making your selection.

Why is it important to use a fundraising platform for small nonprofits when planning your event?

When you’re planning a fundraising event, there are a lot of moving parts. You have to worry about finding the right venue, sending out invitations, collecting RSVPs, managing donations and pledges, and more. Plus, as a small nonprofit, you have a minimal number of staff members and volunteers to accomplish so many things. Trying to do all of this without a software platform automating tasks for you is possible, but it’s going to be a lot more difficult and time-consuming.

A fundraising software platform will help you keep track of all the different elements of your fundraising event so you can focus on making it a success. The best platforms will also help you save time and money by automating tasks like sending out thank-yous and follow-ups, creating reports, and giving you the fundraising tools you need to complete your tasks in an all-in-one platform rather than juggling a mishmash of different systems.

What factors should be considered when choosing an online fundraising platform for your nonprofit organization?

The first thing you need to consider when looking for a fundraising solution is what your needs are. What kind of fundraising event are you planning? Is it a gala, a bake sale, a walk-a-thon, or something else? Each type of event will have different requirements.

For example, if you’re planning an auction, you’ll need a fundraising platform that can track pledges and donations, manage event registration, and auto-assign bid numbers. On the other hand, if you’re planning a golf tournament, you’ll need a platform that can do event website creation, ticketing, and golfer management.

Once you know what kind of fundraising event you’re planning, you can start to narrow down your options. Here are more things to consider when selecting one.

What factors should be considered when choosing an online fundraising platform for your nonprofit organization?

Do all platforms support in-person, virtual, and hybrid events?

That’s an excellent question, and the answer is that even if platforms do support all three, they don’t always do all three well. Even if you think you’ll only be utilizing in-person events, you never know when unexpected events — like in 2020 — necessitate a sudden move to a different format. If the platform you choose handles every situation well, then that transition will be far more seamless.

Besides, even if your event seems to only fit an in-person setting, you might be surprised at how much support you can get virtually from donors who wanted to be involved in-person but can’t due to previous obligations, family emergencies, or health difficulties.

How important is it that a platform is user-friendly?

Very. You’re too busy already to be having to slog your way through a fundraising platform that isn’t intuitive and easy to use. You could spend hours trying to figure out how to use a complicated piece of software when your event checklist is so long you could wallpaper your house with it. That’s why it’s vital to find one that looks user-friendly and makes sense to you so you can start working right away.

Also, don’t forget that the platform has to be easy for donors to use, too. If it’s not user-friendly for them, they won’t give.

How important is it that a platform is user-friendly?

How high should good customer service rank on my wishlist?

One of the biggest customer complaints with fundraising platforms is poor customer service. Most fundraising platforms offer some sort of customer service, so you can reach out if you have any questions or run into any technical difficulties, but what really varies from company to company is how often their support team is available and how effective they are in answering your questions. Again, this is where customer reviews help a lot. Some platforms only offer email support, which is frustrating when you want to speak to a real person and get answers more quickly.

Are there certain features or services I should look for in every fundraising technology platform?

Absolutely. Here are some we’ve found especially helpful:

Event website

Look for a platform that offers you an event website to send donors to get more information, participate in auctions, make online donations, purchase items, and watch the event live. A good event website has clearly marked and attractively designed user-friendly navigation to reduce confusion and make it easier for your donors to give. It’s also easily discoverable and sophisticated looking. It stands out from the rest and is clearly all about the fundraising cause because it’s being hosted on a dedicated portal, like the one MaxGiving offers.


If your organization has worked to establish a brand, then you know how important it is for everything that’s donor-facing to match that brand. A platform that allows you to customize your event fundraising website will let you stay on-brand, especially if it allows you to plug in your own CSS.

When a donor sees that your fundraising website matches your familiar event theme or organization brand, it will give them an extra layer of confidence in its legitimacy when entering their dollar figure. Remember, a good donor experience is vital.

Printable event resources

A platform that offers extras like printable bid sheets, item display sheets, guest labels, donation worksheets, and more is being operated by a company that is looking out for your time and sanity.

Mobile bidding

Mobile bidding allows participants in your auction to bid from the event on their mobile device or remotely from their computers or tablets. This type of bidding can help you reach more donors, increase participation in your event, and raise more money for your cause.

Custom communication

If you can email and text your event supporters with custom messaging, then that will help you target specific groups of donors with the right information.

Fundraising thermometer

Remember those cardboard fundraising thermometers from elementary school? They exist digitally now with some platforms, and they can generate a whole lot of excitement on your event site as donors can see — in real-time — how their donations are making the thermometer rise and how many funds are still needed. In other words, a fundraising thermometer makes accepting donations fun for you, fun for the donors, and fun for the other people you’re supporting with your event.

Automated reporting

We suggest looking for a platform that offers detailed analysis reports so you can understand trends with your donors and how different portions of your fundraiser performed in relation to goals. In other words, reporting helps you understand totals and breakdown data. Plus, look for one that makes it easy to export the data to your data management system via an Excel spreadsheet or PDF file.

Recurring donations

A platform that gives you the ability to allow donors to set up recurring donations is a platform that is doing what it can to remove roadblocks between donors and the cause they want to support. Not all platforms offer this.


Not all platforms are the same when it comes to contracts. Some require them while others offer them as an option. If you’re willing to sign up for a multi-year contract, see if it comes with any extra savings.

Be careful, though: Don’t overemphasize fundraising technology when planning your event

When it comes to fundraising, technology can be a huge help, but it’s not the most important thing. Not even close. Humans first, then technology.

Here’s how MaxGiving’s president and CEO Dan Harrington puts fundraising tech into perspective: People raise money from people and you need the right technology to support your people’s fundraising event.

When you eliminate the human factor from your event, you’re simply a business. You’ve forgotten the reason — and the passion — behind your cause. Don’t neglect to consult with the other people involved in the event — such as auctioneers — for input.

Best wishes for your fundraising event! If you have any questions, be sure to contact MaxGiving for more information on fundraising technology and how it can help your nonprofit. MaxGiving offers an industry-leading nonprofit fundraising event platform that enables fundraisers to run more efficient and effective events. It was built in collaboration with nonprofit executives like you so you can have the tools you need to maximize your fundraising efforts.

Its goal? To help you Raise more. Stress less™ Learn more at

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