Driven’s David Saraiva Gives Insider Tips For Choosing Nonprofit Software

Dave Saraiva Driven Donor CRM

Shopping for nonprofit software is not an easy task, and if you don’t know what to look out for then you could miss some important details. 

Knowing the right questions to ask along with being able to recognize red flags will help your organization navigate through your decisions and find a long-term solution that will grow with your nonprofit. Davis Saraiva is the Head of Product at Driven and has seen first-hand the effects that the wrong vendor can have on an organization and has offered to give his advice so that you can make the best decision possible. 

Dave’s Top Tips For Choosing Software 

  1. Find a tool that works for your unique needs. Some business-centred tools like Hubspot or Salesforce do not have the uniques functionality that nonprofit-based software offers, although they work well for business-based organizations. So think about the functionality you need from your tool and start your search there. 
  2. Before speaking with vendors, talk to your stakeholders. Have a conversation about what you need from your software. Be specific about the features you want in your tool and the use cases it will need to fulfill. Then you can bring that list into a sales demo and have the vendor show you how it would look in their tool. 
  3. Don’t downplay implementation! Get everything on the table and have a thorough conversation about your data before signing a contract. Ofen vendors will promise quick and easy implementation and we can tell you from experience that’s rarely the case. So offer to show your vendor your data or talk about what is needed from you for a successful implementation. 

Our Favourite Quotes From the Episode

On how to minimize risk during implementation: 
[07:56] "Oftentimes people don't even have a conversation about the database and what it looks like and how it's going to come into the new system. All of those questions are left for later after the deal is signed and that introduces risk.”

Questions Dave Recommendsw you ask your vendor:
[20:15] Dive into those details, don't gloss over the things like how is the implementation going to run? All of the features that you showed me in the demo today, are they included in this quote or are some of these extra? Because that's another thing that a lot of first-time customers don't understand. 

Some vendors like us will sort of have an all embrace that covers all of the functionality, other vendors will sort of part everything out and you've got sort of like a base layer of the software. And then this piece got cost that much and this piece costs that much and this piece costs that much. And it can make it hard to do a true and fair comparison. Right. Because by the time you add up everything that you need with when the price is piecemeal, the cost may have doubled. And you want to find that out before signing a contract, not after.


Learn how to enter your CRM sales calls with confidence with Driven's very own Dave Saraiva. Hi and welcome to Jawans Fundraising Superheroes podcast. I am your host Sabrina Sciscente and all of us here at Driven are passionate about data and helping you save time with your data management process. We are an all-in-one fundraising platform here to help you unlock the true potential of your data while saving hours in data management if you'd like to learn more. Please reach out to us at

I am so happy to have my boss and head of product, Dave Saraiva, on the show today. He is a true professional and is helping nonprofits save hours of time through inefficient software and data silos. Not only is he a tech wiz, but Dave has worked closely with nonprofits to help them find fundraising success. And I'm very excited to get his advice on how you can find the perfect software solution for your organization. Thank you, Dave, for talking with us.

No problem. Happy to be here.

So let's start at the beginning. How should nonprofit professionals begin to even look for options when they're choosing a CRM? I know some people use donor-specific software, while others are using business CRM like HubSpot or Salesforce, from your experience. Is there a difference between those two, whether it's donor nonprofit focus and business focus?

Yeah, so, I mean, unless you have some really specific and unique sort of business like needs, I definitely wouldn't recommend using a business, you know, business CRM Sales Force is kind of a unique example just because it's so customizable you can sort of make it a proper fundraising CRM, but it is really important to be using the right tool for the right job. Right. So, you know, driving a tractor to your commute into downtown Toronto would be a really bad idea and it wouldn't work out well. But that same vehicle is going to be great working a farm and it's the same sort of thing. It's not that one is better than the other.

It's just that, you know, there are some very specific things that you have to do when you're running a nonprofit in your city around things like receipting and that sort of stuff and business here, which is generally not set up to do that. So you definitely want to focus on specific nonprofit-focused CRMs. Again, unless there's a specific, unique thing about your organization that sort of is more important than those traditional nonprofit activities.

So it sounds like if you're going with those more business-focused software, you're kind of missing out on a lot of the common things that can really help you out down the line.

Yeah, and I mean, it's not like it can't work, but you're going to it's going to take more time. It's going to be less efficient. It's going to be more manual work. And one thing that we've seen proven time and time and time again, there's lots of optimizations and there's lots of ways to do better fundraising and do better as an organization. But we've found nothing that trumps saving time in terms of like moving the needle for raising more funds, getting more, having a greater impact in your work.

So, you know, that's why it's so important because if you can save a bunch of time over a year, that's going to translate into better results. Almost guaranteed.

Oh, a thousand percent. Purchasing a donor database is a huge decision. There's a lot of factors that go into it. There is an implementation process, sales calls, plenty of internal conversations when heading into a call with a vendor. How should a nonprofit prepare?

Yeah, so, I mean, I think the first thing is before you even talk to any vendors, get all of the stakeholders in a room together and sort of having a conversation and document what it is that you need. Be very specific about the features that are important to your organization. Because if you don't have that going in, you know, what can happen is in a sales demo, and it's to no fault of their own, but a salesperson is going to be putting their product in the best light.

So they're likely to show you all of these really cool bells and whistles that are amazing and really neat. But don't necessarily move the needle for your organization. Right. So it can be easy to sort of get caught up in that, especially when you're doing like four or five or more demos and sort of getting excited about that when sort of you might be forgetting to focus on the things that actually matter to your day to day. 

So having that list, having that information from the stakeholders, can you sort of be in the driver's seat a little bit in that demo process where you can say, OK, here are the things that are important to us. And so that's where we want to start from and make sure you show us that. And then we can talk about the bells and whistles and all that stuff, too, after if we have time. But let's start with the basics and make sure there's a feature match that's sort of like the first thing.

The other thing especially on the smaller organization side, I see a lot of mistakes in terms of not resourcing implementation properly. And it's just something that honestly takes a lot of time, regardless of if you're having an outside consultant do it, you may have the technical expertise in-house to do it, or you may be working with the vendor to do it.

But it is not something to sort of downplay or not take seriously, that's where implementation fail. You know, I had a conversation with an organization last week where they had been implementing a product for two years, paying for that product for the whole time. Two years later, still not fully in use,  still have sort of their old system in the new system. And that's the type of thing that happens when you haven't budgeted for it properly.

Yeah, I guess it is the old saying that you really get what you pay for. Implementation from what I heard from our implementation team- it's a lengthy process. It's a very hands-on process. So making sure that you're not only communicating with your internal staff with your vendor is super important. Do you think that when they are coming to prepare for that first demo conversation, it's important to bring up any concerns that they may have about the software, be as honest as possible with their vendors?

I mean, I think it can help. Certainly one of the challenges and it's always so difficult when you're making a big purchase like this because, you know, essentially the CRM is going to run a big part or all of the organization. So it is a huge decision, even if it's a small project, one of the challenges of a lot of the existing vendors on the market downplays the importance of implementation. It's sort of very low cost, it's easy to do.

Oftentimes people don't even have a conversation about the database and what it looks like and how it's going to come into the new system. All of those questions are left for later after the deal is signed and that introduces risk. That's what we try to avoid when we're going through the sales process. We want a new customer on our platform to be set up for success from day one. When you don't answer those difficult questions upfront, you rush to sign the contract and get things started.

One or two things happens. Both of them are bound right. A midway through the project, you sort of discover all these things that weren't discussed and, you know, it adds to the cost. And now you thought you were paying X, but you're actually paying Y, which is a good clip, higher than X, and that's not great. Worse is sort of that same sort of thing happens, but there is no budget because everything's already been spoken for and budgeted out.

And now you're in a situation where you basically can't get the resources to get the support that you need. And that's what implementations fail. You know, for us, we have those hard conversations upfront. And sometimes it costs us business because organizations aren't ready to sort of hear the message that you want. There is a lot of work here, regardless of who does it. And, you know, it needs to happen. But we're not necessarily focused on just building our subscriber count as high as we can.

We want each and every customer to be a success story. And, you know, you can't do that if you don't start the relationship off on the right foot. So, you know, forcing those difficult conversations can definitely help you get a foot ahead in terms of, like, making the right selection, making sure your project is successful.

Yeah, making sure everything's out on the table is obviously super important. I know that some of the horror stories I've heard from organizations stemmed from vendors thinking everything is great and then they realize some things that we're supposed to go easy, aren't as easy or there are extra costs like you're mentioning problems with data, etc., etc.. What are some of the warning signs that nonprofits should look out for when choosing software to avoid all of this before it happens?

So anybody that's promising a very fast turnaround, unless it's beyond simplistic and there's just not a lot they're doing this, implementing a CRM to sort of run the entire process from the back end is a lot of work.

It's going to take a lot of time. And if a vendor or consultant or sort of whoever you're working with wants to minimize that and say, no, no, no, it's fast and easy.

That's a huge red flag. There are certainly aspects of it that can be easy, but there's generally always something unexpected that pops up just because of the nature of sort of the complexity of these solutions. You forgot to discuss something in the sales process and that you have to figure out how that particular very important use case or need is going to be addressed. One other thing you can sort of do to really help yourself in that sales conversation is sort of dive in and talk about implementation.

When we say implementation, what does that mean? Does that mean you have someone on your end that's just going to answer questions that I have, but otherwise not really invest their time into the project? Or does it mean there's someone, you know, at the vendor company that's going to sort of taking responsibility for the project, make sure everything's being organized and moving forward, remind you when you're not getting to things that you that are on you as the organization to provide be accountable when there's things that the vendor isn't providing and that sort of stuff.

And both can be OK. You just need to make sure you know what you're getting with the purchase. Right, because. You know, if you're going to run it internally, that can work, it can be successful, but you need someone that's going to have the time to dedicate to run that project. And it can be very and often is very big, very involved, has a lot of moving parts. And a lot of the organizations that we talked to are already strapped for time and don't have the time to sort of run the project internally.

But understanding what you're getting and asking those questions can definitely increase your chances of success for sure.

So it's almost not finding that perfect solution. It's finding somebody who is going to give you a really good hands-On communicative approach when those things go wrong.

Yeah, at the end of the day, you know, and I say this as a software vendor, there's no such thing as perfect software. You know, there is never, especially as your needs get more complex, the larger your organization, no matter the solution that you choose. There's going to be something you forgot to talk about or there's going to be important thing that just got overlooked or misunderstood. That always happens again. The larger the project, the more that's going to happen.

So I find what matters a lot more than does this check all of the boxes as it is sort of the vendor's approach and solution to how they're going to address that when it comes on. Right. Are they going to say, well, sorry, it just doesn't do that. Too bad we should have talked about that or are they going to work with you to find a solution and that I think matters a lot more because no matter how many demos you've got, no matter how many questions you ask and no matter which vendor you go with, something's going to be missing.

It's just sort of the nature of a complex system like this. It happens very regularly.

And as someone who's been on the other end of a lot of these calls, what are the top three issues that you find a lot of organizations are struggling with, whether they are looking for their personal profits off or maybe switching from an old nonprofit?

I mean, I think I see a couple of sort of common struggles. Very often, you'll see sort of this type of decision being sort of relegated to someone who is brand new to the organization, very junior in the organization. And I get it. It's not necessarily fun to do a bunch of vendor calls, but this is a very important decision that's going to have a big impact on your organization one way or the other.

So know you want to make sure that. You know, the people from your organization that are heading up the project, that are talking to the vendors, have all of the information and the understanding of what your organization needs going in, that's something that we commonly see fairly often. We talk to a lot of organizations who sort of their number one deciding factor is sort of how cheap can they get it?

And again, you can find very cheap solutions. The problem there is they often you know, there's trade-offs in that efficiency, how much manual work, how much time it takes to manage your database. And the biggest cost of any organization is its staff. Right. So, you know, while you may be able to save a thousand dollars a year by going with a lower priced solution, that may cost you ten thousand dollars in staff time.

And there's a lot of time, a lot of times it's difficult to explain or have that sort of map that that relationship between the two. Understood.

Yeah, one of the things I really love about what we do is that we really value our client's time. One of the things that makes us really unique in that whole implementation process is that we ask to see the data, the state of the data before we give a price. Why did you guys start doing that?

What made you decide to make that a part of the process?

Well, I mean, it was partially because, like, that's one of those areas where there's unknowns that can just sort of catch you off guard. Right. And if you don't know what you're getting, you're kind of guessing. And we just weren't comfortable with sort of well, let's just venture a guess and hope that it works out. You know, and it does add sort of some stickiness to the sales process, but as far as we're concerned, like, you know.

It's just too important to sort of not do that, right, so we're comfortable with sort of a potential customer saying, you know what, that's too much for me. I don't want to go through that process. I don't want to sign an NDA. I don't want you to review my data before you give me a quote. I just want a price. That's OK. That's just not a customer for us. And it's not a good match.

And there's nothing wrong with that. We just find that that process significantly impacts the successful outcome of the project. And so it's a non-negotiable for us because again, I think I said this earlier, you know, it's not necessarily just about signing as many of those deals as we can. It's about deals that are going to be successful and going to provide value to both us and the customer. So that's kind of why we sort of insist on that.

And that's part of our process.

We touched on this in other questions. But because the implementation process is so important, what can non-profits do to better support their vendors and help implementation go as smooth as it can?

So sometimes there's not a lot that you can do because some of those hiccups just come with how the data gets structured in the system that you're using now. But and honestly, this is a sort of best practice across the board, regardless of what product you're on. But you should always have some sort of formalized, written down, documented process for how data entry gets done. You know, that's going to minimize the duplications. That's going to make sure that you don't have like 10 different tags for, you know, monthly giver.

Right. Like "monthly giver," "recurring", recurring, spelled wrong and so on and so forth. So, you know, having that process formalized so that as much as you can control your data, it's clean, will set you up for success not only for a database transition but just in terms of leveraging and reporting on your data as well.

And lastly, are there any questions that you recommend nonprofits be asking vendors when shopping around for their options?

Yeah, I mean, it's a little annoying and frustrating to do, but dive into those details, don't gloss over the things like how is the implementation going to run? All of the features that you showed me in the demo today, are they included in this quote or are some of these extra? Because that's another thing that about a lot of, you know, especially first-time customers don't understand. Some vendors like us will sort of havE an all embrace that covers all of the functionality.

Other vendors will sort of part everything out. And you've got sort of like a base layer of the software. And then this piece got cost that much and this piece costs that much and this piece costs that much. And it can make it hard to do a true and fair comparison. Right. Because by the time you add up everything that you need with when the price is piecemeal, the cost may have doubled. And you want to find that out before signing a contract, not after.

Exactly. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show again.

All right, well, thanks for having me. And until next time!

If you want to get in contact with Dave, you can go to trust driven dot com slash contact. And if you are looking for a nonprofit software solution that really does it all. We are your guys. We would love to be considered in your search for software. So if you're interested in learning more, go to

There you can access all our resources, like our blog or your podcast episodes and also learn more information about us. We would love to connect with you here on social media and I made sure to link all of those in the description box for you.

Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on fundraising superheroes.

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By Trust Driven on

Podcast Jun 2, 2021, 12:00 AM

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