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The Best Fundraising Software for Colleges and Universities

Leverage Automation and Personalization for Successful Capital Campaigns

Colleges need robust software with all tools in one place...and a partner they can trust.

The Best Fundraising Software for Colleges and Universities

The larger your university or college, the more emphasis you put on fundraising—and the crazier fundraising software can make you. Siloed data, multiple systems with multiple logins, and a labyrinth of tech support staff when you have a problem…what happened to software making your life easier?

At CharityEngine, we’ve worked with schools (both K-12 and colleges and universities) for decades, and we have made sure our software can solve the problems that keep our higher-ed clients awake at night. And while the most important features of fundraising software appeal to nonprofits across industries, there are some interesting and unique attributes of CharityEngine that make us a perfect partner for higher education fundraisers.

To help you with your research, we will start by listing five solid choices to consider. Then we can dive a little more deeply into CharityEngine.

Top Providers for Higher-Ed Consideration

When you're ready to start shopping, it helps to have a vetted shortlist. We've been serving nonprofits for a few decades and recommend starting here. Think, first, of what's important to you: a robust database, extended functionality, native tools? Then check out these companies. We've noted what we like about each of them, as well as some important considerations.

1. Bloomerang helps higher-ed organizations move their missions forward with a donor database solution. The software's user interface is straightforward and doesn't overwhelm users who aren't technologically advanced. It's best for nonprofits that want ease of use over functionality; it's missing key modules like events and major gifts and offers limited out-of-the-box reports. This might be a good option if you're on the smaller side.

2. Bonterra is an easy target because we can say it's what happens when for-profit banks swoop in. They directed acquisitions (of popular nonprofit CRMs like Salsa, EveryAction, and Network for Good) and then rebranded with everyone under one roof. The benefit? Massive functionality and a large footprint. The considerations? It's a big company. You get big-company red tape, inconsistent customer service, and even being transitioned to brand-new software when corporate decisions are made. It's got a lot to offer, but a warm, fuzzy partnership isn't one of those things.

3. Virtuous coined the phrase "responsive fundraising" (and wrote a book about it). They advertise the ability to turn alumni into major donors with their user-friendly platform and talk about a client that has seen a 12% growth in giving year over year. The company offers good automation workflows out of the box and offers personalized ask amounts based on wealth data. Users have said it's costly and are puzzled by the inability to create personalized automated email sequences.

4. Blackbaud was conceived in 1981 when the founder developed a computerized billing system for a school in New York. It's been around forever and has had many acquisitions to enhance its database capabilities. Like any system that's grown through acquisitions over a few decades, it's large, comprehensive, cumbersome, and complicated. If you need a robust database and have smart IT staffers, it might be a good choice.

5. DonorPerfect offers impressive stats: they claim educational nonprofits raise 25% more funds in their first year. We like the fact that a bank or large corporation does not own it, so you won't be forced to adopt a new platform. It's also affordable and has excellent customer service, which colleges and universities appreciate. The modules aren't all native, though, and even email is accessed through an integration with Constant Contact.

6. CharityEngine is a partner to colleges and universities. We are privately owned, and while we serve large clients, everyone benefits from our client and professional service teams and our complete dedication to helping nonprofits be successful. If you're on the medium-and-growing side, you'll love that all core fundraising tools are native and data from all sources is centralized and right at your fingertips in real time. When you need our platform connected to a third-party system, we've got robust APIs that make it easy.

That's a taste of why nonprofits like Wounded Warrior Project and Easterseals choose CharityEngine. But what about colleges and universities? What features of our software do they most appreciate? Let's take a look.

CharityEngine: Fundraising Software for Colleges and Universities

When we talk to our clients, we often hear the same issues. CharityEngine was created because technology was holding nonprofits back and we wanted to provide a better solution…and we do, across fields. But our higher-ed clients emphasize some challenges more than other clients. Fortunately, they use our fundraising software, so they’re not challenged anymore!

The Only Authentic All-in-One Fundraising Platform

Yes, we know “all-in-one” is a buzzword that’s used fairly often. However, CharityEngine is the only platform that has completely native functionality, including payment processing (because we are a payment processor). This means that there isn't siloed data when you use CharityEngine. The second a donor RSVPs to an event, you can look at a real-time dashboard and see that she has also made monthly donations for the past six months and has subscribed to your university’s newsletter. No delay, no syncing, and data and systems that talk to each other. You won’t find that anywhere else.

When you have one system with all the tools you need, you don’t have to worry about multiple systems breaking or not syncing properly. And there’s one customer support number to call when you need help. Having all your tools in one system simplifies your life in many ways.

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Capital Campaigns

Higher education relies on capital campaigns to engage donors and alumni. Leveraging the tools in CharityEngine, organizations can plan and run successful campaigns that rally supporters. You can begin with our gift probability feature, which leverages artificial and business intelligence to evaluate the optimal circumstances under which a donor might commit or pledge funds. Next, use the software to segment your supporters and create personalized communications on the different channels that will appeal to each group. Our moves management functionality helps organizations locate and nurture opportunities. Our software can track pledges, automate reminder emails, and help colleges and universities with forecasting and pipeline development. CharityEngine takes a lot of manual work out of capital campaigns, freeing you to focus on other fundraising endeavors.

Advanced Receipting

After wrestling with multiple systems and trying to patch together a picture of donor activities, it’s a relief to be able to click on a receipt or acknowledgment template (out of the box or one you customize), choose the sending method (often email), edit the message, and hit send. When you need to send batch acknowledgments, you easily set filters and send multiple receipts to a group of supporters. Because the systems are native, any type of donation will be automatically filled in. Automated receipting will save you time, at year-end and every other month of the year as well.

Native Payment Processing

With the volume of donations that pour into colleges and universities, managing a processing system like Stripe or can be nerve-wracking. CharityEngine is a payment processor that speaks directly to the big card companies. You save money because there aren’t middlemen taking a cut. With large, national nonprofits as clients, CharityEngine has tested its payment processing at the highest levels. In fact, we processed more than 1,000 transactions per second during a Superbowl commercial for one of our enterprise clients.

CharityEngine is PCI- and SOC 2-certified. We offer advanced fraud protection that is 99% effective at preventing sophisticated fraud attacks. With payment processing that saves you money, is native to your fundraising software, and keeps your donor data and money safe, the question is this…why wouldn’t you choose CharityEngine?

Multichannel Outreach, Built Right In

Your donor pool is likely not homogenous. You need outreach that appeals to individuals of different ages living in different locations…and one form of outreach will resonate with a fraction of them. What about the rest? Use CharityEngine’s powerful database to collect metrics on all your donors, and then segment them into smaller groups so you can personalize outreach. Whether you will be more effective in mail, email, or on TikTok (!!),  you can make sure your message is hitting your donors in the way that will most compel them to take action.

Built to Work with Donor-Advised Funds

Many of our clients are increasingly finding funding through donor-advised funds. CharityEngine helps schools provide supporters with multiple giving options, including through DAFs. The real-time dashboards give you visibility into donation data, eliminating painstaking detective work and allowing your university to develop long-term, deep connections with DAF providers.

Automated Activity Tracking

Nurturing donors can be an all-hands-on-deck effort. CharityEngine’s software includes automated activity tracking, which means you can use automation to create and assign activities to team members. For example, when a supporter makes a donation, a thank-you email is automatically and promptly sent. But if that same donor signs up to attend an event, the system can trigger a different team member to reach out. When nothing falls through the cracks, donor relationships are strengthened.

Easy Form Creation

CharityEngine offers plenty of out-of-the-box form templates for you to use. But it’s also easy for you to customize forms, all the way from branding them with your school’s colors and logos to coming up with creative ways to appeal to your audience. And when it comes to donation forms, we’ve already built in many features that will help your conversions. One-click giving, one-line address entry, and even multiple ways to donate are all proven to raise conversion rates. When you’re our client, we’re always working for you.

Custom Dashboards

We’ve talked about how much donor data you can collect and analyze, but how do you make that data accessible and actionable? With our customizable dashboards, you determine the KPIs you want to track and then watch them, in real time, and then develop the course of action. When you can track any KPI you want and see the results in front of you, you’re using data to enhance your strategic plans.

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Be Beleaguered No More!

That’s the word our higher-ed clients have used to describe their technology: they’re beleaguered. Fortunately, they found CharityEngine, which offers an all-in-one platform to streamline workflows, eliminate data silos, and provide you with all the tools you need for effective multichannel campaigns.

We might not be the perfect solution for your fundraising challenges, but we’re pretty sure it’s worth your time to take a closer look. Join some of the largest nonprofits in the country that rely on CharityEngine! Bring us your list of tech headaches, and give us a chance to make them all disappear.