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The Real Scoop on Software Implementation

Implementing new software is exciting, but there are some ups and downs. In this article, our team throws back the curtain so you know what to expect.

The Real Scoop on Software Implementation

This is what we like to call a how-the-sausage-gets-made article. Your nonprofit wants to make a technology change, and you’ve picked a new system. You have heard (over and over and over) how great this new technology is. You’ll meet your fundraising goals! You’ll have new donors knocking down your door! You’ll be the best nonprofit around! World peace? It’s on the table. You’ll be invincible! 


While some of that may be true, the fact is that the right technology can really help your nonprofit succeed. But to be honest, there are some nuts and bolts that you need to configure if your system allows, and there are some inevitable “just-gotta-deal-with-it" challenges when you switch systems.  

It’s exciting to move to a new platform, but there are some bumps when you move from one system to another, and it's helpful to know that before you start. 

Implementation is an intricate process in which your instance of the software is customized and set up for your nonprofit. Today, we are going to address two systems and talk about what you can expect: we will touch on email deliverability and then talk about what happens when switching payment processors. 

Email Deliverability 

We’ve written pretty extensively about email deliverability and how there’s a science to getting your deliverability rates up. When a client implements our software, we work as a team to let the big email providers (like Gmail, Outlook, and Hotmail) know that your nonprofit’s emails are legit and requested by people so that they will land in inboxes.  

Rigorous implementation includes a variety of measures to ensure you’ll have higher deliverability rates when this process is complete. Inevitably, your email deliverability will take an initial dip. But don’t let this concern you: once you’ve been validated, your email goes where you want. 

Let’s say you’re a nonprofit and you’re a new customer. We lean on our proven process and almost two decades of experience sending emails through our proprietary email exchange to set you up for success. This process includes: 

  • An understanding of tactics, such as segmentation and list pruning 
  • Knowledge of techniques, such as establishment of SPF records or utilization of DKIM and DMARC 
  • IP warming 
  • Feedback loop management 

But what if you, the client, carefully crafts an amazing fundraising appeal, and it lands in spam? You might panic. 

Don’t! Trust us when we say this is completely normal. The trick is doing all the right things and then giving yourself time to build your reputation. Once that reputation is built, it’s critical to maintain it, and we’re going to help you do that. Part of the process is, inevitably, a bit bumpy. 

And this will happen any time you switch email providers, not just if you come to us. So even if you’re moving to another great CRM, expect it to get a little rocky before it gets a lot better.  

By the way, it’s common to want to test a message with a smaller group of recipients before committing to a large send. This is often done to preview the message and ensure it’s delivered as intended. But often, these test messages end up in spam. Why?

You’re effectively telling the receiving servers that you don’t send mass emails. They’re profiling you, then delivering your emails according to that profile...right to spam. Our recommendation is to go ahead and send the small test but don't be alarmed if the emails land in the spam folder. 

What email deliverability should you aim for, to know you’re in the clear? Aim high. If, after the whole process, your emails aren’t enjoying a 99% deliverability rate, call us. Because that’s what we offer. 

Payment Processing 

Let’s move from emails to payment processing. If you want to learn about ACH processing or what our payment processing capabilities are, or even how Mastercard’s rules on donations might affect your nonprofit, we can send you to more in-depth discussions on those topics. Right now, we want to tell you why your nonprofit’s fundraising might get a little wobbly when you move to a new CRM with payment-processing capabilities. 

Just as Gmail wonders if you’re a spammer when you pop onto the scene with a new email provider, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are going to raise some eyebrows when your charity wants to process payments through, for example, CharityEngine instead of using PayPal, Stripe, or a system you’re using with your current fundraising tool. Whether you knew it or not, each of those systems was tracking your transactions. The record is called MID memory and helped your reputation. Now you, the new kid on the block, need to build up a good reputation to ensure your payments will flow quickly and accurately. 

Want to know what makes this even harder for you, a nonprofit? One of the flags these big companies look for is credit card transactions in which the card isn’t present. That’s likely almost all your donations! The scrutiny is heightened before the first transaction is entered. 

The result, which no one wants to tell you, is that, as you build your MID memory,  you might miss some payments from recurring donors, and you could see some initial declines from first-time donors. 

Now that the scary part is out of the way, let’s explain what you do and what your CRM does to get you validated quickly. Keep your eyes on the prize: upgrading your payment processor means more security, more transactions processed per minute, better collection of missed payments, better overall retention of recurring donors, better customer service, and a stellar reputation. It's worth the trouble to get there!

How You Help Your Payments Process 

When we are onboarding new clients, we share with them what we’re telling you: it’s a bit of a bumpy ride. We then tell them the following: 

  • Email your supporters and tell them you’re switching payment processors. 
  • In this email, ask them to be on the lookout for communications about the declined transaction and to rerun any donations that are declined. (This effort tells the major processors that you really meant it and will help your reputation quickly.) 
  • Keep your current payment processor up and running until the warming period with the new provider is over.  
  • Continue to run donations through your new payment processor to get the bump from high and consistent volume. If a transaction is declined multiple times as it’s rebilled, there is nothing wrong with running it through your old processor. But make sure that as the new billing cycle starts, you’re processing those cards again in the new system to build your reputation. 

How Your Vendor Helps Your Payments Process 

We can only speak for ourselves! Our Tier 1 payment processing capabilities directly connect to your transaction's funding without the need for middlemen or third-party processors. The benefit to you?  

  • Better access to more detailed decline codes 
  • More control of your rebilling to maximize collection of missed payments 
  • Higher retainment of recurring donors    

We may sound like a broken record, but our position in the payment processing industry has allowed us to build up unique expertise around card payment processing. Our advanced security measures and patented fraud protection help bolster the MID memory for clients and help build their reputation. This allows more money to be processed for your nonprofit. 

What else does our technology do? 

  • Our credit card updater means that our system communicates with the big servers and automatically updates numbers and expiration dates, leading to fewer declined transactions. 
  • Our automatic reactivation system ensures that your donors and any missed payments don't fall through the cracks. We can help make sure that donors who have missed payments don't fall off your "active billing file." 
  • Our systems can prioritize donations, pushing the ones most likely to be approved through first. The more volume you have, the higher your rating. 

Patience is a Winning Virtue 

Once you understand that technology is rarely a light switch that can be turned on or off, you’re ahead of the game. Your expectations are realistic, and you’re prepared. You must make decisions about technology carefully, as switching email and payment processing providers too often will damage your reputation in both arenas.  

Find a provider you can trust and one with which you expect a lasting relationship. We stand by our clients, supporting them and advocating for them as they make the decision to work with us and throughout the life of our relationship. Fully onboarded, our clients are delighted with our high email deliverability rates and our industry-leading payment processing capabilities. If you’re a new client, welcome to the team! If you’re not, but you're considering CharityEngine, take a look at what we offer.