Directory: Focus on - Fundraising software

Client: Life Education Dorset

Supplier: Harlequin Software

Project: To supply the charity with a cost-effective for its fundraising database

In February 2007, Life Education Dorset - a charity providing health and drug education programmes to children in the county - got approval from its board of trustees to purchase some fundraising software.

Before then, the organisation had relied on a basic contacts database for its administrative and fundraising work. But the system's search and mailmerge facilities did not work properly and, as a result, the charity could not track donor history. It also had to copy addresses to a separate spreadsheet to send out mailings.

Fundraiser Paulette Ward knew the charity needed a new system if it was to raise funds more effectively, especially given that the organisation was planning to increase its corporate supporter base and the volume of sponsored events it held every year. But she was also keen, given the charity's turnover of less than £350,000 a year, to ensure it got value for money.

"Some of the packages we looked at were far outside what we could afford, and others didn't do everything we needed," says Ward.

"But when we found Harlequin, pretty much all of our fundraising requirements were met. It came in on price and could actually develop an administrative database to run alongside the fundraising system.

"For example, if I wanted to apply to a council for funding, I could go into the administrative database, find all the relevant information on schools in Dorset and run that into the fundraising application."

The package cost Life Education Dorset less than £10,000, including on-site staff training, and Ward believes the system has paid for itself many times over.

There is an annual telephone support and software upgrade fee of £2,000, but fundraisers are encouraged by Harlequin to join a user group that meets twice a year to talk about what they want from each upgrade.

"They tell us what practical applications they'd like to see in the system so they don't end up with functions they hardly ever use," says Tom Ellis, managing director of Harlequin Software. "It matters a lot that fundraisers can use the whole system."

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