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Before You Even Call A Vendor: Know The 3 Buckets of Nonprofit Marketing Tech

Updated: May 27, 2021

Before Googling Nonprofit Technology Options

Buying the software to power your nonprofit is an intimidating task. Your ability to fund-raise, advocate, and create meaningful change rely on this one big choice.  Not to mention it is usually one of the largest costs for an organization. In this article, we get a fresh perspective from LeadPup on how to classify and steps to take before calling a nonprofit technology provider which specializes in marketing technology. 

The Wrong Way to Buy NP Marketing Tech

In a hurried rush to alleviate their current CRM bottleneck, or even mish-mash of cheaper software solutions, organizations will often start searching the web for every product that looks like it could do the trick.  Unfortunately, this often leads to time wasted and the wrong software choice.

Make your search more efficient and effective.  This saves you time and money throughout your tech search, and more importantly, allows your organizations to improve its fundraising and communications.  And of course, better execute on your mission.

Understand This Framework Before You Look At A Single Software Vendor

All-In-One NP Tech for Marketing 

AIO, All-In-One, solutions attempt to support an entire marketing organization with a single platform. The value of an AIO solution is easily calculated by determining the extent to which the system supports each of the critical marketing functions that an organization requires. Often, when a marketing team selects an AIO solution, the tool works well to meet the program’s needs; however, if the organization’s marketing program evolves and the AIO solution is not improved at an equal pace, the value of the system can plummet quickly.

In the nonprofit (NP Tech) space, a dozen viable AIO solutions have been on the market for the last 15 years. While there are of course exceptions, entry level AIO systems can cost a minimum of $10,000 to deploy and as little as little as several hundred dollars per month for marketers with small email lists. Sophisticated organizations should expect to pay six figures to support deployment and integration, with monthly costs ranging from $500 to $50,000 per month in software fees. 

We feel that AIO solutions are good solutions for organizations whose programs are fairly simple or are relatively new. They allow organizations to fix their investment in marketing technology, while maximizing their options for the team or internal staff who manage the system. 


Best-In-Class, BIC solutions, provide organizations with the strongest, most unfettered options for the components of their marketing technology stack. Many BIC solutions are deployed to accept data from hundreds of different sources and deliver upwards of thousands of campaign files on a monthly basis.

The vast majority of organizations that use BIC solutions contract with a vendor who procures, deploys, and manages all of the technology and marketing services associated with the stack. The solutions involve the integration of strong commercial software applications along with proprietary code to support things like consumer data integration. The BIC solution does what it says, offering the customer the best possible options for all pieces of the marketing tech stack.

These solutions are used from mid-sized retailers to leading insurance companies but, to a much lesser degree, large nonprofit organizations. BIC solutions cost between $500,000 to $1,000,000 to deploy and anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 per month for support and technology.

BIC solutions are best for marketing organizations that manage established, sophisticated programs across many different media and channels. Their cost for performance is best realized by marketing organizations that have extremely high volumes of consumer and transactional data files coming into the system. Lastly, organizations that use these systems tend to be managing 100+ campaigns across media per month.


Best-Of-Breed, BOB solutions, attempt to provide organizations greater performance through broad choice of the components used across the stack. A BOB solution is often anchored around one open and flexible component in the stack – usually the contact or campaign management component.

The consumer data integration, promotion, and public facing forms are integrated into the anchor application. A high quality BOB solution can provide greater performance than an AIO solution for a similar cost after the initial deployment and configuration is complete. BOB solutions can be deployed with a progressive strategy that allows new components to be added or replaced over time, as a marketing program evolves.

BOB solutions are most successful when adequate resources are allocated for ongoing support and change management. This support is most often provided to organizations by a 3rd party vendor who provides strong support for change management.

Budget wise, they are best for organizations that can afford a deployment cost of several hundred thousand dollars and $20,000 to $40,000 per month in software costs and support services.

BOB solutions are best for marketing organizations that are rapidly innovating or are dedicating significant resources to improving an established program. They are often best for programs that focus on relatively few promotional media (i.e. email and direct mail) and have a moderate volume of campaigns (e.g. 15 per month).

Examples: EveryAction

The 3 Buckets – Side-by-Side Comparison of NP Tech for Marketing

In the chart below, we compare the three types of nonprofit marketing technology solutions with each of the major components of marketing technology. These are of course generalizations, but having reviewed and built hundreds of software applications and solutions, we are confident that these assumptions hold true for the NP Tech community.

Compare Nonprofit Donor Fundraising Software

Applying This Framework – Pick Your NP Tech Solution Type

  1. Identify which features are most critical to your organization (green boxes).

  2. Start your search by identifying these features in a software solution (perhaps starting with a list from SmartThought Solutions…).

  3. Use Those Free Trials!!  Never make such an important decision without getting your hands dirty in the program. 

  4. Make Your Purchase!

  5. Take advantage of all services to help you migrate your data.  You just paid a lot of money, get all the support you deserve. 

  6. Get back to work – knowing that your tech will help, not hinder your cause!

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts mind.

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