by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 17 April 2012
On weekends, I volunteer at a non-profit. The work is rewarding and frustrating. It is rewarding because I am giving back to the community. It is frustrating because our processes and tools are pre-historic. Perhaps, this approach jells with our general image of non-profits with good intentions but bad inefficiencies.
This week, we review Little Green Light - an online donor management tool - a solution that attempts to rectify those inefficiencies. We will look at its interface, features, and see how it can be of use to you.
Sparking A Green Light
Little Green Light is very much a family affair. Chris Bicknell and Nick Bicknell started the venture in 2007 to help their alma mater, Sant Bani School, manage its fundraising process. Both drew on their respective strengths: while Chris is a fundraising professional, Nick is a code wrangler.
The company name also reflects its cofounder Nick Bicknell's passion for a song by Taj Mahal called Candy Man. "We think it projects good things: "green light" means go and signifies success; and "little" connotes lightweight and easy, all of which match the promise of LGL - it helps you reach your goals and is easy to use," says Hunter Williams, vice president of marketing and business development at the company.
According to Williams, most donor management solutions in the market are targeted at big non-profits that have dedicated fundraising teams. "Such solutions are fairly sophisticated and require training," he says. LGL, he says, brings relatively sophisticated features to small and mid-sized firms at affordable price-points. In addition to incorporating a plethora of features, Williams says the solution is relatively easy to use. This makes the learning curve for non-profits shorter and enables them to hit the ground running.
How does LGL Work?
Little Green Light functions as an automation and database engine for your non-profit's fundraising tasks. Thus, you can add, edit or revise contact lists relating to various campaigns or appeals for your organization. Similarly, you can use the system's mail merge functionality to create templates and automate common tasks such as generating acknowledgement and Thank You letters. Finally, you can also sync up information from LGL to balance your chart of accounts and generate intelligent analytics relating to various campaigns and appeals in your non-profit.
Entering system contacts, known as constituents in LGL, is the first step. Constituents can be donors, prospects, or media professionals. LGL enables you to create email records of your conversations with a contact. Thus, you can bcc a personalized LGL email address in your correspondence with records. Subsequently, LGL will create contact records based on email exchanges with the given contact.
Once constituents are entered, you can assign gifts or pledges against them. The gifts or pledges can be in cash or in kind.
The constituent database can also be segmented in multiple ways. For example, you can create customized groups from search results for specific constituents. Or, you can use a combination of queries to generate results and add associated tasks or goals with specific constituents.
Other tabs within the system are used for administrative tasks such as task assignment for volunteers or time-keeping. LGL also has an inline editor and integrates with emailing software such as Mailchimp. Taken together, these functionalities are an excellent way to automate your mailing tasks. For example, you can import existing templates from Microsoft Word, customize the templates using variables, and mail physical letters, or use the MailChimp integration to send emails to your donors. Finally, you can also perform housekeeping tasks such as tracking and generating reports related to volunteer hours from the system.
Looking Towards The Light
The interface is clean and clutter-free. A horizontal global navigation menu consisting of five tabs enables users to move between different modules in the system.
The home page, which doubles up as a dashboard, provides quick access to most-used features within the system. For example, you can include contact information for your constituents or tasks for your team members, add gifts, run reports, and conduct searches for important data points. The home page also provides you a snapshot of important information such as your fundraising total, so far, calendar details and upcoming activity schedules. To configure additional parameters or view additional details, you can navigate to the respective tabs. Users also have the option to fill out short or long forms for contact details.
Lighting Up Your Non-Profit With The Little Green Light
Beyond the fact that it provides a holistic picture of your non-profit's fundraising efforts, I especially liked the thoughtful details within the solution. For example, LGL enables you to accept gifts (and pledges) In Kind and Cash. Gifts donated In Kind can be assigned dollar values.
You can also track each of these categories by generating reports related to each statistic. Similarly, you can add constituent soft credits. The credits avoid record duplication for families by enabling you to configure shadows for family member constituents added in the system. Thus, money donated jointly by members belonging to the same family is not counted towards the final donation total.
The solution is also extremely customizable. So you can customize menu items by creating categories for gifts or In Kind menu items. For example, you can add new In Kind donation categories for object types that are not pre-configured in the system.
LGL's integration with email software Mailchimp and form generator Wufoo makes it easy for you to generate emails and conduct user surveys for your non-profits. Finally, the clincher is the fact that the system offers excellent support at affordable prices. So, the system's monthly subscription plans include initial data migration, unlimited user support, training, and support for users. And, customers have only good things to say about the solution. "The level of positive feedback we have received from customers is extraordinary," says Williams.
As with all good things, however, the solution can be improved.
Since non-profits often engage in collaborative activities such as grant writing, it might be an idea for the solution's founders to improve the document management system in the LGL. Thus, a simple routing and approval process will greatly enhance the system's functionality. Similarly, website management capabilities will enable non-profits to post fundraising forms and updates to their websites, which are currently only possible through LGL's integration with Wufoo forms.
What Do You Pay For The Light?
LGL's pricing is a function of the number of constituent records being tracked. Beginning with 2500 records for $39 per month, you can track upto 200.000 records using the solution. As mentioned earlier, the subscriptions include assistance with initial data migration, unlimited user accounts, training and support activities.
Does Your Non-Profit Need The Little Green Light?
Based on my experience with a non-profit, I would definitely vouch for the solution. It has an easy-to-use interface and excellent features. The benefits of affordability, short learning curves, and efficiencies make this solution a must-have for most non-profits.