DonorElf seeks to make finances easy for non-profitsAugust 17, 2011 by Brittany Mascio
DonorElf, a donor management service for non-profits, provides support for balancing accounts and following donor trends. Screenshot of donorelf.com.
When Paul Yoder was younger, his mother would ask him: “Why aren’t your chores done? Do you think elves are going to come and do them for you?”
He learned then that elves wouldn’t do the work for him but five months ago, he built DonorElf, a donor management service that defies fables and does nearly all of the work of non-profit bookkeeping for him.
“I liked the idea of elves doing the mundane and time-consuming chores,” Yoder said in an email interview. “I realized that raising one’s own financial support can be overwhelming and feel like a chore, so I created DonorElf to take the pain out of that process.”
Yoder (left, photo by Geoff Wood) said the idea for the product came when he was working as software engineer and raising financial support with the non-profit organization Word Made Flesh. As way to keep track of the organization’s current balance and incoming donations, he spent 180 hours using Ruby on Rails to develop his software as a service (SaaS) startup and eliminate the “elf work” of manually running reports in QuickBooks, copying information to a spreadsheet and emailing the balance sheets to team members.
For $5 per month, the site provides small to medium sized non-profits with financial support for balancing accounts and following donor trends. By integrating with QuickBooks, DonorElf allows users and their team to stay up-to-date with their most accurate balance, income and expenses. In addition to this straightforward balance sheet, DonorElf displays donor contact information and analytics on donor trending from the occasional giver to the monthly or annual patron.
“The main selling point for DonorElf is its simplicity,” Yoder said. “It helps staff keep track of their account balance and donors. That’s it.”
With DonorElf, users can run three different reports – monthly donations, income vs expense and income by donation type (above). Screenshot from donorelf.com.
Other similar donor management systems, like DonorPerfect and Etapestry.com, base pricing on the number of donors contributing to an organization with initial prices ranging from $39 to $99 per month, respectively. These systems have a multitude of features such as online giving, gift matching and specific lists for online fundraising that DonorElf does not, yet, it is the limited-feature concept that has Yoder seeing success and turning a profit.
In the five months since the DonorElf launch, there have been more than 125 users. Most, Yoder said, have complimented on the efficiency of the product and its user-friendly interface. Currently, the primary users of DonorElf are missionary organizations, some with a staff as small as eight to the service’s largest client with a staff of 70.
And though Yoder plans to expand his work with DonorElf, soon integrating additional accounting software to accommodate more users, he has no plans to look for funding. After bootstrapping the $1,000 cost of this side project and gleaning inspiration by the micropreneur vision from the Startups for the Rest of Us podcasts, he hopes to continue building more with DonorElf and exploring different SaaS products that meet the needs of small, niche markets.
To let users try DonorElf before signing up, Yoder has set up an interactive demo of the product. Visit donorelf.com and click “View Demo” on the left side of the homepage.