I'm looking for software that a brand-new, very small nonprofit could use to keep track of donors (and potentially other kinds of supporters, like event attendees and email-list subscribers).

We have literally no money right now, so I'm looking for something open-source (or at least free-as-in-beer). We also don't need or want anything very complex; we're at the stage of asking friends and family right now, so our needs are really basic, but I'd like the organization to start following best practices from the beginning.

None of us are primarily development professionals (development in the sense of fundraising), so the ideal program would be useful, and potentially scalable, but should not have an especially steep learning curve. We want the program to make us work smarter, not to be a net drain on our time.

Miscellaneous needs: Everyone at the organization has Macs, so native OS X support would be ideal. Linux-only solutions would also be ok, but Linux support is not necessary. A Windows-only program would be considered only if it was so good as to be worth setting up a virtual machine or dual-booting. If it is possible to work with the same list across multiple computers/users it would be a plus, but it is definitely not a requirement: only one user needs to work with the program regularly.

  • Would you consider using something simple like excel? It really is a very powerful data tool for the average user. You can create forms for data entry, it data analysis tools are decent...its the way I would go for a start up.
    – James
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:19
  • That's a useful thought … I'm going to look into making a database with LibreOffice. It requires me doing more of the work of figuring out what the workflow should be, but lacking a sensible purpose-specific program I think that may be the best route. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 21:14
  • 1
    I'm missing the most important part of your requirements: What do you want to do with that information (now and in the future)? This will determine very much which (type of) software is applicable. Please edit your question
    – user416
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


CiviCRM looks like it might satisfy most or all of your requirements:

  • open-source: Yes
  • free: Yes
  • scalable: Yes
  • easy learning curve: ?
  • cross platform (Mac/Linux/Windows): Yes
  • track donors: Yes
  • track event attendees: Yes
  • mailing list for subscribers: Yes

As James suggests in the comments, it might be easiest to start with a simple spreadsheet or similar until an investment in something more complex is worthwhile.

A web based solution will likely incur a web hosting cost but this is a very inexpensive commodity item (less than $50 per year) and something which you may already be paying or plan to pay for if you have a website or plan to have a website.

A web based solution has advantages over a locally hosted application such as:

  • you can access and update the information from anywhere (not just the office)
  • online payments could be enabled to reduce administration costs
  • administration only requires a web browser so this solution is platform independent
  • can be integrated with social networking
  • can be integrated with website
  • IIRC, You can also solicit donations using CiviCRM. Also, if you've got your non-profit paperwork, you can get free web hosting on Dreamhost Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 7:44

Nation Builder has nice donor functions like lists and payments, email list functions and can build websites too. Not free though. Starts at $19 a month.


  • I don't think an organization asking for donations will accept to pay 19$/month.
    – user111
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 15:17

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