Want to work with us?

The Complete Guide to Working with CharityEngine

You're trying to decide if CharityEngine is the right partner for your nonprofit. To help you make an educated decision, we'll show you exactly what it would be like if you became a client.

Before we begin...


Entering a software contract can be nerve-wracking...right up there with starting a new job. Sure, everyone smiles and says the right thing and shows you where the bathroom is, but are they still going to be nice in a few months? It’s risky.

Same with software. Those flashy CRM sales guys tell you their system can walk and chew gum at the same time, but they don’t really know exactly how your nonprofit is going to use it. The questions multiply the closer you get to deciding: how much will it really cost? What’s included off the shelf and what needs to be customized? And how hard is it to customize? What if you need help immediately? What if your nonprofit grows?

It’s a lot to worry about.

We don’t want you to worry about working with CharityEngine, and we certainly don’t want you to feel as though there are questions we can’t answer. We pledge to always be transparent with our clients (if you don’t believe us, look at how painfully honest we were working through the Mastercard rules and the impact on our clients).

In that spirit, we’ve assembled this “seller’s guide” that walks you through exactly what it looks like to work with CharityEngine.

First, here are some facts that will show you our chops:

  • CharityEngine has sent almost 630,000,000 emails for our clients.
  • We can send one to two million emails an hour.
  • We’ve processed almost 68 million transactions.
  • Total funds raised with CharityEngine are $4,091,791,927.72. Really!
  • Our largest client uses CharityEngine to manage a database of more than 18 million contacts.

If this makes you think, “Wow, my nonprofit is way too small for CharityEngine!” then let us throw a few more stats at you:

  • Merlin’s Magic Wand Foundation, one of our smallest clients, raises less than $200,000 a year.
  • CareerCatchers offered a video testimonial in which they explain how our software helped them grow from a nonprofit raising less than $200,000 in 2015 to raising more than $1 million six years later.
  • Approximately 25% of the prospective clients we chat with tell us they are using Excel spreadsheets to manage their nonprofit.

As you can see, we offer enterprise-level services as well as strategic guidance and technology that will help smaller nonprofits grow. So are you the right fit for CharityEngine? We can confidently say that you are!

Let’s take a look at what it is like to work with CharityEngine. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Why CharityEngine is different from other CRM providers
  • The top features and tools we’ve got to make your life easier
  • A close look at our (amazing) in-house payment processing
  • A rather detailed look at what you can expect during onboarding
  • What it looks like when you “graduate” and move to Customer Success (you’re gonna love it)
  • A look at how our software evolves to meet nonprofit needs
  •  And a look at how some of our clients use CharityEngine to change the world

It’s a lot, so buckle up! Here we go.

Chapter 1

The Value of Working with CharityEngine

Since 2010, CharityEngine has focused on making sure nonprofits have easy-to-use, comprehensive software to manage donors and process payments. Why? You’re busy doing good. It’s our job to power you to be great.

So why, you might be wondering, is CharityEngine any different than other nonprofit CRM vendors?

What Makes CharityEngine Different?

We can think of a lot of things that make us different, but all stories start with a bike ride to the beach.

Really! As a teenager, our CEO, Phil Schmitz, organized a bike ride from his home in Washington, DC to the beach a few hours away. He and his brothers got pledges and raised money for Autism Speaks.

From the start, Phil cared about supporting nonprofits. While working with different charities in college, he was shocked at how antiquated the technology was. Siloed data, ten systems needed to run the nonprofit, unreliable integrations...the list went on and on. He couldn’t believe technology was holding these organizations back.

So, at the risk of sounding “I built Facebook in my dorm room”-cliché, Phil built a computer system (not really in his dorm room, but close) that would help these nonprofits thrive.

That technology morphed into CharityEngine. We are the only all-in-one nonprofit CRM and fundraising platform out there. Others may say they’re all in one but do not have the native functionality we offer. Everything you need to run your nonprofit is in one system.

This includes payment processing. CharityEngine is at the top of the payment processing pile. We are PCI-certified, SOC 2-certified, and process ACH transactions in-house. Our payment processing is secure and cuts down on the fees you pay middlemen when you use other platforms. We can process payments for enterprise-level clients quickly, safely, and consistently.

We also offer enterprise-level email and marketing automation capabilities. “I’m not enterprise level!” you’re thinking. That’s okay. We scale down and up. We can handle whatever you’ve got.

Our onboarding is comprehensive and hands-on. We don’t throw videos at you and let you muddle your way through the system. From the moment you sign the contract, you have someone holding your hand for the rest of your CharityEngine life. We ask questions, we listen, we answer questions, we train, and we support. Our onboarding is unmatched.

P.S.: Bike to the Beach still raises money for Autism Speaks, about 30 years after that first bike ride.

Now, you’ve probably already made your way through the top 10 CRM questions we’re asked, and now you know how we’re different.

Top CharityEngine Features

Let’s cut to the chase. We’ve pulled together the features we’ve seen that are the most valuable to nonprofits. We have a solid out-of-the-box offering, denoted with an asterisk. We can confidently say you can effectively and efficiently run a nonprofit of any size with our native features.

But...when you want to get a little snazzy and try something new...we’ve got those modules, too. For example, you don’t have to pay for events and auctions unless you’re planning an auction or event. And if you decide to add that, it’s going to cost a little extra, but we can flip a switch and give you access.

While we can customize the system to meet almost any need your nonprofit might have, our capabilities include the following. Remember that out-of-the-box features are noted with an asterisk:

  • Nonprofit CRM software*
  • Donor journey management*
  • Email marketing and marketing automation*
  • Data and workflow automation*
  • Direct mail campaign tracking with options for mirrored SQL database*
  • Advanced reporting/analytics and query tools*
  • Payment processing*
  • Recurring gifts and membership/sustainer/pledge management*
  • Volunteer tracking*
  • Major gifts, grants, and corporate sponsorship moves management*
  • Events management
  • Donation and event forms*
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising
  • Virtual/silent auctions
  • E-Commerce/online shopping cart
  • Grassroots advocacy campaigns
  • Text-to-give campaigns

Top CharityEngine Fundraising Tools

In our years of experience, we’ve found nine key features that are the most important software features for nonprofits. Our platform, as you would guess, offers all nine (and then a few more in case you need them). With these features, CharityEngine can power any nonprofit.

Some of the tools our clients like the most include:

  • Online fundraising tools for any initiative, including text-to-give, events and auctions, peer-to-peer, major gifts, sustainer management, and in-house payment processing
  • Advocacy software with action alert pages, zip-to-district matching of constituents to elected officials and policy decision-makers, contact pathways to amplify constituent voices, options to custom target recipients, and real-time logging of actions taken
  • Online forms that you can manage yourself, form-level data enhancement, auto-responder alerts and acknowledgment, online survey manager, advanced fraud protection, and reporting and analytics

A scalable solution like ours meets your nonprofit where it is and provides the tools and services to help you grow. Here’s a look at the top nine features we offer:

Donor Management Tools

It goes without saying that the number-one task is to keep your donor records straight, but our technology goes beyond that basic need. CharityEngine offers:

  • 360°-view donor profiles. A CRM should pull together key data from many sources to give you a complete donor profile. It will map all aspects of engagement and donations and will offer giving insights based on the collected data. For example, you can learn about the time of year (or even the time of day) a donor is likely to give, and you can time your outreach efforts for maximum effect.
  • Tools to build and manage a sustainer program. Sustainers are the backbone of your fundraising efforts. Recurring giving demonstrates a committed donor who might be willing to participate in fundraising events such as peer-to-peer campaigns and also offers predictable and steady funds for your nonprofit. Nurturing a sustainer program can mean big success for your nonprofit’s mission.
  • Advanced reporting capabilities, including dashboards! If it’s true that all nonprofits are raising money for a cause, it is also true that most nonprofits must answer to a board of directors. Even if you don’t, the ability to pull reports that hone in on the metrics you need to measure is critical to evaluating where you are and mapping out strategic goals.

Donor information is the engine that powers CharityEngine and all your fundraising efforts. Ensuring your donor management tools can collect, store, and analyze many data points about your donors gives you a solid foundation for any donor engagement campaigns.

Communication Tools

Keeping in contact with your donors is easy when you have the right tools, but it’s also complex when considering the network of communications channels. Navigating with a discerning eye can seem a bit overwhelming.

If you have a CRM with native communication tools, like CharityEngine, your technology makes it easy for you to communicate (and track communications) with donors. CharityEngine’s CRM will help you keep your communication strategy organized and focused on the intended results.

Key communication features include:

  • Email marketing software. You can design elegant, branded emails and use data from CharityEngine to develop an email list, and you can customize the content to appeal to the most receptive audience. Our robust system allows for list management, targeting, A/B testing capability, surveys, and reports measuring the open and clickthrough rates of the emails you send. If you need email marketing ideas, we offer those, too!
  • Direct mail marketing. Direct mail can be a powerful outreach technique, and it’s even more powerful when you can segment your list and employ data-driven, real-time response management. CharityEngine is equipped to accept batch-entry gifts once the responses start coming in.
  • Personalization tools. Gone are the days of impersonal mass communication. Your audience is savvy and wants a personal connection, and nonprofits are magnificent candidates for a warm relationship. We offer the tools to personalize all outreach, and this goes well beyond knowing the proper nickname for the emails. Know why and when they donate and look for opportunities for outreach with a human touch. These efforts pay significant, long-term benefits.

With Charity Engine, your donor management and communications tools have a smooth flow of information between them to leverage all the donor insights the CRM offers. This is another benefit of our all-in-one CRM; not relying on integrations means the correct recipients will receive your messages at the right time and with the most relevant message.

Major Gift Management

Did you know that major gifts ($1,000 or more) make up about 85% of the average nonprofit’s total revenue? That means that while every donation matters, it’s essential that CharityEngine has the tools to cultivate and manage major gifts.

Our major gifts software includes the following:

  • Prospecting tools that help you research your donors’ public wealth information and philanthropic records and monitor accumulated data.
  • The ability to track long-term donor journeys means knowing and understanding your donors as you evaluate their long-term behavior and engagement. This knowledge lets you create the fundraising materials you need to move them through the donation cycle.
  • The option to create alerts about major donors gives you personalized outreach opportunities. You can map their journeys and understand where your nonprofit fits into their overall pattern of philanthropy. With alerts, you will know when and what to ask at a given time.

CharityEngine gives you the edge your nonprofit needs to take your fundraising to a new level.

Event Management Tools

If you’ve ever thrown a party, you know that everything from the guest list to the seating arrangements can be a headache. Now imagine the stress when you’re planning an event critical to the success of your nonprofit! You’ll want a toolbox full of ways to reduce the chances of anything going wrong. Our event management software equips nonprofits with the essentials to manage every aspect of your event.

Event hosting features give you the power to create a form, manage registration and ticketing, create a mobile app, manage speakers and attendees, think through the space layout, and even accept ticket payment on your website. Are you planning an auction? You’ll want the software to receive and document donated items and even enable online bidding.

CharityEngine offers robust volunteer management capabilities. Having a lot of help is great, but managing the signup process, the tasks, the tracking, and even the logistics of where people need to be will help your event be a smashing success.

One of the more popular outreach methods is peer-to-peer fundraising, and our software features can make this a low-cost, highly effective means of raising money and sharing your mission. Your nonprofit can create an event microsite that your fundraisers can share within their networks. Team and personal pages have proven influential in introducing a little competition to peer-to-peer fundraisers. Events such as community walks, anything-a-thons, and grassroots campaigns will energize your donors and let them participate in your mission hands-on.

With CharityEngine, your event management tools are integrated with your CRM. You can track and record data, such as which donors attended or participated, how many completed a post-event conversion like donating, and how your event attendance compares to previous years or events. With these native event management tools, you will have all data in one place, making it easy to identify trends and make strategic, targeted improvements.

Membership Management Tools

CharityEngine is an excellent tool for managing internal processes and backend data. Still, our membership management features allow donors to interface with aspects of their portfolio from a branded page on your website.

How is this helpful to you as a nonprofit? Your donors can answer their questions about past donations and giving history and update or change their payment information, address, communication preferences, or other personal information.

Allowing your donors access to self-service tools means your staff will spend less time answering phone calls and emails containing routine requests, and they will be freed up for other activities and donor outreach efforts. Consumers today are accustomed to managing their information in portals, and this feature can save your nonprofit a lot of time.

Grant Management Tools

Grants can contribute significantly to your overall fundraising strategy. But identifying, applying for, becoming compliant with, and tracking grants can get pretty confusing, particularly if you have more than one staff member responsible for grants.

What’s the best way to manage this process, given that even identifying and applying for one grant can be a months-long, complex journey? A vital software feature is grant management capabilities to keep all your information organized, synced, and available.

CharityEngine offers the option to create calendars for each grant, store important documents, and keep all relevant grant information in one secure location. It also tracks the number and amount of different grants and when they will be awarded. This will impact your bottom line because you will maximize every opportunity, and nothing will fall through the cracks.


Most nonprofit professionals have their hands full, and automating as many tasks as possible will ensure they spend their time doing what matters to advance their cause. Manually entering and updating data is inefficient and unnecessary when you have a CRM with the right features.

It’s important to look at the daily tasks that take a lot of time and match the automation and workflow processes that most clearly fit your needs. Here are some features of CharityEngine’s platform:

  • Automated processes like email automation, billing automation, automatic credit card updating, message scheduling, and even donor targeting can be automated to save time and personalize the donor experience. These days, the most effective and expeditious online services are those that are automated yet personalized—it’s time your nonprofit followed suit.
  • If a donor contributes from a social media ad, but you can’t attribute it, you’ve lost the ability to pursue fruitful paths of donor engagement. Robust data attribution tools will gather your data, sort it, and offer analysis on the best areas to focus your outreach.

Your donors all come from different backgrounds and have different stories. Then, it stands to reason that they will respond to different messages. The most effective way to reach them is to use the segmentation features of CharityEngine. What are some easy ways to dive into your audience? Geographic location, age, education level, and occupation are common starting places. You can drill down into a micro view by looking at one state and segmenting by county or personalizing communication to include local events or areas. More advanced segmentation includes psychographics, such as why donors care about your organization or reaching out based on their giving history and status (a lapsed donor would need a very different message than a regular sustainer, for example).

Reporting and Analytics

Measuring your progress, identifying areas that need work, and ensuring your resources are allocated appropriately are critical aspects of keeping your nonprofit healthy. You can only make data-driven decisions when you can create reports and identify trends. CharityEngine offers a variety of out-of-the-box report templates, giving you a great place to start running reports and showing you the topline metrics that should be most visible. Commonly used templates include annual reports for donors, financial reports for your Board of Directors, and internal staff reports.

It’s also crucial that you can customize your reports. Perhaps you want to know how many of your donors live in the Northeast or if there is a cluster of donors who received an education at the same institution. While pre-made report templates are helpful, the ability to drill down into the data in any way you want is a hallmark of CharityEngine.

All the report templates in the world aren’t helpful unless they are housed in a user-friendly interface. Consumers have gotten incredibly computer-savvy, and there is a focus on improving the user experience of everything from cell phones to databases. CharityEngine is intuitive and powerful. Reports and forms are easy to create, customize, and read.

Our software also offers data comparison features to empower your team to make the right decisions on your fundraising strategy, focusing your efforts on what historical data proves to be successful. It’s easy for you to pull these reports and leverage all the data you have.

Billing and Payment Processor

Asking the payment processing question can feel like you’re opening a can of worms! There are so many fees and things to think about and lots of options. Having the right tools or, even better, in-house payment processing capabilities can make this headache go away. It’s tricky, though, to understand payment processing for nonprofits, and it’s well worth your time to get educated before you start evaluating systems.

Let’s look at some features that are crucial to nonprofits:

  • Recurring billing helps nonprofits in so many ways. Donors who can “set it and forget it” won’t forget to make a promised payment or skip one because they are on vacation. And your nonprofit can count on that donation as you forecast growth.
  • Let’s say you have an event or a particularly successful donor outreach effort, and you have a lot of donations that your staff needs to process. This is called batch entry and settlement and is a process that can be made infinitely more manageable and more accurate with our technology. It enables you to aggregate approved donations into a batch and quickly send them to the bank or credit card company for settlement.
  • Similar to using a bank website to balance your checkbook, nonprofits must have reconciliation tools that help manage the financial health of their organization. Keeping accurate records is one of the most important things you can do and allows you to prepare accurate reports and forecasts.

CharityEngine also gets a gold star as a PCI-certified payment processor. This is a stamp of approval from the Payment Card Industry, which has developed standards consumers can trust. PCI-compliant payment processors must adhere to guidelines and continually assess their internal processes to avoid violations. But if a payment processor is PCI-certified, it’s an entirely different story. This certification requires a rigorous process and a comprehensive audit by a qualified security assessor. It takes months to achieve instead of the weeks it takes to become PCI compliant. Payment processing is a huge topic, so let’s take a moment to dig a little deeper.

Chapter 2

A Spotlight on Payment Processing

Payment processing is where CharityEngine shines. As we mentioned in the introduction, we securely process millions of dollars in donations for our clients. In fact, one of our biggest clients took out a Superbowl PSA, and during the airing, we benchmarked more than 1,000 transactions per second. As a PCI-certified, SOC 2-certified payment processor, we can run with the big boys. But what are the highlights you, the non-Superbowl-ad-buying nonprofit, need to know? Let’s take a quick look at some specific aspects of payment processing: ACH payments, our Billing Engine, our app and mobile swiper, and how we protect you from fraud.

ACH Payments

We joke that ACH is the first half of a sneeze, but it’s also the acronym for Automated Clearing House Network, and it’s the system that facilitates business and consumer bank transfers.

What are some examples of ACH payments?

  • Paychecks automatically deposited into your account
  • Bills you pay online
  • Donations you make or receive

So when you use your credit card, that’s not an ACH payment. When you write or accept a check or move money in and out of your bank account, that is an ACH transaction.

If you want to learn more about the benefits and risks of ACH transactions, we have a great article you can read. But if you want to learn specifically about CharityEngine’s in-house ACH processing, here’s a quick overview.

Without getting technical, we’ve always served as a payment gateway for electronic fund transfers, such as checks. We now offer in-house banking capabilities, making our solution even more comprehensive and consolidated for our clients.

What does this mean? Most often, money has to bounce around a few places after a donor hands you a check. It works well, but there are a few benefits when CharityEngine can offer in-house processing of bank transfers.

Our clients enjoy:

  • Better customer service. If you have a question, we don’t need to run it up the flagpole...we answer it ourselves.
  • Better security for your data and your money. Simply put, both are touched by fewer parties and stored in fewer places, leaving them less vulnerable.
  • Better rates because there aren’t additional parties tacking on charges.
  • More control so you get funded faster, and there’s less red tape for donors trying to give you gifts.
  • More insights so you can have better access to understand declined transactions.

Our PCI-certified payment processing abilities are already industry-leading, and this in-house processing underscores our position as the best choice for nonprofits needing high-volume payments processed quickly, securely, and at the lowest rates possible.

Billing Engine

CharityEngine’s Billing Engine offers these features:

  • The ability to collect on missed payments faster with automated credit card updaters, better access to detailed decline codes, and strategic control for rebilling—leading to improved collective rates.
  • A subscription billing service that empowers clients to control their billing. CharityEngine’s strategic tactics and tools mitigate drop-off rates.
  • Enterprise security systems working behind the scenes to increase donor participation while mitigating risk for the nonprofit. Highlights include SOC II certification for data management, PCI certification for financial transactions, and patented fraud protection.

Mobile Swiper

It would be a mistake to skip over a quick mention of our mobile credit card swiper. It allows you to accept credit card donations or payments using a mobile pay app and our credit card swiper. The app allows nonprofits to process donations onsite quickly, enroll monthly donors, and send receipts to donors. Add our swiper, and you will instantly increase onsite fundraising!

Here’s how it works:

The first thing you’ll need is a smartphone or tablet. IOS, Android, and Microsoft all work.

  • You’ll download the app and choose whether you want to process donations (best for events and fundraisers) or set up a kiosk for self-service giving. The latter means you can give your donors access to the app, and they can donate without being present. These two options give you the chance to really maximize the impact of an event!
  • Once you log in, you can enter the donation. For step-by-step instructions, take a look at this resource from our help center. One of the cool things about this screen is that a toggle button prompts you to ask (or the donor to choose) if they’d like to support your mission with a monthly donation. 
  •  You enter the payment amount, and the screen turns green, indicating the payment information is valid. You enter the donor’s information, process the payment, and send a receipt via email. It’s that easy!

Then, you connect to the app with your swiper.

CharityEngine has made using the Mobile Pay App with a credit card swiper even easier. This device integrates seamlessly with the app, allowing you to physically swipe credit cards at an event and process payments through the app on a smartphone or tablet.

Once you get the swiper, setup is easy, and you can begin accepting donations immediately. For the first-time setup (and setup every time you reconnect the swiper and your phone or tablet), follow these steps:

  • Once the swiper is connected to your device, log in and choose an amount.
  • Click “next” to access credit card fields and give permission to access the device.
  •  Click “previous” on that same screen and then “next” on the donation amount screen.

Then you’re ready to use the swiper!

There is a cost for the swiper, but there aren’t any extra monthly fees once you have it. And while we currently only offer Android devices, we’re hoping to offer Apple swipers soon.

And now for the fine print:

  •  Clients often ask if the swiper can read chips, and we’re not quite there yet.
  • It’s great to know that your processing rates aren’t affected! 
  • The Mobile Pay swipers will work with any Android smartphone or tablet with a USB-C port (the port you usually use to attach a charger).
  • The Android operating system must be 4.4.2 or later.

Fraud Protection

Nonprofit fraud is a real threat, and we work with our clients to keep donations and donor information secure. While there are some things we counsel our clients to check on, we also protect them in the backend with our industry-leading fraud protection.

We have built patent-pending technology that leverages massive data networks and sophisticated intelligence to help our clients.

There are some key benefits and differentiators to our fraud protection:

It is 100% effective at preventing your e-commerce environment from the most sophisticated attacks.

Our solution doesn’t require you to put barriers on your donation forms that complicate the giving process for legitimate donors and negatively impact your conversion rates.

Effective fraud protection reduces your cost because your chargeback rates for fraudulent credit card transactions are reduced. In fact, we have seen greater than 80% reductions for clients using advanced fraud protection on their donation forms.

CharityEngine’s advanced fraud protection is truly the best on the market.

Chapter 3

Onboarding, Step by Step

Once you’ve agreed that yes, this is the CRM for your nonprofit, what happens? Here’s a video that gives you a succinct overview, or you can read the detail below.

video of Megan Gill

It can be nerve-wracking to think about a new CRM and new software implementation. New people, new technology, new features, and, if the sales guys are to be believed, fantastic fundraising and donor management success.

But just as no one likes jumping into a pool blindfolded, no one really wants to commit to an entirely new relationship without knowing what they’re getting into.

So, let’s bring our processes into the light! This chapter will walk you through exactly what it looks like when a client comes on board with CharityEngine. If you’re considering a move to our software, this overview will highlight our professional services and customer care and the ease with which we will implement your new system. And don’t worry; we’ve got lots of tips to help you with change management.

The Cast of Characters

Clients finish the sales cycle when they sign the contract. You move into an onboarding phase that’s managed by a different team. This is the professional services team, dedicated to ensuring your implementation is smooth and all your questions are answered.

Your team will include:

  •  A Director of Customer Service oversees the customer service team that will provide support for the contract duration. They will address any issues with the system during implementation, provide educational opportunities to share best practices for taking advantage of the power of CharityEngine, and look for potential product improvements based on clients' needs.
  •  A Project Manager will be your main point of contact throughout this implementation phase. They will drive the project to meet milestones, coordinate resource support, and provide clients with weekly updates on the progress.
  •  A team of Implementation Specialists is responsible for managing and executing the back-end work of the implementation and migration.
  •  A Customer Experience Manager will stay with you after the implementation concludes. This team member will know your system, serve as a resource if you have post-implementation questions, and partner with you to find ongoing success. This role is a little technical, a little managerial, a little consultant-y, and this team member is always ready to help.

This all-star cast is supported by veteran training and IT experts.

The CharityEngine Customer Bill of Rights

It’s helpful for our clients to know what they can expect from us and what we expect from them. We developed this bill of rights to state all expectations clearly.

The CharityEngine team promises to:

Provide documented resources and tools for success

  • Create and manage the project timeline
  • Stick to agreed-upon timelines and deadlines
  • Deliver agreed-upon requirements
  • Keep you updated on progress
  • Arrive to all meetings prepared and with a collaborative spirit
  • Coordinate introduction and complete transition to our Client Success team

The Customer team promises to:

  • Ask questions and seek clarity, but understand we may have to ask for more detail
  • Stay within the purchased scope of service
  • Come to meetings prepared with a collaborative spirit
  • Own their data and business process
  • Speak up as things are happening so they can be adjusted quickly
  • Stick to agreed-upon timelines and deadlines
  • Provide a lead point person for the project

Five Phases of Implementation

The project plan moves methodically through five phases: Discovery, System Build, Training, User Acceptance Testing, and System Acceptance.


The Discovery phase is a getting-to-know-each-other time.

  • The customer will be asked to complete a requirements-gathering form, so we have the data we need in one place.
  • We will coordinate the setup of your payment processing.
  • We will work with you to understand the critical data fields to ensure smooth data migration.
  • Finally, we will review project goals, requirements, timelines, and due dates and sign an agreement to solidify these details.

System Build and Data Migration

This is where the fun starts! Here's the step-by-step process. We will start with the first step, which is setting up everything you need for nonprofit payment processing. There are five steps that we will explain when it’s time to get started:

  1. Get set up with FirstData, which is a clearinghouse for all donations you will receive.
  2. Get set up with CardPointe, which is the portal you will use to manage your account.
  3. Your PM and your Implementation Specialist will initiate the setup of your payment gateway. This can take up to three days to complete.
  4. We will work with you to test your credit card setup.
  5. We will work with you to test your ACH setup.

And then your payment processing gets the green light and you’re ready to go!

Once your payment processing is set up and tested, we will move on:

  • We set up your domain.
  • We will offer guidance and support as you map your data and add it to a template for importing.
  • We import the data, and you review it.
  • Finally, we review the configuration and build, import the data, and modify and test all forms, templates, and payment processing functionality.


We pledge to our clients that we will train you until you are comfortable, and then we will continue to offer product support over the life of your contract.

The CharityEngine team will train you on your specific instance of the software. You will not simply be directed to a library of resources or given general training that may or may not apply to you. We will train you on your modules and your system.

  • All clients have in-classroom training on Online Forms, Emails, and Campaigns.
  • We offer self-guided training on Contacts, Donations (Gift Entry and Management), Reporting, and Peer-to-Peer (if it’s in the contract).
  • If applicable, in-classroom training is available for Events, Advocacy, E-commerce, Online Auctions, Advanced Fraud, and CAU (credit card updater).

Off-the-shelf modules include:

  • Email Marketing
  • Online Forms and CMS
  • Payment Processing
  • Reporting and Analytics

And available “add-on” modules include:

  • Event Registration and Online Auctions
  • Major Gifts
  • Text-to-Give
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
  • Sustainer Management
  • E-Commerce
  • Membership Management
  • Advocacy Campaigns

User Acceptance Testing

The CharityEngine team will guide you through User Acceptance Testing, which is when you kick the tires of the system. We ask that you thoroughly test every form and bit of functionality.

We then make edits and revisions to ensure the implementation is successful and as you expected.

Don’t forget that we’re with you every step of the way. You can always call and email your project manager, and we promise a quick response.

System Acceptance

This is the day we’ve all been anticipating! We will review the system and prepare to go live. Ever your partner, we will have a series of customized checklists to walk you through your new system. This is yet another opportunity to review the system and make sure it’s functioning as you expect before we sign off.

What Does the Project Timeline Look Like?

Our implementations run from 60 - 90 days. On average, this is how much time we budget for each project phase:

Discovery (Week 1 to Week 2)

System Build (Week 2 to Week 7)

Data Migration (Week 2 to Week 7)

User Acceptance Training (Week 3 to Week 5)

Training (Week 5 to Week 6) 

System Acceptance (Week 7 to Week 8)

What Happens After Implementation?

We’re still right by your side! You move to the last team and the one you’ll be with the longest: Customer Success. 

Chapter 4

Customer Success (Your BFF)

You wanted a new nonprofit CRM. You did the research and watched the demos and read the reviews and scratched your head, wondering how you would ever get from “Maybe I need a new CRM” to slicing and dicing donor data with ease, managing donor relationships so closely they feel like family, and sleeping through the night because you know you’re in really good CRM hands. 

But here we are.

CharityEngine’s CRM software has been implemented, and we’ve handed you the keys to the car.

And, much like a new driver, you panic!

Learning your fancy new system and building processes can seem a little overwhelming. Doing things on your own can be scary, but you can do it, and we’re always here to answer questions and lend a hand until you realize how much time you’ll save (and how much revenue you’ll generate) when you can confidently use CharityEngine software.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the top post-implementation questions we get after the implementation process. This article will answer the following questions:

What are CharityEngine’s billing practices?

  • How do I pay my bill?
  • How do I access support?
  • What can I expect from support?
  • How do I report a bug?
  • How do I request a system enhancement?
  • What happens after I request an enhancement?
  • Who do I contact if I have a question about payment processing?
  • How do I get PCI compliant?
  • What else should I know?
  • What do I do if I need to change my contract or add services?

Question #1: What are CharityEngine’s Billing Practices?

Billing will begin the first of the month following contract signing. Invoices are dated the first of the month and are always due by the last day of the month. Therefore, our payment terms are net 30.

Question #2: How Do I Pay My Bill?

When it comes to making a payment, you’ll have several options.

  • You can set up autopay, and we will automatically withdraw the invoice amount.
    • To set up your preferred payment for autopay, you’ll need to set up a call with a member of our support team so we can take your payment over the phone. Call us at 866-737-8222.
  • You can elect to prepay your invoices for 6- or 12-month terms. Just email our customer experience team describing your request, and we will set this up with our finance team.
  • You can pay online with ACH or a credit card in your CharityEngine account.
    • Navigate to Accounts, then Billing.
    • Under Billing, choose Invoices. This is where you view your invoices.
    • Select the open invoice(s) you wish to pay and click Pay Online Now.
    • If you’d like to see detail about the invoice, look under Actions and choose Detail.
    • You can choose Recent Activity to verify which bills have been paid.
  • CharityEngine accepts check payments mailed to 1990 Main Street, Suite 750, Sarasota, FL 34236.

Question #3: How Do I Access Support?

Support is always available to you as a CharityEngine client. There are several steps you can take when you have a question:

  • Search the Help Center for articles and videos.
  • Log into CharityEngine and submit a ticket to the Help Desk. “Submit ticket” is located on the bottom left of every screen in CharityEngine, and this in-app button is the way we most prefer you contact support. Once you press “submit,” diagnostic information about your computer and a screenshot will be attached to the request. A case is automatically created, and the SLA (Service Level Agreement) timer begins.

If you want to add notes or files to your request, you can add them after you submit your ticket through the “My Tickets” menu in CharityEngine.

Contact customer support if your contract includes a premium support package, training, or consulting package.

Question #4: What Can I Expect from Support?

We are committed to solving your issues quickly and accurately. We created our Service Level Agreement (SLA) to document this commitment and to create accountability. This agreement is confined to support cases only, which will be any case that can be totally resolved by our Support Department.

Exclusions to the support-case type are called escalations, and if an escalation is deemed necessary, our support team will make that clear.

 Here’s our basic SLA for support cases:

Agreement to respond 

  • Standard support – 8 business hours
  • Premium support – 4 business hours

Average close time across all priorities is currently 2.5 business days. Close time depends on priorities (critical, high, medium, low) and the nature of the support request. But how do we define priorities?

  • Critical issues are outages in which most staff cannot perform their jobs or time-sensitive client business cannot be completed.
  • High issues have a significant business impact, and there isn’t a reasonable, temporary workaround, or the issues are time-sensitive.
  • Low-priority issues don’t have a significant business impact, or they can be easily ignored by users. They might affect a single donor or user.

Please note: Issues are sometimes classified as bugs or enhancement requests. Bugs are reported to development and, depending on impact, are addressed accordingly. Enhancement requests are added to the development queue and are considered regularly, based on merit and popularity, to be added to the feature queue and added during a quarterly release.

Question #5: How Do I Report a Bug?

If something in CharityEngine doesn’t look right or doesn’t appear to be working as it should be, there’s a good chance you’re right. We want to ensure we’re resolving issues as quickly as possible, so please report these when you see them! To report a bug, submit a ticket describing what you are experiencing. Please describe the steps you took that resulted in the error so our team can replicate it. You can include screenshots, form numbers, or URLs where applicable.

Question #6: How Do I Request a System Enhancement?

If you’d like to do something in CharityEngine that doesn’t seem to exist, we want to hear about it! To request a system enhancement, submit a ticket describing how you want the technology to work or what problem you want the technology to help you solve. It’s always best to include context around your example and even better to explain how this feature will help you save time or raise more funds for your mission. If you are asking for it, chances are other clients will love it, too.

Question #7: What Happens After I Request an Enhancement?

Our software is constantly evolving, quite often in response to client requests. Many clients recognize their requests in our product releases! Our team reviews all requests and, if there is enough demand, our developers begin to program the enhancement into our software. Once you’ve requested an enhancement, check the next product release to see if it’s included.

Quick tip: to stay on top of all product news, go into CharityEngine, go to the Help Center, and click on Learn About Our Newest Features and Enhancements at the top of the page. On the Product Info page, click on Subscribe to Product Release Notifications!

Question #8: Who Do I Contact if I Have a Question about Payment Processing?

CharityEngine processes payments through one of several systems. Once you determine which system your organization uses, you will contact that provider for support.


Support Page

Merchant Services: 877-828-0720

Information Needed for Call:

  • Merchant ID
  • Merchant Name
  • Merchant Address (zip)
  • Merchant Phone Number
  • Ticket # (if available)

CardPointe (Connect) is where customers can view credit card transactions. Clients use this to reconcile their bank to CharityEngine. If you have any questions or concerns regarding credit card or ACH transactions, please explore the CardPointe Support Center at CardPointe Support Center or click on Contact Support to access the CardPointe contact options.

  • General Ticket Information when submitting a ticket via CardPointe:
  • Ticket processing takes 3-5 business days to be assigned to an agent.
  • If the agent updates and does not hear from the merchant (CE) in 7 days, the ticket will be closed. Open a new ticket and reference the original ticket number.


Support Page


Support Page

Question #9: What does PCI Compliance Mean? 

PCI compliance means a few things:

  • You can accept payments from all major credit cards
  • You’ll have increased donor trust
  • Compliance protects you if your data is stolen
  • Achieving PCI compliance prepares you for meeting other industry standards

Not being PCI compliant also often means your bank will charge a fee annually and/or monthly. 

Question #10: Can You Break Down Payment Processing for Me, One More Time?


Fiserv, previously known as FirstData, is a global provider of payment and financial services technology solutions.

They are a bank platform-to-consumer electronic bill payment. Fiserv uses Clover Connect CardPointe as their comprehensive and secure cloud-based platform. Using the CardPointe portal, you will be able to authorize, capture, void, and refund transactions as well pull reports and view your statements. Think of the CardPointe portal like logging into your bank account to reconcile the transactions and funds that you are seeing come through CharityEngine. 

To have donation forms, event forms, and peer-to-peer websites that are functional within CharityEngine, they must be connected to a payment gateway (Fiserv) to accept donations and transactions from your donors. As a CharityEngine customer, you will need to have an account set up with Fiserv via the CardPointe Portal. Once this account is provisioned, your implementation team will then sync your Fiserv account with your CharityEngine instance so that you can begin accepting donations through various available forms inside of CharityEngine. 

Once your CardPointe portal is set up along with your CharityEngine instance, you will have the ability to pull reports from both systems to review. Within your CardPointe portal, you will also be able to view monthly statements that outline the fees you have been charged for that month based on the number of transactions that you process, along with the static monthly fees associated with your account. 

Your CharityEngine Implementation specialist will guide you along the way to set up your Fiserv and CardPointe portal using this step-by-step guide.

FirstData Credit Card & ACH Payment Processing Set Up

You can also visit the CardPointe support center to understand how to manage your account, view statements, and pull reports.

Question #11: What do I do if I need to make changes to my contract or add services?

You can’t outgrow us! We LOVE to support our customers when they grow their contact base and leverage more tools and services to increase their impact. Here are some examples of ways we can support you well into the future, no matter how successful you are!

Professional Service & Support Packages

We have solutions that can fit almost any need or budget. The best place to start is with a conversation. Reach out and tell us what you’d like to accomplish, and I’ll work with you to build something that checks your boxes. Examples may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Solutioning & Training Packages: If you have a specific module you want to use more efficiently or you have a specific goal you want to achieve to better leverage CharityEngine technology, let our team build a project for you. Popular packages include training customer teams on workflows, automation, or even oversight on growing email lists, increasing sustainer revenue, and building custom reports and dashboards.
  • Retainer Service Packages: Take any example from the list above and assign our team to do it on your behalf. These packages can be set up on a short-term or annual basis depending on your needs.
  • Increasing Email or Contact Limits: Your current agreement will state your limits on emails and contacts and we can make changes when you find your organization nearing the threshold on either limit. As you grow and these lists grow, we are more than happy to work with you to change the parameters of the agreement. To monitor these limits within your CharityEngine instance, follow the steps below:


  • Navigate to Reports & Analytics module
  • Within “Campaigns,” select “Monthly Initiatives”
  • Modify the date parameters to see additional time periods
  • The column listed as “Recipients” will provide a summary of total emails sent each month for the timeframe selected
  • Important to note: This limit specifically refers to emails sent through the Campaigns module. Transactional emails and acknowledgments are not included in this total.


  • Navigate to Reports & Analytics module
  • Within “Contacts,” select “Database Size”
  • From here you will see your total record size
  • Adding new features

If you want to leverage some of the functionality you reviewed in the sales process but it wasn’t the right fit at that time, we can always add it as you grow. Examples can include peer-to-peer fundraising, auctions, SMS text messaging, advanced fraud, or the credit card updater.

Chapter 5

Ongoing Feature Releases

It’s a little hard to admit, but our software is our baby. We love it, and while we don’t tuck it in at night and sing lullabies, we do nurture it and take very good care of it.

Why? We’re borderline obsessed with helping nonprofits do good in the world. We believe so strongly in what you do and in equipping you to do your job the best we can.

So we are all ears. In fact, every time a client calls to say, “Hey, it would be neat if I could….” Or “I wish….,” we yell back to our elves to get cracking on a solution. When that solution is cool enough that all our clients could benefit, we add it to a new feature release.

As a CharityEngine client, you get these releases for free!

The software is constantly evolving, and our CRM software features are, in our humble opinions, the best on the market. Some of the features we’ve rolled out recently include:

  • An email verification tool that you can toggle on or off. Leaving it on—explicitly asking for permission to email donors—ups your email deliverability. So does email address validation, another feature upgrade.
  • Keeping up with the most advanced nonprofit technology, we offer totally customizable dashboards. Add and move widgets so the most important information is highlighted.
  • Nonprofit reporting is much easier when you can see details of gift matching or at-a-glance cases and email deliverability dashboards.

One thing that’s certain is that working with CharityEngine means you always have access to the most exciting features available in nonprofit software.

Chapter 6

Let's Talk About Our Clients

We don’t like to brag, but we’ve got some pretty important clients. Why are they so important, you ask? Because every one of our clients is trying to make the world a better place. Their work is selfless and motivated by kindness and compassion, and that makes them quite important in our eyes.

Sometimes people want to know the benefits of a CRM, or how our clients really use our software.

Here are some things clients have shared with us:

PBC logo

Phoenix Boys Choir helps young men interested in voice, music theory, and performance. They use CharityEngine to manage all their donors, segment them for appropriate outreach, facilitate an automated email campaign, and process the donations received. Most importantly, the PBC uses our technology to host their online auction and receive event donations, which have totaled almost $50,000 every year.

znef logo

Zeta National Education Foundation supports students and shows them a path to higher education. ZNEF came to us because they wanted tools to start small with their fundraising then expand. On their first day of online fundraising, they raised $5,000!

aer logo

Army Emergency Relief is the Army’s own nonprofit and has helped soldiers for more than 80 years. Since inception, they have provided more than $2 billion to nearly four million soldiers. They rely on CharityEngine to facilitate direct mail campaigns and online giving, the most recent of which raised $3.6 million.

rescue village logo

Rescue Village uses CharityEngine to manage donors and raise funds through events like their annual “Woofstock” peer-to-peer fundraising dog walk and parade, as well as Putts for Paws and Tails at Twilight. With automated emails and mass text, this humane animal shelter saves a lot of furry friends.

Green America

Green America is on a mission to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. They rely on our CRM to manage donor data and process more than 32,000 donations annually.

KSBJ is a Christian radio station in Houston, Texas. A recent fundraising appeal resulted in the group raising millions to support their station and programming. They did it with a massive event featuring a live DJ who could watch a screen (powered by CharityEngine) and announce gifts in real time. Stories would scroll and chimes would sound when goals were hit. Volunteers manned phone banks and our software manned the online donations.

Food Bank for the Heartland tells us that with our tools and automation, as well as secure payment processing, they tripled in size over a two-year period. It’s no surprise, then, that they also appreciate how scalable our solution is.


bdsra logo

Batten Disease Support and Research Association (which really steals our hearts) asked CharityEngine to create a completely custom solution to connect families with each other and with specialists in the medical community as they all search for a cure. We were also able to create an online memorial that syncs with their physical memorial, surrounding families with love.

Tupelo Children’s Mansion offered this kind quote: “We were drawn to CharityEngine because of the company's focus on sustainers, the feature that allows donors to cover merchant fees; the ability for donors to give through PayPal; the opportunity to automate tasks through the software; the reporting options; and much more! We can already see the huge benefit of this CRM to our overall operation. I would highly recommend the CharityEngine platform to any nonprofit looking for a comprehensive, supportive, innovative CRM.”


And CareerCatchers said, "CharityEngine revolutionized our ability to track outcomes, track data, improve our best practices. I've looked at some of the other CRM systems that are available to nonprofits, and because of the customization piece of it, CharityEngine is really the best. CharityEngine is the main reason we are a sustainable nonprofit."

That’s just a taste of how our clients use our CRM and what they appreciate about CharityEngine.

Let's go!

Ready to Work with CharityEngine?

Hopefully, this guide has given you a good look at everything from questions nonprofits have to specific details about how we operate and what you can expect when you work with us. It’s a lot of information, but we intend for this to be a comprehensive look at what you can expect and how we can help you.

If you’re ready to talk, we’re ready as well!

Let's go!

Ready to Talk?

Whether you have more questions or you're ready to talk terms, we're here for you!

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