The 1.6 million nonprofits in the United States work to make a difference — whether its food rescue or putting shoes on feet. Yet are they working harder than they need to? After 20 years in business management roles, Sal Ferlise was called to work in the nonprofit sector. Through his work as the CEO of the Sports Outreach Institute, Ferlise identified a lack of digital tools supporting smaller nonprofits. The majority of these well-intentioned organizations raise under $1 million. Yet any level of fundraising takes a lot of effort.
“There was not anything simple for that particular demographic. Blackbaud or Salesforce were Cadillacs and my peers and the vast majority of nonprofits need a tricycle,” Ferlise said. He started thinking, “what can we do to help nonprofits raise more funds and build meaningful, sustainable donor relationships?
CEO Dot Drives
The answer? Dot Drives, a donor relationship and management software service that streamlines information into an easy workflow with an emphasis on CEO and founder Ferlise’s donor pipeline approach. The name is inspired by Ferlise’s efforts to be a “Dot Connector,” someone who uses strategy, resources, and encouragement to help people and organizations achieve greater results.
Nonprofit work is hard work. “I realized early on there are a lot of gaps in efficiency and effectiveness,” Ferlise said. The main thing required? “A way to raise funds and while getting people excited and allowing them to be engaged with the nonprofit for the long term.”
He envisioned a platform offering a holistic view of nonprofit giving and helping busy professionals visualize funding requests, donors and donations. The main priority? “Make it simple.”
Sprawling software that treats donors as a number doesn’t help build relationships. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is focused on data management. Automation can make donors feel disconnected.
“What Dot Drives sought to do from the very beginning is create a very process-driven application that would lead nonprofit users through the steps of healthy donor engagement,” Ferlise said.
The platform takes what is known in the nonprofit sector as “Moves management” and represents it as a simple “donor pipeline.” The idea is “if you use this process you will never lose sight of where you are with that donor again.”
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Dot Drives partnered first with a local software developer. The original partner got the platform online in beta, but they lacked the flexibility Dot Drives needed to realize its long-term goals.
Wanting to work with a developer that could position the software to scale and offer new features and functionality, Dot Drives decided to partner instead with Dualboot Partners.
“We felt like going into the future the existing provider would keep us at a turtle’s pace. We wanted a hare to quickly get us competitive in the space,” Ferlise said.
CEO Dot Drives
“Eighteen months in you change your developer? That’s not easy,” Ferlise said. But “working with Dualboot, on a scale of one to 10, has been a 10.”
Along with the donor pipeline feature, Ferlise envisioned a Dot Drives that would have a simple CRM and help users keep up with donor updates. Inside the app, users would be able to design and develop forms, take notes, accept donations, and set reminders. It was going to be a great all-in-one solution.
Dualboot took over in 2021 to tackle outstanding priorities. Many of the features were still in build-out stage. “They were in the most rudimentary stage of operations,” Ferlise said. “Dualboot came in and they understood where we wanted to go and began to build out the statement of work around that vision.”
With Dualboot, the Forms feature, a key piece of the platform, was developed, integrated with a payment processor, and made available to users. Only when that was accomplished in early 2022 did Ferlise really see Dot Drives as moving out of beta mode into a first version, fully launched.
Dot Drives gives its users the ability to create and customize donor forms. That’s a competitive differentiator. “A lot of times users have to go to a forms vendor or another outsourced provider to make that happen,” our project manager Karolyn Currence said.
“We built a feature within the platform to view, edit forms, and add logos.”
Along with bringing the much desired forms feature to completion, we created a consistency across the platform. In May 2022, we launched fresh Notes and revamped Reminders features. Doing so was simplified by our refactoring of the platform’s backend. “We went in and built in more efficiency in the way it was coded and structured,” Currence said.
Dot Drives now has a platform its proud to show customers. “Client acquisition isn’t going to be difficult now that we have this product on the market,” Ferlise said.
Ferlise credits the successful partnership to Dualboot’s developers being responsive and good listeners. “They certainly care about understanding what we are trying to accomplish and the level of communication is very high. That’s not always the case. In my experience, dealing with software developers.
“Dualboot thinks through that process, how it goes across the whole platform and how it’s going to look, and we get finer features as a result,” Ferlise said.
Now the User Experience is very attractive. Showing the platform off at a major fundraisers’ conference, Dot Drives received enthusiastic feedback for its simple, clean, easy to navigate platform. Exactly what Ferlise had envisioned back when first visualizing his idea for a new nonprofit donor app.
“If at the end of the day we can help nonprofits in being more effective and more efficient with donor engagement that means more funds and that means more lives are changed. The idea that more lives are impacted because of our product? That is the thing that excites me the most” — Sal Ferlise, CEO Dot Drives
CEO Dot Drives