You’re fed up. Your nonprofit software doesn’t work the way it should. You’re cobbling together reports in Excel that should be run directly from the organization’s current software—if it actually worked right. What should take one hour to accomplish takes three because the software system is so old it practically creaks when it runs.
Sounds familiar? You are at the point where it’s time to search for new software for your nonprofit organization. The search, however, feels like a huge mountain you must climb. What if you make a mistake and pick the wrong software?
Others have climbed that mountain before you and have marked a clear trail for you to follow. We have put together the following list of tips for choosing the best nonprofit software for your needs based upon the latest advice from others in the nonprofit world. It is a tried-and-true formula that will help you select the right software to save you time and effort.
Getting Started: The Basic Software Selection Steps
It’s time to embark on your software selection process when the benefits of change outweigh the costs of continuing to do business as usual. But do not take the easiest path and simply upgrade your current software package to the latest edition. Do some digging and investigate your options. Perhaps the current software is the right choice, but it is likely that there are more options available for you to explore.
Step 1: Find a champion
The first step is to find an internal champion, or project sponsor, who will back you up and act as a liaison to senior management for you. Such a person can help you frame the requirements document with the overarching needs of the organization in mind and ensure you haven’t forgotten anything during the early stages of the project. They may also be able to help you navigate through any budgetary issues and find additional funding for the project, if necessary.
Step 2: Begin a needs assessment
A needs assessment is, as the name suggests, a survey of the needs of the organization. The tricky part of any needs assessment is making sure you have surveyed all areas of the organization and included the requirements of various stakeholder groups.
Step 3: Create a project team and plan
The key to building an effective project team is to ask people from each area of the organization to participate in the team. A representative from finance, accounting, operations, marketing, and program development, as well as any other core groups and departments, should be part of the project team.
One trick to establishing an effective project team is to set a weekly meeting to work together on the search for the new software package. During this time together, the team can develop the software project plan and discuss any concerns or considerations as a group.
Step 4: Interview key users
In addition to building a team of representatives from various departments, create a list of key software users within the organization. Interview each potential user to find out what they like about the current software, what they dislike, and any special needs they may have.
Step 5: Build a gap analysis
A gap analysis takes the findings from the interviews and compares the present software to the stated needs of the key users. The gap between the existing software and stated needs provides a guideline for what to look for in the new package.
Step 6: Search for potential vendors
You can search for potential nonprofit vendors online or contact a consulting firm such as Welter Consulting. We can help you find the right software for your needs. You can also ask other nonprofit organizations for their recommendations, read reviews in nonprofit journals, or find potential vendors to interview through trade shows and online conferences.
Step 7: Request for proposal
The request for proposal distills the team’s interviews and gap analysis into a formal document that can be submitted to multiple vendors with a deadline for response. The resulting proposals should address the needs and requirements outlined in the RFP. Bids can be submitted with the RFP response or later, depending on the vendor and the organization. Some teams conduct a two-level search, receiving proposed solutions first, winnowing the proposals down to a handful, then requesting bids based on clarifying questions to the potential vendors.
Step 8: Vendor demonstration
Once you have a small selection of possible proposals to choose from, schedule meetings with potential vendors. Ask for a demonstration of the software. Confirm how the vendor conducts training and the support available post-implementation.
Step 9: Select the software
After completing this thorough process and conducting full due diligence, it’s time for the final selection. Be sure to take full advantage of training and support offered by the software vendor and address any questions or hiccups in the process as soon as they arise.
Although there’s no one “best” software for all nonprofit organizations, working with a professional nonprofit consulting firm such as Welter Consulting can help you shorten the time it takes to find the right software. We’d be happy to work with you to find your “happy medium” and transition to your new nonprofit software. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.