How does your nonprofit choose the software it uses? Do you use what’s available at no cost or came with your computer and hope for the best? Or have you purchased software from an office supply store and find that it just doesn’t fit the needs of a nonprofit?
It’s not uncommon to find that off-the-shelf accounting packages, for example, don’t quite match the needs of your organization. Accounting for nonprofits must take into consideration different revenue sources and requirements. Sometimes adjusting packaged software is like fitting a round peg in a square hole. It works, but there are gaps.
The key to ensuring nonprofit efficiency and productivity lies in a nonprofit technology strategy. Planning purchases in advance ensures you’ve covered all your organization’s needs while handling its finances with care and consideration. It helps you build up your technology the right way, focusing on the primary organizational needs while preparing for future needs, too.
Five Questions to Ask to Build a Nonprofit Technology Plan
We’ve put together these five questions to help you get started building your nonprofit technology plan. Gather your team together and review this list of questions to find the right software for your needs.
- What are the tech needs of your organization? You may wish to take an inventory of the current software packages you are using. Include all departments or groups in your inventory and ask everyone to list the software they have on their desktops or organization-wide.
- Who needs what? List all the functional areas in your organization and then the types of software each needs. All groups need word processing and basic spreadsheet software, but perhaps only the accounting department needs access to accounting and financial management software, and marketing needs access to graphic design and/or specialized CRM software.
- Do you need to integrate new or existing software? Today’s solutions emphasize integration for good reason. It helps boost efficiency, saves time, and improves all aspects of your workplace. If you have a current package for accounting and finance that you like, for example, you may wish to find a CRM system that integrates easily with it so you can track member communications against donations and other data. Integration enables you to do much more with the data you have and to work more effectively across teams.
- Are you considering specialized nonprofit software? Software developers familiar with the nonprofit world develop packages that fit the needs of an organization better than standard off the shelf ones. These packages take into consideration the various revenue streams common to a nonprofit, variations in fiscal years and accounting, and many other areas. Software designed specifically for nonprofits may save you time and money and help you ramp up more quickly than purchasing a package meant for a for-profit and adapting it for the nonprofit world.
- What training do we need? Sometimes nonprofits think they need new software when they can use their existing software to meet their needs—with the right training. You may wish to explore training solutions to use your existing software more efficiently. Or, if you’re buying new software, learn about the training options available from the software vendor. The more you know about your software, the more use you will get out of it.
Write Up Your Plan
A written plan offers a robust roadmap of technology solutions that can be shared among team members, board members, and others who can advise and guide your purchases and budget needs. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate plan. List your goals, budget, software needs, and who needs them. Then, decide which teams or individuals will begin the exploration process to find the right software packages for your nonprofit.
Nonprofit software has come a long way from the days of single-use packages that need frequent updates. Today’s cloud-based solutions run over the internet, so anyone with a web browser can access them. They don’t need fancy hardware to run, and they are very user-friendly. Find out more about nonprofit software solutions or get help with your nonprofit tech strategy from the experts at Welter Consulting.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for practical solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.