How to Choose a Good Technology Partner

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

One of the most time-consuming decisions nonprofits make is finding the right technology partner for their needs. Such partners include resellers (like Welter Consulting) who provide both consulting and software sales. Resellers help nonprofits choose the best software solution, such as a fund accounting or grant management solution, and help them address problems using specific software applications.

To make finding the right technology partner easier, we’ve put together a 7-point checklist to use when interviewing potential vendors. You can use this checklist in addition to the RFP process to help you narrow down your choice of vendors.

7 Point Vendor Review Checklist

  1. Does the provider listen to you? It should be a given that any potential consultant or vendor listens carefully to your needs and concerns, but not all do. Consider how well the potential vendor listens to you and responds to your concerns.
  2. How does the vendor respond to questions? Some vendors respond promptly and thoroughly. Others evade or act as if questions are an annoyance to them. Be sure that the vendor under consideration answers your questions courteously and professionally.
  3. Does the vendor understand nonprofit finance and accounting? Many vendors who serve the for-profit mark think they understand the nonprofit world, but you may find them a poor fit unless they work with nonprofits. They rarely understand the nuances and challenges of fund accounting, audit preparation, and other situations that nonprofits routinely encounter. Find a vendor who works with nonprofit organizations regularly.
  4. Have a salesperson you can work with? You’ll likely work with a team on the vendor side, but make sure that the primary point of contact is someone with whom you click. Yes, they can leave the company, or you may work with someone else, but at least at the beginning of the engagement, you’ll spend a lot of time working together to set up the system, complete training, and work out any snags in the migration to the new software. It’s important to feel you have a rapport with the vendor’s team, especially your primary point of contact.
  5. Is the contract easy to understand? Contracts can be frustrating and difficult or plain enough for the average person to read and understand. It’s helpful to work with a vendor who has a short, simple contract. It shouldn’t take a law degree to understand what you are getting and how much you pay for it.
  6. When will training take place? Training is an important component of any software rollout but especially important with nonprofit finance and accounting software. During the training period, the vendor will teach you and your team how to work with the basic software. Additional training may be scheduled for “power users” or those who will use the system daily and in-depth. Make sure that you feel the training time allowed in the contract is enough. If not, what will it take to increase it? Is there a fee?
  7. Is the vendor available post-implementation for questions? Again, ask plenty of questions and read through the contract to understand what, if any, post-implementation time is allowed by the vendor for questions, fixes, and other needs. Most vendors answer quick calls or questions but may charge a fee for custom programming or additional data migration. Ask about fees for services you may need post-implementation and compare among various vendors.

Choose an Experienced Partner

Lastly, consider the vendor’s references. Before calling references, have a list of questions prepared. You may want two or more employees to call the same reference to see if they get the same answer in each call or if anything unusual comes up in the conversation.

Testimonials and endorsements from nonprofit agencies and organizations are also a sign of a good vendor. Although you can’t predict how a software rollout will go, conducting due diligence and asking plenty of questions before hiring a vendor goes a long way towards a successful nonprofit accounting software implementation.

Welter Consulting

Of course, we hope you’ll choose Welter Consulting for your needs. We believe we fulfill all the right boxes in this checklist to make us a great choice for the technology needs of nonprofits.

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective 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.

Reimagine, Reinvigorate: Nonprofit COVID-19 Challenges and Response

By | COVID-19, Nonprofit | No Comments

We are now several months into the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with no end in sight, despite the optimistic statements of politicians and health authorities promising a vaccine on the horizon. No one knows whether vaccines and treatments in the development pipeline will work or mitigate the virus’ reach. In the meantime, local communities need philanthropic support like never before.

Unfortunately, the old model that treats nonprofits as “gap fillers” between the public sector and the private marketplace is outdated. In some underserved communities, nonprofits aren’t gap fillers but lifelines. Nothing has made this as crystal clear as the response to the pandemic where the distance between the haves and the have-nots is growing.

Nonprofits stand on the brink of a new era. As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, we must still deal with the realities of existing within the pandemic. To continue supporting the work we love and the communities we cherish, we must think beyond the “nonprofit box.”

The Current Situation: Post-Crisis, Pre-Resolution

One of the biggest challenges nonprofits face is sustaining the response. At the start of the crisis, the immediate reaction saw nonprofits scrambling to provide food, shelter, and care for communities nationwide. Nonprofits such as food banks experienced lines stretching for blocks as people queued for food to feed their families. Others helped their communities complete government forms for the Paycheck Protection Program and other relief acts.

But once the initial crisis is over, there are two areas of concern:

  1. Continuation: how will nonprofits continue if they have depleted their resources already? Many nonprofits have emptied their budgets to support their communities. Others have seen volunteers fade away as they heeded stay-at-home orders and haven’t yet returned to help. How will nonprofits continue their efforts if they do not have the resources they need?
  2. Support for the volunteers and front-line response workers: what mental health and social support resources are available to workers and volunteers suffering from caregiver fatigue? The emotional and psychological toll cannot be underestimated. Our front line volunteers and workers have seen and heard heart-rending stories over the past several months. Do we have resources to help them stay mentally and emotionally healthy?

Continuation: Thinking Outside the Nonprofit Box

The key to sustained response and continued work in the community is to think outside the “nonprofit box.” The “nonprofit box” is like a mental box people in nonprofits build to contain all the resources they believe are available to them. For instance, a nonprofit animal shelter may think of other animal shelters when their kennels overflow and adoptions are prohibited due to stay at home orders. There are still animals to feed and care for until the public can return to adopt a pet, or volunteers can return to help care for them.

But what about setting up an animal fostering program? Many people are stuck at home and lonely. They may be eager to foster a dog or cat. And, fostering often leads to adoptions since people grow to love the pets they’re fostering. Fostering takes some of the shelter’s burdens and helps people in the local community feel less lonely when social distancing means staying home more.

Instead of partnering with local shelters to get the word out, perhaps the animal shelter can partner with local senior citizen resource centers, community centers, and faith-based organizations to spread the word about the fostering program. This is “out of the nonprofit box” thinking—considering alternative solutions to a problem.

Another area where an alternative solution may indeed be outside the nonprofit world is among food banks. Food banks usually don’t deliver. However, companies like Grub Hub are already set up to deliver food to homes. Why not contact local for-profit delivery companies and see if they are willing to deliver food or meals to families in need? If they’re already in Neighborhood A delivering a paid order, it’s not a big stretch to ask them to drop off a bag of groceries down the same neighborhood block.

To sustain the response to the increased need in our communities, we must consider partnering with others. Some organizations have deep, trusted roots in underserved communities we need to reach. Perhaps nonprofits can partner with such organizations to deliver much-needed services to the people instead of requiring the people to come to them.

Caring for the Caregivers

Unfortunately, the mental health system in the United States was already inadequate before the pandemic. Resources were already fragile for the people who could afford mental health services. Now, with the stresses added by the pandemic, it is stretched almost to the breaking point. Again, nonprofits must come up with their solutions to care for their employees and volunteers.

One solution is simple: listening. Sometimes, people just need to vent—schedule time to speak with your team by phone. Let them share their stories. Often by sharing, the stress of the situation is reduced.

A New Nonprofit Paradigm

As the coronavirus response continues, nonprofits have the opportunity to reimagine their future. If we no longer fill the gap between the public and private sectors, what role do we wish to serve? What role can we fill? How will our services apply in the future?

There’s no one answer that’s right for all nonprofits but now is the time to consider these questions. We have an opportunity like never before to help people and to reinvent the entire nonprofit industry. It’s time to reimagine, reinvent, and reinvigorate the nonprofit world.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective 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.

There’s Power in Numbers – Crowdsource Your Fundraising Efforts

By | Fundraising | No Comments

Have you heard the term “crowdsourcing”? It refers to using the power of groups or crowds for fundraising efforts.

People crowdsource a wide range of activities. Artists have engaged their fans to crowdsource funding to produce CDs and books. People crowdsource funds to help neighbors and friends rebuild after a disaster.

You, too, can use crowdsourcing to raise funds for your nonprofit. To get started, learn the basics of crowdsourcing, then work on your campaign using these tips.

There’s power in numbers … the ability to raise money for your nonprofit.

What is a Crowdsourced Fundraising Campaign and How Does It Work?

Crowdsourced fundraising campaigns engage your nonprofit’s supporters, so they become your fundraising team. Each person who participates in the crowdsourcing campaign works their contact list to raise funds. It’s like having a big crowd of volunteer fundraisers working on your behalf to raise money.

The organization running the crowdfunding campaign establishes channels for accepting donations, provides marketing support, and uses its communication channels to raise awareness.

3 Crowdsource Fundraising Tips for Nonprofits

  1. Establish clear, specific goals

Crowdsourcing is similar to many other fundraising activities. It starts with clear end-goals. Consider the following questions as you develop your fundraising goals.

  • What is the objective of this fundraising activity?
  • What is your financial goal?
  • What will the starting and end dates be of the campaign?
  • How will you measure the success of this activity?
  • How many supporters do you need to engage?
  1. Develop the story

Crowdsourcing campaigns revolve around a compelling story. The hero of the story isn’t you or your organization: it’s the fundraiser. Everyone who chooses to participate in the crowdfunding campaign should be treated as a hero in the story.

Build out the campaign story using classic storytelling elements. Every story has a hero, a villain, an obstacle to overcome, and champions or supporters. Think about a well-known story such as “Star Wars.” The hero is Luke Skywalker; the villain is Darth Vader. The champion is Obi-Wan Kenobi. The obstacle to overcome is for Luke to destroy the Death Star and cripple the Empire. It’s a classic tale with elements examined by mythologists such as Joseph Campbell for its compelling modern spin on time-honored storytelling elements.

The hero of your story is clear: the person participating in the crowdsourcing campaign. The villain? What does your organization combat or overcome: illness, animal cruelty, environmental destruction, illiteracy, homelessness? And the champion is the donor—the people who the crowdfunding person engages in the campaign and encourages to donate.

Weave a spellbinding tale in the marketing materials around these classic storytelling elements for powerful messages that resonate with the target audience.

  1. Build donor materials

Make it easy for people to respond and donate. Build a special landing page to track donations from the crowdsourcing campaign. Create and print paper-based donation forms the volunteers can distribute to their contact list and use a code on the form to track donations back to the campaign. Provide plenty of case studies, stories, and marketing materials to support the campaign. Be generous with your time answering questions, hosting online chats or videos, and using social media to support the campaign’s goals.

Successful Crowdsourcing Makes Participation Easy

The key to successful crowdsourcing your fundraising activities, is to make participation easy. By providing supporters with all the materials and information needed to share the campaign, you’ll encourage greater involvement and higher donations.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective 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.

 

 

Reopening Requirements in Washington State – What You Need to Know

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Washington State has recently issued Phase 3 guidelines for business reopening after the spring closures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you’re struggling with understanding the nuances of the various guidelines and how to implement them thoughtfully to protect your employees and constituents, you’re not alone. We’ve put together a list of the top three guidelines and an explanation of each to help you keep your employees and constituents healthy and safe.

Phase 3 Business Template

No two businesses are alike, and no two responses to the COVID-19 pandemic will be alike. To assist businesses and meet the needs of residents, state leaders have developed reopening guidelines that allow for flexibility in how individual organizations enact safety plans and respond to the thread of COVID-19.

Each business or entity operating in the state must develop a written safety plan with details on the steps they are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Organizations should complete the plan and file it with their County Public Health Department or state agency and keep a copy on premises. Also, keep in mind that there are specific guidelines for certain industries, so check the industry-specific guidelines for additional safety precautions (if warranted).

Facial Coverings Required

More businesses opening means more people going to and from work and enjoying the products and services that businesses have to offer. With more people out and about, individuals must take responsibility for themselves and others and wear a facial covering.

Cloth facial coverings are required to be worn by all workers and anyone near others. Facial coverings must cover the nose and mouth. The type of covering varies according to workers’ industries, proximity to others, and job.

There are a few exemptions. Individuals working alone need not wear a face covering, and people with certain disabilities may be exempt as well. For example, people who rely on nonverbal language cues such as the deaf or hard of hearing may be exempt. People with medical disabilities may also be exempt. Please see the Washington State guidelines for specific details on exemptions.

Paycheck Protection Program Expands

The Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act provides loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic. Those businesses that can maintain workers on the payroll may qualify for loan forgiveness.

The PPP added $12 million to Washington State’s economy so far, and the fund includes $100 million. If your small business is struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, now’s the time to apply for a loan from this program. An amendment to the original act reduced the payroll spending requirement from 75% to 60%, so it’s worth investigating again, even if you did not qualify for it before.

For more details or to complete an application, visit the Small Business Administration.

Getting Back to Business – Safely

Although updates about the pandemic may have slowed in the media, the virus remains a threat to all until either a cure or vaccine is found. Organizations that can continue allowing workers to telecommute should do so to enable more people to voluntarily self-isolate and maintain social distancing.

For those who cannot allow workers to remain at home, the state guidelines and safety plan are a good first step to helping everyone stay healthy and protect the vulnerable.

If you need any guidance or assistance during these times, Welter Consulting is here for you. We can be reached by phone (206-605-3113) or through our website.