How to Get the Most Out of a Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Software Demo
You might have mixed feelings about the idea of finding and implementing new peer-to-peer fundraising software. Maybe you’ve seen the signs that it’s time for a new solution, but you dread the process of finding the right technology for your nonprofit.
To help you move forward, I wrote an article about how to write a request for proposals for new peer-to-peer fundraising software. Step six in the article talks about scheduling product demos.
When you’re on the buyer’s side, product demos can be tricky. Time is limited, and it’s important that you see all you need to see to make the right selection for your organization and feel confident in your decision. But it’s not like you watch product demos for a living. How do you know what to ask during the demo and how do you evaluate the product afterward?
In my experience working with nonprofits on technology selection and implementation, I’ve seen lots of examples of what works and what doesn’t. Here are some of my top tips for getting the most out of a peer-to-peer fundraising software demo:
- In advance of the demo, provide the software vendor with a list of features that are important to you so the vendor doesn’t just show you a generic demo.
- Ask the vendor to record the demo so you and others can view it again.
- Make sure you know who from the software vendor is presenting the demo so you understand their roles. This can help the conversation to run more smoothly.
- Make sure they show you how things work in the product (not just slides or screen captures). If your demo includes more than 10 minutes of slides, ask them to redirect to a live demo at the earliest convenience.
- Write down your questions as they come to you. Don't assume you will remember them when the opportunity arises to ask. Depending on the length of the demo, you and your team's questions might result in a more focused and detailed follow-up demo.
- Ensure that the demo stays on track and focused on your organization's needs and not just the features the vendor wants to highlight. Otherwise, the vendor might gloss over the things they might not do as well as you need.
- On the flipside, give the vendor a chance to impress you with “sizzle.” In other words, give them time to show off what sets them apart. You might just discover an important feature you didn’t even know was an option.
If you are scheduling multiple demos as part of a request for proposals (RFP) process, here are some additional tips to consider:
- Provide all vendors with the list of items to be reviewed during the demo that covers the list of requirements and nice-to-haves that you defined as part of your RFP process.
- Provide your team with a version of the requirements list that includes room for each of them to take notes and provide a score for each feature. This should include a column to score your organization’s current technology next to scores for the potential replacement software. (You might even find that your current software fares better than you thought!) Let the vendors know your team has this list/scoresheet so they are reminded of the importance of staying focused on your requirements throughout the demo.
- After the demo, collect your team's scores and combine them into a master list. Review the list with the team to narrow the list of selection options. Then, ask the top-ranked vendors for any follow-up demos you might need to see, and for pricing and contract terms.
I recommend setting aside about 90 minutes for initial demos. Plan on additional time for follow-up demos to deep dive into specific items unearthed or unclear from the initial demos.
Normally, there are multiple people participating in demos, and it can be easy to get sidetracked. Try to clarify your expectations with your team and the vendors as much as possible in advance to streamline the demos, keep them focused, and save everyone's time.
Just remember that you will be investing several hours in demos. Some pre-planning and organization can make that time that much more valuable for everyone.
Mark founded Cathexis Partners in 2008 to help nonprofit organizations get the most from their existing technology tools, implement new technology to address gaps and find the best overall approach to using technology to support their missions. He previously served as director of IT consulting at a fundraising event production company focused on nonprofits.
Mark also serves on the editorial advisory board for NonProfit PRO, where he contributes monthly to his blog, “Nonprofit Tech Matters.”