How to Know When it’s Time for New Software for Your Nonprofit: 3 Signs
What do you do when you have a nagging feeling that it’s time for new software for your nonprofit, but you aren’t quite sure? Or, you wonder if there’s something better out there?
Your technology choices directly impact your organization’s efficiency and effectiveness. That’s why it’s worthwhile to set aside time at least annually to review your technology and consider if it’s time to replace software or even add a new product to your technology mix.
As you think about your nonprofit’s software, here are three clues that it might be time for a new solution.
1. You’re Getting Negative Feedback
Your constituents and donors might come to you directly to complain about how difficult it is to interact with your organization because of your online forms and processes. But even those who you don’t hear from directly might be telling you something. Here are some things to watch out for.
Increased support requests. If your staff is receiving an increasing number of support requests from those trying to donate online, sign up for an event, volunteer or participate in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, this could be an indication that your software is outdated or simply too user-unfriendly.
Growing registration abandonment. If the number of people abandoning your donation and/or registration forms is high or starts to increase, it’s a clue that you need software that provides an easier and more intuitive online experience.
Poor survey feedback. Send a survey to constituents, volunteers and donors, or set up a focus group to capture their feedback. Ask direct questions about their online experience, including how easy it is to find and complete online forms, how your nonprofit’s online experience compares with other online experiences they’ve had within the last year and what suggestions they have for improvements. If the feedback is negative — or points out areas to improve — it might be worthwhile to consider the advice.
Even if your online experience gets good reviews, be sure to also check your processes to see if there are any small adjustments that would make the online experience better.
2. Takes Too Long to Complete Tasks
Does it seem like your employees aren’t working as efficiently as they should? Or, do they complain about how hard it is to do relatively simple things? If it’s taking your staff a long time to do regular tasks, then it might be time for new software. Here are examples of some of those tasks.
Making changes to web pages or online forms. Coding each change will be more time-consuming than drag-and-drop functionality, which is faster and more intuitive. Also, if changes don't turn out as expected, that can drain staff’s time.
Setting up or editing new fundraising campaigns. If the software is slow or not intuitive, it might be time to find something new.
Pulling information for campaigns, events and board reports. Data spread out over multiple systems may be efficient. Additionally, if the reporting functionality in your software is too complicated, you might need to switch to a different software provider.
If you’re seeing staff inefficiencies, also check to see if training might be the issue as opposed to the software itself. Make sure your staff is fully trained in the areas of the software each employee uses most often, and make sure they know how to access refresher training in areas they use less frequently.
3. You Can’t Do What You Need to Do
Things change. The world changes. Technology changes, people’s expectations for online experiences change and your nonprofit’s strategy evolves. Here are some symptoms that your organization has outgrown your software.
It’s outdated. You’ve expanded your marketing and fundraising strategy to include social media, various apps, wealth screening tools and other technologies, but your software doesn’t support or integrate with them.
It’s inefficient. Your software no longer integrates (or never really did) with other key software that your organization uses now or plans to add soon. You either can’t do some things that are in your plan, or you find that you need to come up with a series of workarounds.
It’s over budget. Your organization’s budget has changed, and the cost of the software you’re using exceeds the new budget for it.
What to Do Next
If you recognize one or more signs that it’s time for new software, here are a few steps you can take to start that process.
Make sure you’re optimizing your existing software. For example, have you upgraded to the latest software version, activated all of the features available and utilized advanced trainings to make better use of the product?
Check your contract. Understand how much time you have left in your current software contract. It might seem that you have a long time before your contract ends, but selecting and implementing new software can take several months — even a year or more for complex solutions!. Get ready to start the process now.
Search for new software. This process for selecting and implementing new software will depend on your organization’s specific technology plan and procedures, but here are the most common steps:
- Make the business case for new software to your nonprofit’s leadership and board, and secure approval.
- Create a comprehensive list of requirements for your new software with other stakeholders in your organization.
- Research software options and narrow your list to a handful of contenders.
- Review various software options through either a formal request for proposals (RFP) process or a less formal process.
- Schedule product demos.
- Make your selection.
- Start planning the implementation of the product.
It can be helpful to work with a consulting firm that specializes in nonprofit software and knows the latest products on the market, understands how to find the right fit for your organization and can implement your chosen software in a way that best meets your needs.
Just remember: Your nonprofit’s ability to grow and thrive depends heavily on the software you use. Be sure you have the best technology in place for your organization’s needs, so that your nonprofit can work efficiently and deliver the online experience your constituents expect.
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.”