Nonprofit Software – Choose Carefully
The right nonprofit software can improve upon many processes, including communication, record keeping, marketing, fundraising, financial reporting and more. However, choosing a software solution that can help solve cross-functional needs with a limited budget is no easy task.
“Low-Cost”, High Stakes
There are many different apps available for non-profits, and many of them are free. Free or “low-cost” can sometimes be great, however “low-cost” software solutions can be also be their own worst enemy. They prevent the organization from gathering the specific data you need, cause workplace inefficiencies, and can be difficult to use and burdensome for staff members. Short-term thinking that is focused solely on the bottom line can lead to long-term administrative complexities. Be aware that free or “low-cost” solutions often come with:
- Unexpected bugs or unanticipated technical limitations, forcing staff to spend excessive amounts of time finding workarounds to technical limitations
- Poor customer support or no customer support at all, requiring staff to spend tons of time troubleshooting issues
A small non-profit that provides after-school leadership education skills to middle and high school youth is always looking to save on costs. The budget is tight, and when searching for a fundraising platform, the Executive Director chooses the lowest-cost solution and finds a part-time freelancer to set it up. Fast forward a few months, and the board is complaining to the Executive Director about how antiquated their donations webpages look. “People don’t trust giving their money to something that looks like it was built in the 90s.” The Executive Director goes into crisis management mode, and quickly finds a platform that is sleek and intuitive. However, the new platform costs $1,000 per month. By initially going for the cheapest option, the CEO lost trust with board members, which lead to an overreaction that put him on one of the most expensive donation platforms.
How to Choose the Right Software
You can set your organization up for long-term success by undertaking a thorough software discovery and evaluation process before selecting software. Focusing less on up-front cost, and more on developing solutions that can meet all of your goals across multiple functions within the organization is a nonprofit’s best bet for successful long-term results and will end up saving on budget over the long-term.
How do you choose? My advice is to work with an experienced software consultant who can help you fully understand the needs of all your users for the system, plan out a realistic budget, and assign an internal champion to oversee the implementation project. Having those pieces in place before you begin will ensure you save money, create efficiencies, and implement the most suitable solution for your organization.