Like Thanksgiving, Finding The Best Software Is Unique For Every Organization

Nonprofit Software and Organizations are all Unique

Finding The Best Software Is Unique For Every Organization Too!

It’s Thanksgiving! It is that time of year when we are either heading off to the market (to pick up that forgotten item) or getting into a plane/train/automobileto visit our relatives to give thanks, spend time enjoying good food, games, and perhaps catching a couple of football games. In this article, I discuss what makes thanksgiving special for me and how focusing on what distinguishes your organization from others is imperative when evaluating software technology.

What Makes My Thanksgiving Special  

In our respective homes, the majority of Americans will enjoy Thanksgiving Day with Turkey. But, despite that one common staple, in many homes we all have something uniquely our own which accompanies the festivities.

It may be a special side item such as my favorites such as “Passion Fruit”, “Cornbread Dressing” (as opposed to Bread Dressing), or my moms “Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls” (Yep, that’s an actual item on the menu at the Stewart home).

Besides the food, it may even be a relative we see not enough and certainly the dynamics of everyone when they come together. For many families, that experience along with the food, can be a recipe in and of itself which drives us to partake in our special refreshment too!

Whatever it may be (people, food, or how we prepare it) there are certain item(s) which distinguishes your tradition from others and makes your Thanksgiving Holiday special in your own family tradition.

Your Organization is Unique Too

So what’s the point with regards to software technology for non profits? To the point, despite the entire country celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday and likely consuming tons of Turkey, each family has something which makes our day “unique” or “distinguishes” us from other families celebrating this holiday.

Like families during the holiday, each nonprofit comes to the table every day with different people, processes, and traditions of serving their members or donors needs. In short, regardless of being classified as a nonprofit, each and every organization is comprised of different people, business process rules, constraints, biases, strategy, & missions for your organization.

Yes, there are literally thousands nonprofits in the United States. And, despite working with hundreds of nonprofits over the years, each and every time I visit a nonprofit I find something special about each and everyone which will ultimately dictate the proper solution required to be the best fit. Simply put, I focus on what distinguishes your plate from others.

First Things First in Your Search

Therefore, I encourage you too. The fundamental task which should be done first in the software evaluation process is to focus on an organization’s uniqueness. For many who are quick to react and have the “I need it now” approach this will be a hard piece of turkey to swallow for sure.

I understand for many this is counterintuitive and often difficult to do. But in order to truly be able to make a decision in the end, it’s imperative to focus on youand your organization first.

While assuming is not a good idea when dealing with software vendors and functionality, you can safely assume that you are different than similar nonprofits. And, I am here to testify to that fact as well.

Today, most organizations start with technology reviews or calling up peers rather than center their attention on themselves. Further, they start out by reviewing software demonstrations which certainly is a drain and cost center for all parties involved in the “demo days” approach to software selection.

And, one of the most common things I hear from executives, is that they spend countless and often useless time searching aimlessly watching webcasts online, virtual window shopping every vendor in the space, & focusing on price to determine their next software system.

Software Vendors are Unique Too! 

Throughout the years,  I have been through hundreds of software selection review projects. And, spent many hours with hundreds of software vendors too. And, as true as the fact that nonprofits are unique, software vendors are unique too. They come to the proverbial table with different ways they approach solving problems. And, despite some misconceptions they are not all turkeys either!

Having said that, I believe that there is a better way to assess and select software. The challenge is taking your uniqueness and matching it with the uniqueness of the software options. And, in order to do just that, your software selection project should start with a little soul searching led by a structured approach to software selection.

Smart Steps Before The Software Demos

In a SMART software evaluation process, it’s imperative before the demo days or vendor calls to first:

  1. Define who within your organization should be part of the shopping process.
  2. Define your timeline for evaluating, implementing, and launching the new system.
  3. Put together and prioritize a list of all requirements, wish list items, and goals that you hope the new nonprofit software will address. Make sure to clearly differentiate between the wish-list and the core needs.
  4. Consider your budget. While price is not the only factor, it certainly is a big one for many to come to grips with.
  5. Review all the software your nonprofit has in place now.
  6. Determine where you have been and why your arrived at this point.
  7. Define what you truly need in order to do better and reach your return on mission.
  8. Analyze how you may better leverage your strengths (people and processes).
  9. Refine your business processes where needed.
  10. Then, take some time to learn about the different software vendors that are in the market. Create a short list of vendors. Remember, this is the last point on the list for a reason!

This Thanksgiving we want every organization to be thankful that you chose the right software partner. And, know that not everyone has to live with a software turkey either!

Happy Thanksgiving! Be thankful for the important people in your lives, and enjoy those little things which distinguishes your plate from others on this special day of gratitude!

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Are you seeking a partner or vendor?

Happy MeasureIn associations and nonprofits, your technology suppliers play a key role in your success.

We believe that your degree of happiness with your current system can often be measured by the relationship you have with your supplier.

It is critical that when you purchase technology from any organization, that you don’t buy from a vendor.

You may be asking, “Well, how do you buy software without a vendor”?

Well, it may be a matter of semantics but we believe that associations should buy from a “Partner” rather than a “Vendor”. In other words, organizations should buy from a supplier who is viewed as a “Trusted adviser and partner” rather than a peddler of software.

Unfortunately, it is common today for many companies to find itself in an adversarial relationship with their suppliers. Further, it is not uncommon for overzealous procurement departments to consider it their mission to beat up on suppliers to get better prices or better terms. This is a very shortsighted way to do business.

Therefore, before you make a decision to buy your next system we suggest asking the following:

Are you focusing your efforts on selecting a vendor or an organization who is a potential long term partner?

Not sure of the difference? Then, you may want to consider the following elements below to discern the difference in the two choices.

The Difference in a Vendor and Partner Firm

  • Open Communication: Are you open to the idea of true transparency from the start of the evaluation process through to the ongoing client/supplier relationship? Systems today require that clients and suppliers share an open environment which foster a spirit of cooperation to fully understand the issues and the key desired outcomes for success.  In our opinion, vendors are told what the client wants them to hear, when they want them to hear it.
  • Trust:  Trust is critical. You need a partner which has demonstrated value and trust with similar clients during the evaluation process and continually displays a commitment to making your mutual relationship profitable.
  • Mutual Positive Results: Partners focus on delivering measurable results on an ongoing basis that are aligned to business objectives and values. Vendors are not concerned about your long term strategic business goals.
  • Shared Positive Reinforcement: Partners receive warm greetings and accolades for a job well done. If you are sending vendor RFP’s with canned questions the odds are your approach is dated. In our experience, RFP’s tend to have little relevance to the strategic vision of the organization and typically elicit nothing but a guessing game from the respondents.
  • Collaboration: Partners are asked to help set the agenda. Vendors are told what the client wants done.
  • Shared Metrics of Value: Partners earn business based on demonstrated expertise, business value and cultural fit. Vendors secure the work by slashing their price, being willing to make concessions and hoping something more profitable is in the cards for them in the future.
  • Proper Expectations: Partners are human, they make and admit their mistakes for which they are forgiven. Vendors are provided with no margin for error.
  • Trusted Adviser: Partners are viewed as profit improvement specialists who they want to hear from regularly. Vendors are looked upon as a potential adversary, who, if not managed properly could cause trouble .

We want to partner with our customers to mutually succeed in our respective business operations. We strive to do our best to be a trusted source of knowledge and skill which will add long term value to our clients bottom line.

Software success today is highly contingent on the partners you choose.

If you would like to partner with us in your pursuit of technology, please contact us.

5 Helpful Seeds to Plant when Choosing Grass Roots Lobbying Software

1207_wees-800x480Every organization that lobbies needs assistance when it comes to keeping things in order and wading through the clutter. Most groups are understaffed, underpaid and could use a helping hand with the things that larger organizations often take for granted. So if you are considering adding some new Grass Roots Software weapons to your arsenal, here are some hints to help you along when you are choosing new grass roots software.

Don’t Underestimate Quality over Quantity

Effective communication is one of the most important factors when considering your software. You’ll want to be able to break your database up into distinct groups for easier dissemination of vital information. After the initial segmentation, you will find that quality communication to a small groups of people rather than the same information to a large group will send a much louder message.

Equip the Tools you Need

Look into acquiring tools that will help you gather information from your supporters. Good information will help you manage better and enable you to separate the wheat from the chaff. And a stellar grassroots system will help you to automate the process. Using software that enables members to enter information can help ease the workload and allow focus to additional areas.

Assemble Small Armies

Tom Peters, business management guru and author once said, “Community organizing is all about building grassroots support.” Which, in essence, is a far easier task to achieve with a small group of dedicated people, than it is with a large group of un-organized constituents. A friendly call from a friend is far more beneficial than a hundred unsigned emails sent with little regard.

Build a Strong Message

When it’s finally time for you to begin your email campaign, it’s important to remember two things: you know what needs to be said, and your supporters should be aware of what they can say to help. A good quality software should be able to help you build the strength between the two by helping them build the text that needs to be said, so that ad hoc messages don’t lead to poor responses resulting in mal-informed constituents.

Divide and Conquer

There are two types of targeted grassroots campaigns: targeted legislator and constituent. It is important to delineate between the two, because differentiating as to who gets your message, can make or break the impact of what you want to get across. Your software should be able to pair the proper people with the appropriate channels to accomplish your goal automatically. It should be making your job easier, while making your message clearer.

For additional information on how you can better assist your organization with assessing, selecting, implementing, and developing technology, we invite you to contact us any time.