What can 3 Idiots teach us about technology?

Nonprofit Software Selection requires uniqueness

While working at a former company, I felt very fortunate to work with a diverse workforce. With this diversity, we are able to benefit from the various backgrounds in what we do in helping Nonprofit Associations achieve great things with software. We believed that our diversity adds considerable value to our mission and helps with the execution of our strategy day to day. We believed it was a differentiator.

During a recent “Margaritaville Go Live”, a company meeting we have to celebrate the accomplishments of our team members and customers after completing a project, one of our staff recommended we watch a movie called “3 Idiots” , which is made in India. The movie is about 3 Engineering Students from India.

The moral premise is that each individual is unique and has special gifts. You should follow your passion, not the will of others. If your passion is nurtured and developed, success will be achieved. One must follow “Your Dreams” not “Others Dreams”.

There is one special “Idiot” in this movie. And, the other ” 2 Idiots”  are driven by pressure from parents, peers, and society to achieve excellence in a noble profession, engineering, at a prestigious school.

In the view of society, as played out in the movie, “Excellence” and “Worth” is achieved only with “Perfection” & “Conformity” . 
3 Idiots


In the For Profit world,  this theme is all too applicable to most organization. The bottom line is the bottom line. Success is usually attained by increasing revenue and keeping up with your pack of peers.

However, the wonderful aspect of being a nonprofit (or working for or within the community) is that there is a common likeness or shared cause which stimulates the work to be performed each and every day. Certainly, revenue and being a good steward with your resources is adhered too, but the goals are unique.

We believe your strategy and passion should be paramount in the pursuit to find new ways of enhancing your mission forward. In the pursuit, technology should be viewed as an enabler for your organization. One that allows you to foster, develop, and nurture your mission.

It’s important that your strategy is clear, the metrics by which you determine success explicit, and it should be used as your litmus test for the question of which technology you need to succeed. We believe that it is imperative that Strategic System Assessments are performed prior to the review of any technology.

Without your purpose defined and agreed upon by all stakeholders (staff, executives, board, & donors/members), you are limiting the possibilities of your growth potential. As in the movie, be careful not to fall into the trap of “conformity“, “peer pressure“, or “a silo voice” in the ranks which could lead you down the wrong path.

For example,  if only one person is leading the charge, invariably there will tend to be bias toward their particular needs and not necessarily the needs of the enterprise. It’s critical that you have a collaborative exploration of the desired outcome which is tied to your mission. The movie, 3 Idiots, is lighthearted in spirit, and intended to provide a view into how well intended pressure can sometimes cause unintended consequences.

With software selection searches, it’s easy to move down the path of least resistance. Ex. It’s less expensive, so at least it will please the executive or board. In reality, the consequences can be detrimental long after the contract is signed.

In the last 18 years, we have been through many software selection projects and are well positioned to help identify and frame your path in making a good decision for all parties involved in the process ( staff, members, and boards).

Please contact us, if you are interested in discussing more.

How mobile is your email marketing?

Henry Ford built a great revolution! Now, it's time for you to move ahead with Marketing Automation to build your business!


Knowledge is power in this world, without it we are nothing.  Many associations and nonprofits today collect thousands of pieces of information about their donors with a variety of techniques.  Information ranges from general information such as age, race, gender and zip code down to more personal information such as income, home address, marital status, children, and favorite football team. The more you know the easier it is to craft your message.

The most common technique used for data acquisition is through a dedicated email page.  58% of respondents to an Experian Marketing Services survey use this method.  Using the home page to collect information at 56% follows this.  Armed with this data we must ask ourselves if this is an effective way to reach donors?  Is email marketing worth the time, effort and your marketing budget?

The Migration To Mobile Email Marketing

Today’s donors are equipped with the latest smartphones, and check their email inbox frequently throughout the day.

  • It is estimated that 48% of emails were opened using a mobile device this year.  Interestingly the amount of time used to scan emails varied by which device was used.
  • 53% of Android phone users spent 15 seconds or more reading their emails.
  • This is in stark contrast with iPhone users where 40% spent 15 or more seconds reading email.  The popularity of using mobile devices is unquestioned.  As this decade marches on this statistic will continue to rise.

Using Email Marketing in Donor Initiatives

Donors might be opening more emails on their mobile devices but does it matter? Are donors being overwhelmed by emails? Here are a few statistics for you to draw your own conclusions.

  • The average email subscriber receives 416 commercial emails a month
  • This averages to 15 emails a day
  • 43% came from marketers
  • The most common alerts were daily deals, social networking and dating
  • 50% of an average email file is inactive

What Industries are you competing with for attention?

As you can see donors receive vast amounts of emails from an array of interests. Breaking through the noise can be challenging.  Is email marketing right for you? Here are a few of the industries that you will have to compete with for your donor’s attention. The following industries had the highest email read rates:

  • Health and Beauty (27%)
  • Apparel (24%)
  • Department Stores (24%)
  • Home (23%)
  • Movies and Games (16%)
  • Social Networking (14%)
  • Dating (14%)

As you can see email marketing is going mobile and crafting the right message is imperative to reach your donors.

There are many solutions which may make sense fr you. We have a tremendous passion for marketing automation and have the expert knowledge you may need to find the right fit.

Contact us so we can help you today!

Moving faster sometimes means using better tools. Marketing Software can do just that!


Starting a Nonprofit? The Power of Voice in Software Selection


non profit consulting firms are necessary in finding database software.

We have another year of “The Voice” on TV now. If you are not familiar with the show, The Voice, it is an American reality television singing competition broadcast on NBC. In this article, I am going to discuss the value of non profit consulting firms in your software selection process. And, what you should expect in another voice in a software selection engagement. 

The Valuable Voice Of Non Profit Consulting Firms

In my opinion, the difference in “The Voice” versus many other in its genre is not necessarily talent, but rather the coaches who assist the contestants in developing their talent and ultimately taking the position of guiding the players (teams) through the selection process. Ultimately, the coaches are not “The Judge” but rather an advocate in the selection process. They help the players make good decisions and they prepare them for the competition. To the point, when embarking on a software selection project at your organization, your staff or perhaps the Non profit consulting firm which you have hired should act in a similar manner.

Whether you are starting a nonprofit or have been delegated the task of finding software for their first time, finding database software is going to be critical to your success.

Having been through hundreds of searches, I know firsthand that purchasing an Enterprise Management Software tool requires a process different than any buying experience. Because your Nonprofit database software connects all aspects of the nonprofit organization, organizations must prepare to do this internally or find a management consulting firm which can help in the process. Even though you may have talent in house for other needs, you consider the help from an experienced “Voice” which is focused on software selection to help in this very important decision.

The Traits Found in Management Consulting Firms

The best nonprofit consulting firms charged with helping in the effort of finding an enterprise software tool for your organization should contain certain attributes. Below I offer a suggestion on the qualities and skills of importance in finding the right “partner” in helping you find your exact database software fit.

Relevant Non-Profit Experience:

Your partner should come to the engagement with industry experience. In other words, if you are seeking a database software tool for your 501c3, don’t seek someone who works in “manufacturing”. There are differences even in the non profit sector too, database software designed for a 501c3 is different than a membership based organization.

Focus on Database Management Systems:

Your consulting organization should help your organization maintain focus on strategy. The software is an enabler. It’s important that a consulting firm has a good grasp of your goals and keep you in tune with them as you clarify the requirements, prepare the understanding of needs, & ultimately identify the proper software options for your nonprofit. Further, a solid management consultant who focuses on this sector, will have leverage too. Sales professionals who have been serving the needs of the industry for years know the value of developing influencers in the industry. A nonprofit consultant can be a solid voice with impactful leverage for your client because of this. You will benefit from it!

Expectations in Database Software:

Keeping expectations in line with strategy is important. You will not be able to get everything but as Mick Jagger would say “You get what you need”. Seek a consultant or management consulting firm which has managed similar projects. And, truly knows what can be accomplished with the database software you are seeking. Again, donor software, crm software, and membership software is different. If they are not able to set expectations early, the project will go awry quickly.

Removing Obstacles:

A good nonprofit consulting firm should be well versed in removing obstacles such as employees who are not on board with the database software selection search process. Change management is applicable in the implementation of the software program equally as much in the procurement of software project too.

Solid Coaching Skills:

I believe that it’s important that you look for a management consulting firm who can “educate” concepts well. It is paramount to be able to coach a client on key concepts, the proper steps to properly select the software technology, and what’s not important. There will be road blocks during the software selection project and certainly during the implementation. You will get tired during, “The Search”. So, you will benefit from someone to keep you fired up too!

Openness to All Database Software Options:

Instilling a sense of openness to the process is paramount when you embark on a software selection engagement. There is not one size fits all. And, I have found that some management consulting firms get stuck trying to solve a problem with the same software package over and over again. You have to be agnostic and open to everything. Read “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail“.

Project Management in Database Software Projects:

Acting as a project manager in keeping deadlines throughout the software selection is paramount. Scheduling of demonstrations, calls, emails, & follow ups is critical to move the process along successfully is paramount.

Database Software Evaluation Insight:

As a software adviser, you must be able to facilitate the acquisition of the proper mix of software by providing pros and cons of all options. A situational analysis should always be done which outlines all the 100 plus options on the market today and why each could or could not be a good option.

Financial/Accounting Software Acumen:

A nonprofit consultant should be able to provide insight on the financial aspects of the fundraising software or membership software purchase. Sure, you need to know about licensing, contracts, and what should be required to get the job done. But, a solid consultant should know the impact of various aspects how the money is handled inside the system with regards to accounting. Further, a good management consultant can save you thousands on the review of the “Show of Work” too keeping the vendors honest based on prior business dealings. You can only get this if the management consulting firm specializes in this type of work

Strong Team Mentality:

Top class non profit consulting firms become a pseudo team member for your organization during the course of database software selection. You need to find someone who you can feel comfortable with in the process. Relationships matter so find someone you can relate to!

Database Software Product Knowledge:

Your Nonprofit Consultant partner should have a very good grasp of fundraising, membership, CRM software options in the market. At SmartThoughts, this is all we do. We take the time to continually review database software options in the market. We are always searching and reviewing. You should expect this!

Database Software Vendor Relations

A consultant or consulting firm which specializes in software for nonprofits will need to have a solid relationship with the software vendors. If a consultant does not, is unknown, or not trusted this can impact your projects success. No sales guy wants to hear from a consultant who is wasting their time either. You have to be respectful of everyone needs. And, understand that sales professionals are driven by sales. So, being inconsiderate of their time will lessen your effectiveness.

What should you avoid In Non profit consulting firms?

I have shared with you what I believe you should look for in a top consulting firm which purports to specialize in database software designed for the nonprofit sector. Not all firms are created equal so let me briefly restate what a top software selection consulting firm should never do too:

  • Be the Judge: You cannot be “The Judge” or be the “Decision Maker” in the Software Selection Services engagement.
  • Receive Incentives: Obtain an incentive for recommending any solution (unless disclosed)
  • Not Focus on the Software Your Choosing: This is critical. Just because your board member knows a consultant who does web design doesn’t mean that he/she knows anything about the software you are exploring.

SmartThoughts is management consulting firm focused on various nonprofit sectors. In our efforts to mutually explore with our clients the shared outcome of a solution that truly meets our customer’s needs, we act as your guide, coach, and advocate. We are your “Voice”!

If your nonprofit or association needs a caring consulting firm to help minimize costly mistakes in your database software (CRM, Membership, Donor, Fundraising) selection project, please contact us.

We want to help you succeed with your Voice in the search process! Until next time, please keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Consulting firms for Database Management Software