Best Tip Ever: Get and Stay on top of your Software Training

Happy Software Customers are usually trained customers.  We outline benefits and type of software training options.

For a non-profit organization, especially a smaller one, the initial expense connected with database software for nonprofits  appears as a prohibitively exorbitant expense on the balance sheet. However, this is especially true if no one on the staff or among the volunteers knows how to use the software. And, relying on learning it by the trial and error method isn’t smart either. In this article, I outline why training your staff on software is one of the best investments you will make and likely help you avoid failure with it.

The Pain, Value and Options for Software Training

While choosing the best software for your non-profit is important, even the best Nonprofit CRM Software in the world will not help without software training geared toward helping you accept, understand, and fully utilize that software. In most software searches, a smart non-profit considers software training as a part of the line item cost when deciding to implement new software. For most, initially it’s easy to see that the time and expense of training the staff using the software is easily justified by the lack of frustration and lower rate of user error. But, let’s discuss the good and bad of not staying on top of it for others.

The Pain of Bad Training 

But, what truly sets the “Best Software” from others is due in large part to a lack of knowledge about how to use it or not knowing what they already have. Nothing is more frustrating than an entire weeks worth of data entry lost due to operator error. It is very disheartening if a staff (or even volunteer) is the one who loses an entire list of donor or member information because it was input wrong. The tendency when these types of frustrations mount is to abandon the software no matter the cost outlay and chalk it up to an expensive lesson learned. And, that’s certainly not smart!

The Value of being Trained Well

The greatest cost of software is when it doesn’t work. With well-trained users (all stakeholders), the cost/benefit return time shortens considerably. When the software for donor development and tracking is working optimally the non-profit sees an immediate return on investment in donations that are easier to track, quicker response to requests for subscription, and greater contact with lapsed donors thus keeping them from falling through the cracks. Further, when fundraising software works well and staff or volunteers know how to use it optimally, it can potentially pave the way for a smoothly run fund-raising campaign. And, the stress level lowers because the software is doing work that in the past had been allotted to multiple people, now frees up those people to do other tasks.

The Types of Training Options

With that in mind, there are several kinds of software training options available, depending on the number of employees or business partners you need to train, and on factors such as their availability and technical expertise. Here are a few options you will want to consider:

  1. Train the Trainer. Depending on the nature of your non-profit, you may have already utilized a train the trainer program in other ways. Perhaps you already have a network set up. Essentially, train the trainer programs involve having a few people trained to use the software, and at the same time training them to teach others. For non-profits with a broad geographical reach and a high level of community involvement, this method can be ideal. You help minimize the cost of the initial training and provide in-depth access to software users, wherever it is needed. Train the trainer is especially common in software training, where not everyone may have the same level of technical expertise.
  2. Self-paced Software Training. Another form of training often used to reach across distances, self-paced software training allows users to access training materials on their own schedule. To maximize the benefits of this kind of training, you should still have someone on hand to answer any questions users may have. Also, make sure that the training includes a measurement to gauge the effectiveness of the training, such as a self-test.
  3. Group Training. For smaller non-profits, or if you only need to train a handful of employees, you may benefit from group software training, either in person or via web conference. As a hands-on approach to training, do your best to ensure everyone in the conference room has access to a computer, so they can follow along with exercises.
  4. Ongoing Software Training. Finally, however you choose to conduct initial training sessions, don’t forget ongoing training. As time passes and the software comes to be accepted and used, you will discover new uses for your software, unique to your non-profit. New people will still need to be trained and may have new and complex questions. It is important to keep a plan for ongoing training and sharing of ideas, so that everyone can make best use of your software. This could also be achieved by joining the software providers users group as well.

In essence, the best donor management software, CRM Software, or Membership Management Software (or any software), is one that solves problems not creates them. And, even the best non profit database management software cannot overcome the negatives found in not knowing how to use it!

If you are a non-profit uncertain if you have a “training issue” or “software issue”, please give us a call to learn more about our software assessment services.

Top Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make in Software Selection

3 Tips to avoid failure in donation software for nonprofits

Software selection failures can haunt any organization. It is clear that all nonprofits need to be more careful than most due to the nature of their financial situation. Choosing the wrong software ends up wasting time, money, and resources that could be better spent working towards the mission statement of the organization.

In this article, we’ll explore several key mistakes that organizations make, and the commandments you should practice to best avoid making the same errors too.

3 Commandments to help avoid Software Selection Failure

Thou Shalt Not Put All of Your Trust in IT’s Hands

Certainly, the office techies will have better knowledge of software and such than most office workers, but letting them make the final call in your Software selection (CRM,AMS,Donor Database etc.) is foolish.

The tech department will not be the ones who have to use and interact with the fundraising software on a daily basis like the staff who will be using it everyday to spread email campaigns, raise funds, and launch marketing campaigns. Certainly, get the input on all of the people involved in the use of the software. From the techies to the end-users, if your employees struggle with the database software for your nonprofit, the entire organization (donors, members, customers, staff, board) will be struggling as well.

Thou Shalt Not Always Take the Most Economical Option

Price is something that nonprofits always have to keep in mind, but if they are going to be spending money on software, they need to make sure that is appropriate for their needs not just cost efficient. Gauge your needs, budget, and what you want to get out of the software. Then make a decision in which price is a factor but not the sole factor. Spending a little bit more on membership software that will work well and won’t have to be replaced in a few months or years will save organizations more in the long run.

Thou Shalt Not Get Blinded by Flashy Features

A common mistake organizations make when choosing software is focusing too much on the flashy features and not the overall functionality. Flashy features are cool, and in a perfect world there would be an option that is functional and has cool features. Nonprofits need to make sure the nonprofit software they are choosing will be a fit to the needs of their organizations. All the “cool features” may actually be a distraction in addressing your primary goals.

These are some of the most common mistakes that nonprofits make when choosing software for non profit organizations. Do not follow suit and make an error in software purchase. Contact us to learn more about making the right software choices.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Download your free non profit database management software for non profit list here!

Why Donor Management Software is the Heart of NPO’s

Donor Management Software  should be at the heart of all nonprofits.

Like it or not, a nonprofit organization is a business, just as much as any profit-making business.  While the profit-making business has the “Great App” or the “Super Smart Service”, the nonprofit should be focused on building relationships which support their cause and mission.

But, what keeps a business continuing is information–more precisely, the proper disciplining of that information.  And how do you maintain that discipline and process? In successful businesses today, you do it with enterprise database software. In this article, we discuss the importance of having a unified place for the nonprofit to store information about your donors in order to be successful in a NPO’s business today.

The Key to Finding Love with Donors is Data 

It truly doesn’t matter what type of nonprofit you are. Whatever you may call your NPO, in order to remain viable, you need information management & good processes in place.  And, in a nonprofit organization, donor management software is the tool which may be the key to helping your nonprofit develop strong relationships with your donors today and long-term.

Alyce Lee Stansbury notes that donor software for nonprofits  “is not a luxury.”

“It’s a critical fundraising tool designed to maintain constituent records, process and track donations, acknowledge gifts promptly and accurately, establish fundraising goals and track progress, manage different fundraising campaigns simultaneously, identify major donor prospects, analyze fundraising results and increase fundraising effectiveness. It is also designed to track relationships, affiliations, notes, and other significant information. Properly utilized, donor software can significantly help staff and volunteers achieve their fundraising goals.”

The Field of Options

The good thing is that there are a number of donor management software packages in the market.  And, the bad thing is that there are a lot of good packages on the market. It can be a full-time job to find what the right size is for you. So, don’t get your heart set on any one before you answer some questions about your organization and its goals, such as:

  1. What do you want the software to do for your organization?
  2. What will be the total cost of ownership?
  3. Can all of your people use it?
  4. What do we want the ROI of the Software to be?

The Main Functions to Consider 

Some of the functions that donor management software needs to perform:

  • Accounting (A critical issue, since nonprofits have to submit yearly Form 990 reports to the Internal Revenue Service.)
  • Managing donors & membership
  • Managing grant applications (if your organization seeks grants)
  • Management of volunteers (if outsiders assist your organization)
  • Marketing & outreach
  • Website e Commerce

If you are running a nonprofit association with a foundation, specialized association management functions along with some of these features may need to be considered:

  • Preparation of financial statements
  • Fundraising
  • Membership Management
  • Certification management — for example, if it is a sports organization, do you certify coaches or referees?  Or, to use the Russian literature example, do you validate that your members have done X amount of work in the field?
  • Committee management — do you have Committees on X, Y, or Z, do you certify their membership on these committees, and do you record their work?
  • Content management — if you publish anything, how do you manage its distribution?

We spend a ton of time and resources researching options so you don’t have to. Use us for that! If you have further questions then please contact us. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.


If you are seeking a Donor Software for Nonprofits , don't search without reading this!