Old School Ways Optimized with CRM Software

CRM Software for Nonprofits can help improve old school ways

Do you realize that the success of your nonprofit may be tied directly to the data you keep? This statement is as true whether your company operates under a for-profit model, or if you operate under a non-profit model. In this article, I address briefly a question posed to me by some of the industries tribal elders about the value of CRM for Nonprofits today.

Old School Ways Optimized By

CRM Software 

Every business is challenged with the task of curating and utilizing data about its members, donors, or customers in order to be effective at attracting, converting, & continually delighting them. And, to be quite direct, you cannot use your constituent data and manage relationships effectively without the use of customer relationship management software for nonprofits.

  • No, a Rolodex will not suffice if you want to remain in business.
  • No, your financial software (QuickBooks & Peachtree etc.) won’t cut it either.
  • No, regardless of what your dear old grandma may say, those trusty old 3×5 note cards just aren’t up to snuff either.

A CRM can help nonprofits organize your operations, schedule fundraising lists, keep your schedule on track, remind you to send out that thank you card after a donation, make that important call, and manage your data in a way you may have never dreamed of. Honestly, I find it hard to believe. But, there are some nonprofits executives who ignore CRM software because they don’t realize how a CRM software tool can help them raise funds and develop stronger relationships.

Maximize Donations with the Basics of CRM

More data on your potential supporters and existing donors can help your nonprofit maximize donations. How? The list is quite long. But, to be considerate of your time, you don’t have to go deep into the feature set of entry-level CRM software tools on the market today. In fact, the basics of having a detailed profile of everyone who donates money to your company can be very useful. The Huffington Post opines:

How exactly would we know who gave what? You guessed it – a CRM! With [this] tool, you can track all sorts of things about a donor or prospective donor, such as their contribution history, engagement history, social media links, and more. Having this data at your disposal will [ensure your] valuable time results in more funding.

Retain your Supporters 

Any business owner will tell you that retaining your customers is low-hanging fruit. Understanding how to create loyal customers so you can retain them is one of the most important things for any business. Most companies focus on acquisition more than customer retention, even though it can cost 7x more to acquire new customers. Most nonprofits do too!

CRM software functionality can help keep the supporters you have now. Like all people, your donors want to be treated well. A simple personalized direct mail piece which includes specific details about your donor can make a huge difference. Solid data stored in CRM software can help make your communications more personal.

Personalize the Member, Donor, & Customer Experience 

Emails by nature tend may tend to be a little impersonal. With data stored in the CRM, you will have a treasure trove of data at your fingertips, which could change all that. You can use CRM software to personalize every message, segment based on unlimited data, and then reach out to the right people at the right time who may donate to your nonprofit like never before.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about CRM for Nonprofits. We can help you find the best fit based on your goals, requirements, and budget.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Free CRM Software Purchase Guide

Questions You Should Ask Before Buying Open Source Software

Open Source for Nonprofits

Everyone seems to want, “All that and a Bag of Chips”. Oh, and by the way, “We want it Free too”. Open Source Software for some is the complete package. And, for others it’s half the combo they desire. In this article, I discuss the concept of “open source software” and key questions you should ask before purchasing “Free” software for your nonprofit.

Pros and Cons of Open Source Software for Nonprofits 

What is Open Source Software? 

Open source software is licensed differently than the proprietary software you are familiar with. Proprietary software is intended to be a complete package, and as such you are not permitted in most cases to alter or share the source code. The source code  is the programming that makes the application do what it’s supposed to. And, it usually is closed and locked.

I found this quote on Guidestar which describes an analogy for open source software:

Software companies have been selling us cars with the hoods welded shut. Open source opens those hoods and allows buyers to work on the engines themselves.

Certainly, open source software is different. Here a few of the advantages:

  • Real time updates and upgrades. No more waiting for your vendor to release the next version before bugs &/or security holes are patched.
  • Once a bug is identified and validated, the Open Source community is quick to release a fix.
  • Unlike various proprietary systems, where source code is not available – application integration is now affordable and possible, even for small business.

There are several types of open source licenses for different purposes, but in general an open source license allows the user to share the program, and modify the source code as they see fit. Sometimes open source software is referred to as “free software.” This is because the user is free to change the source code to meet their needs, it does not mean the software is without cost.

In general, open source software (the product itself) is a worthy consideration. And, many nonprofits should contemplate the question, “Is Open Source Software Right For Me?”. But, there are some important things to consider in evaluating and answering that question for your nonprofit.

Does an “out of the box” application fit your needs?

If your nonprofit has unique software needs, then using open source software may be a good option to explore. Once you download (or buy) the software you can change it to meet the needs of your company. There are a couple of ways to do this – using plug-ins and extensions that other programmers have written, having your tech team develop modifications specific to your company, or hiring an outside development team to write the modifications for you. Which ever you choose, the final product will in theory be software that does exactly what you need. Further, a software platform which you can modify as the needs of your nonprofit change.

Can the technical team support the software?

Most open source software provides tech support of some type, usually in the form of an on-line message board. Sometimes the message board is run by the software developer, and other times it’s run by long-time user, and technically minded supporters of the software. There are no guarantee of timely or responsive service. Either way, you need to have someone on-staff who is technically savvy enough to find answers if you run into problems with the software.This is the biggest challenge for most small nonprofits. Most small to midsize nonprofits simply do not have this luxury. So, in order for open source software to be a good fit, you will need to secure a trusted service partner if this is going to be a viable option.

Is the software compatible with other software used by your nonprofit?

This is an important point to research. If you buy an open source software package and it can’t talk to your existing operating system, or other programs it needs access to in order to run, then you have a big problem. Because its open source, you might be able to write a change in the software that allows it to communicate with necessary programs, but then again, you might not. Exploring compatibility concerns could be the difference between a working system and having to spend thousands of dollars to remedy a problem.

If you are considering open source software for your nonprofit, contact us for help in determining if it meets the unique needs of your nonprofit.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

For More Insights: 

  • The Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI) is an excellent source of information for nonprofits looking to get involved with or simply learn more about the open source community.
  • The Debian Web site contains updates and information on the Debian project to develop an operating system for nonprofits.
  • SourceForge is a centralized Web site for open source software development, providing free hosting to tens of thousands of projects.

The Pros and Cons of Open Source Software for Nonprofits

What No One Tells You About The Cost of Software

The Cost of Software License

Why is the cost of software so high? This is a question often contemplated by many executives today. In this article, I address this question and provide my opinion on the answer to it.

What is the True Cost of Software?

While we all tend to get fixated on the tangible dollar price of any good or service, it’s more to it than just the price tag. In reality, the biggest cost of technology is when it doesn’t work. And, the second biggest cost of technology is when it works perfectly, but it doesn’t do the job you need done. Those two truths mentioned, software license costs are due in large part to not development costs (the expense to make the product better) but rather a result of the inefficient manner in which we buy software and how software is sold today. Let me elaborate.

Software Buying is Dysfunctional 

In my opinion, the buying process used by most consumers looking for new software is neither efficient nor effective. Therefore, most software developers are forced to apply more of their budget to sales and marketing rather than to software research, development, & updates. In essence, the software developers (if they want to increase market share) apply an inordinate amount of their funds to attracting customers, and this fact drives up the costs of software.

Sales and Marketing Costs 

For example, HubSpot spends three to four times on marketing as they do on research and development. Salesforce.com routinely spends four times or more on marketing as they do on research and development. Blackbaud, Inc. spends more than double on marketing than research. This translates back to costs for the consumers. For example, take a look at some of the public trading software vendor’s recent financial statements:


Hubspot Income Statement


Salesforce Income Statement



Bad Sales Presentation 

It’s unfortunate, but there truly are some good software products out there that few know about in the market. But, doing this for a while, I have found that one aspect which can and does drive up the cost of software isn’t simply the consumer’s fault. In many instances, it’s the vendor’s fault. Yes, it’s as a result of bad sales presentations and poor messaging.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for many products not to get the merits they deserve or for the software vendor to grow, because the company (sales, marketing, staff) doesn’t know how to present the software very well. A quick joke told to me recently by a current nonprofit client:

“What is the difference between a used car salesman and a software sales person”.

The punchline: The used car salesman knows when he or she is not telling the truth. Now, that’s certainly not true of the majority of sales professionals in the software industry.  But, there is a kernel of truth in some situations for sure.

Joking aside, the cost is huge for both vendor and client when things are not presented well. Or, when a sales professional doesn’t know what the heck they are talking about. It can hurt the vendor lose a sale which costs the supplier money. And, it can cost the client dearly too if they procure the software and it doesn’t live up to expectations.

Make no mistake; software implementation failure impacts cost on both sides. A solution is not just software or technology. It takes strong support and continually having a provider which is innovative, led by strong talented people, and committed to long-term success of their clients.

Know Before You Go Search 

Unfortunately, like many things we do as consumers. We actually contribute to the price we pay for software by the process we take to procure it. Now, this may sound simplistic.

But, it is a capital mistake to go out and buy software before you know what you need the software to do. It’s not uncommon for many nonprofits to randomly spend countless hours on demonstrations with vendors. This time is money on both sides of the equation. No one wins!

It is so critical to determine your requirements first, prioritize those requirements, then look for software that fits your needs. This will save you time and money. And, it will save the software providers valuable dollars too on marketing and sales costs.

Finally, once you have finalized your option (s), open up and explore a solution which truly meets your needs. What does this mean? Well, it means don’t hold anything back. Be forthcoming with what you desire to accomplish, expect to accomplish, and be sure that is congruent with what the software provider can actually do. Vendors can’t solve a problem which we do not know exists.

The True Cost of Sofware; When it doesn’t work

As a representative of a nonprofit, you don’t want to waste a penny; you want to apply as much of your funds and time as possible toward your chosen cause. Not software. If we all take note of what causes software to be priced, then we may find that it continually will go down.

To find the right software for your needs, contact us. We connect nonprofit executives with the best fit. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

We do not sell software, we listen, and solve problems!