Pursuing The Mythical Software Unicorn

The Best Software for Nonprofits is like searching for a Unicorn In 1997, I began my career in the enterprise software industry. During that time, I have seen many new features, trends, and software companies come and go. In this article, I will share briefly my personal journey in the search for a perfect solution, the software unicorn, and my relentless pursuit to assist my clients with selecting the best software fit for their respective organizations.

The Journey to Find the Best Nonprofit Software 

Can You Handle the Truth?

Yes, thank you very much Tom Cruise (from his famous line in A Few Good Men), I want the truth. And, I feel like I can handle the truth too. In my job, I am continually evaluating software options for my clients and have committed myself to finding the best software solutions on the market today. During this time, I have not limited my software search to the lesser known software vendors. Rather, I have an open mind and actually am intrigued by both the mature software players who have put out good software products for years and equally new software players which have recently come into the market to build a “Better Mouse Trap”.

In my mind, every application software player may be a possible candidate for an organization’s “Software Unicorn”, the perfect fit. I believe that organizations who embark on a software selection journey should seek “Awesome Results”. And, I begin each software selection project with excitement in hopes of finding that particular software solution (product and services) which is just the right match. I still have this excited feeling even though I know perfection or the “Best Software” isn’t usually one particular software option each and every time. I know the truth.

What is the Best Software Fit for Nonprofits?

As stated, I am relentless in my pursuit to help my clients find a solution which truly meets their requirements and business objectives. Even though it’s not perfect, a “Software Unicorn”, we always seek a solution which will solve key business challenges. And, even neutralize some of their poisons in the work environment (Ex. lack of efficiency, lost revenue, losing supporters). The idea of “The Best Software“, a Software Unicorn, is a futile pursuit.

Yes, after reviewing literally hundreds of software vendors and devoting countless hours researching vendors, interviewing them, writing product reports, and sitting through countless demonstrations, there is no such thing as the mythical “Software Unicorn” nor a software which can take a prize for “The Best” in every use case. The Best Software for Nonprofits is unique to every organization.

Despite similar duties and roles, every organization is unique. Conversely, so too is every software product & vendor. Yes, there is a “Best Software Fit” for my clients, but there isn’t one and only “Best Software” which solves everyone’s problems all the time. There is a distinction between the two. And, that truth or knowledge is sometimes painful for executives to come to grips with. Especially when so much money and risk is at stake to get “The Best Software”. There will be work to do to make the software the “Best for You”.

There is App for That!

Unfortunately and fortunately, in the last five to seven years, personal productivity applications and easy to create websites have proliferated. Everyone has the ability to get “that application” for this and that. For that reason, I believe because we know that technology is accessible, affordable, & easier for the almost anyone there has to be an enterprise software which is just like that too.

In essence, our thirst has been “teased” with the “possibilities” of what we have experienced (the Amazon Experience) so our desire for “more” keeps us pursuing the elusive “Software Unicorn” to help rid us of futility, poisons, & pain in our day-to-day jobs. I believe that in many cases this has perpetuated the myth to some extent.

The Pursuit of Finding “The Best Software”

I am amazed by how many CRM, Membership Management, Donor Databases and Marketing Automation Software solutions are on the market today. The reality is that many are very capable. Unlike most sane adults, I love researching software platforms. Even more, I enjoy reviewing solutions which truly solve business problems. Whether it be helping with the use of non-transactional data or how we can capture and use transactional data to make better decisions, the benefits of technology abound. That is exciting. I truly find myself sometimes getting lost in exploring software systems.  But, since software selection is our primary service, it’s valuable for my clients too. It truly pays to discover!

But, I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For

Very early on in my career, I questioned whether or not clients failed because they didn’t or had not found the “Perfect Software”. In some cases, they do fail. However more often than not, I realize now that failure is not in “not” finding the “Perfect Software” but rather not finding the “Perfect Fit In A Solution”.  To reiterate, an evaluation based on seeking perfection is a flawed misconception. Rather, “Awesome” comes in selecting you organizations “Best Fit”. It’s so critical to first seek “must haves, goals, and priorities”.

In so many levels, it is a waste of time for all parties involved if you start with vendor identification (doing demos) rather than looking first at your organizations uniqueness first. A search based on features and functionality rather than end goals and metrics of success will lead to a “Perfect Failure”. If you still haven’t found what you are looking for, you likely don’t know what you need or require to be an “Awesome” fit for you. Further, the lack of defining your aspirations will paralyze your organization’s abilities to make a decision too. Resulting in lost opportunities, frustration, and usually a hasty decision in the end. Should You Give Up The Myth? Absolutely not!

It’s prudent to reach for the stars. Your organization should aspire to obtain the “Smartest Fit” based on your overall goals as an organization. Your organization should also take the time to prioritize them too because at the end of the search you will need to make a decision. And, without firm needs documented you will have a tougher time making that final decision.

The Myth of the Software Unicorn; It is Not An Animal, It is A Human Being

One final word on the myth of the Software Unicorn. Contrary to the prevailing perception of many executives searching for software today, the best cannot be found in just features, functions, or roadmaps. Nope, the myth is not an animal, a unicorn. Human beings who work at software providers as much or more than anything else impact software success. The myth is that the software product is all that matters. Unfortunately, human beings are often underestimated in the search for “The Best Software for Nonprofits”.

If you take nothing else away from this article, please make note of this. Software is written by people for people. Support, Service, and a deep commitment by both client and vendor to solve your key problems (documented early on and measured) will be the key to realizing your elusive and mythical unicorn. After years on my personal and professional journey to find that mythical “Software Unicorn” there is no truer statement than “Success can be found in the Partners You Choose”.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind. Software reviews for Nonprofits

The Value of Event Planning With Membership Management Software

The Value of Membership Management Software on Events Management in Nonprofits

Nonprofits have the best of both worlds, according to TheMuse, They’re changing the world in bold, interesting, and inspiring ways, and they’re also amazing places to work, full of passion, smart people, and even cool perks.” Even so, non-profits need good business tools to do these bold, interesting and amazing things, especially in the area of event planning. In this article, I discuss how membership management software can make a difference in how your nonprofit manages events.

How Membership Management Software can Enhance Event Management

Non-profit events, which can range from fundraising, seminars, trade shows to membership drives, are about building relationships with your non-profit and its cause. More important than the money raised or the number of people involved is the fact that well-planned and successful events can lead to long-term awareness and loyalty to your non-profit. While major events can raise significant revenue and recognition for non-profit organizations, these events require careful planning and preparation.

The Task of Events Required in Membership Management Software 

The actual event is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, meetings involve calendaring, to-do lists entail creation, assignment, and dissemination, registration information requires capturing, confirmations necessitate sending and follow-up surveys need reviewing.   Using membership management software, automating your event from beginning idea, through last-minute changes and future event timelines, allows everyone involved to stay on top of the important events that keep your non-profit in business and working smoothly.  An event management module in your non-profit membership management software is advantageous in more ways than one.

The Benefits of Events Management Within Your AMS 

  • Guest Registration and Data – manual registrations require staff time that might be better used elsewhere. Guest lists are complete and names are not duplicated, payments are processed securely and accounted for, rosters and name badges are easily drawn up, the list goes on and on, plus the data is all at your fingertips, not on several spreadsheets.
  • Manage Volunteers and Employees – collaboration is paramount in successful event planning. You need to be able to take advantage of people’s strengths, disseminate to-do lists and calendar timelines, making sure that everyone has access to the information they need and in a timely manner.
  • Track Vendors, Meeting Space, and Requirements – Do you need a projector in the room? How many chairs and microphones are required? Are there several exhibitors that need space? All the data regarding these requirements can be easily accessed with an events module of your non-profit membership management software.

At SmartThoughts, we realize that one size does not fit all. And, while not every nonprofit is the same, many require the need to manage events. The question seems to be, “Can we satisfy our needs with just Membership Management Software“? Or, “Do we need a best of breed Event Management Software solution”?

And, the answer is,”It Depends”. However, with a little time we can advise you about the benefits of each approach and help find the software best suited to your non-profit needs. “Software should not be like buying a box of chocolates,”  so if you are overwhelmed with the choices available or simply need an objective opinion, contact us. We are here to help you find the exact software for your exact situation.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Free CRM Membership Database Software Guide

Maximize Development and Marketing with CRM Software

Development and Marketing enhanced by CRM

Since it was first conceived in the late 1980s, integrated marketing communication (IMC) has become the predominant method of marketing. The concept focuses on integration across all marketing tactics, projecting a unified message to customers regardless of the outlet. In this article, I share with you my thoughts into CRM Software for nonprofits and how it may assist in helping donor development officers and marketing align more effectively in their shared purpose.

Is Lack of CRM Software Impacting Alignment in your Nonprofit?

The methodology of IMC may be replaced with new terminology. IMC is now sometimes referred to SMarketing. SMarketing is the alignment and connection between sales and marketing. Since Sales (Development & Membership Executives) and Marketing work closely together in most nonprofits organizations, it’s often typical for these two groups to sometimes compete with one another. But if you improve SMarketing at your nonprofit, you’ll likely sale more memberships and increase donor contributions.

Whether you are a nonprofit or for profit, marketing and sales alignment (whatever you call it) is more important than ever. Competition for donor mind-share is at an all time high. And, nowadays buyers expect a seamless brand experience across channels. And as more nonprofits invest in delivering fluid member experiences, the delight of receiving the right message at the right time becomes more than a nice-to-have; it becomes an expectation. From working in both nonprofit and for profit, this expectation is no different for all types of organizations.

Now back to the concept of IMC. In many instances I have observed, the ideology of IMC falls to the wayside when it comes to the integration of marketing and revenue (or, for non-profit, donations, booth sales, memberships etc.). Marketing seeks to attract constituent interest and generate brand advocates, at which point the development department takes over and seeks to convert these supporters (leads) into donors with their own messages and strategies.

What if you could align your strategies across your company into an integrated marketing and donation effort? I believe that CRM Software for many nonprofits can do just that. And, I believe that doing so creates a number of significant advantages. Here are a few:

A Unified Message

First, an integrated approach to donations and marketing allows your nonprofit to project a unified message about your products and services to your audience. From the first touch all the way to closing the sale, your audience will know exactly what to expect and why they should donate to your cause.

Added Information

As any development officer knows, the more information you have about a potential donor, the better. Marketing can gather that information through its various analytics tools, and an integrated approach ensures that the information gets passed on and is included in the CRM for easy access. Armed with that added information, development officers can touch on important decision points and influences when asking for donations.

Higher Donor and Member Revenue

Ultimately, a unified message and more information for your sales or donations team will lead to higher revenue and business growth. Research shows that companies who are integrated from the first until the final touch become 67 percent better at closing with their ask, achieve a 24 percent higher revenue growth, and retain 36 percent more customers or donors.

Stated differently, can your nonprofit afford not to align their development and marketing approaches? Chances are you’ll be better off if you do. And, the nonprofits which I see doing this excel.

To learn more about how Customer Relationship Management software can help your nonprofit, contact us. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.