Saving Jobs with Nonprofit Membership Software

Could Nonprofit Membership Software save your job?

Could it be that the wrong membership software in place is having an impact on productivity, costs, & your ability to make smarter business decisions at your nonprofit? In this article, I discuss how Membership Software features today may help your nonprofit maximize productivity and possibly save jobs.

Saving Jobs with Nonprofit Membership Software

I believe that it’s kind of sad when I hear that in order to reduce overhead costs, some organizations resort to cutting staff positions despite having staff which are overworked. In my experience, this strategy is fraught with so many problems, however, because understaffed and poorly funded nonprofits often struggle to maintain optimal business management processes, it seems like the prudent thing to do.

In contrast to “cutting” team members, I always encourage executives to ask, what if technology could help you do better? In my mind, a successful strategy to handle the issue of inefficiencies and lost revenue opportunities may be found in finding the smartest software choice designed to automate various features of your nonprofit operations.

7 Features & Benefits of Membership Software 

For a moment, consider some of the features and benefits which I have reviewed in many membership software programs on the market today:

Membership Processing:

Properly configured membership software can virtually automate the member participation process at both ends. From collecting a new member application online vs. manually inputting information from a PDF, you can free up staff time to do more valuable tasks such as building relationships.

Online e Commerce:

What employee works 24/7/365 days a year? None. With the mere fact that your store front is open all the time, you can likely increase the likelihood of sales for things like sponsors, events, booth sales, and even training. And, again, your staff can manage the process to ensure that the process gets smoother and smoother.

Workflow Automation:

Generating flags to alert your staff of upcoming membership renewals, it prompts follow-up and can be configured to send emails and other marketing materials to your members automatically. Keeping your promises and commitments with members is critical to success in your day-to-day job.

Marketing Management:

When dues and fees come back in to your nonprofit, the software can measure the success of your marketing campaigns. This in turn will allow you to tailor your marketing strategies in the most impactful manner, as the software provides you with information you can really use about how to retain current members while also recruiting new ones. Bringing in new members is paramount to success for membership directors, isn’t it?

Member Contact Management:

As new members are found via inbound or outbound tactics, the membership management software can easily incorporates their information into your database without staff time. And, then you are able to market to them accordingly.

Open Architecture:

While not necessarily a feature, an open API is critical today. And, many of the leading membership software providers provide an Open API structure in their platform. In layman’s terms, high-quality membership management software solutions provide an API which can usually integrate with other software used already in your nonprofit. This helps to make maintaining your member database as seamless as possible. For example, email marketing systems such as Informz  can drastically improve efficiency and effectiveness for many nonprofits with their email marketing service. It’s integration is the key value in keeping sanity with your data points.

Business Analytics:

All databases can capture data. With Membership Database Software, you can spend less time figuring out if the data you are looking at is correct. For many, inaccurate data can be the difference in a good decision or bad one. And, too many bad decisions will likely cost you peace of mind and possibly your job.

Pursue Your Mission 

With the right database software, your nonprofit may be able to better focus on pursuing your organization’s mission by simply letting technology do the heavy manual lifting processes of your organization. There are so many examples of features which may help nonprofits do more with less. I have only mentioned some of the key ones on my mind.

But, the most important thing isn’t all about that mere fact. Empowering your members and donors to have a better experience with your organization, will help improve member and staff satisfaction equally. And, when that transpires in a harmonious way, it’s a beautiful thing to see!

So, what if Membership Software could help you do better? Could it save your job?

If you would like more information about the features & benefits of membership management software or simply want to compare and contrast the membership software on the market today, please contact us. We can provide guidance to help you find the smartest software database for your particular needs.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Free CRM Membership Database Software Guide

Five Sweet Rewards of CRM Software for Nonprofits

CRM for Nonprofit can be a sweet reward for not only staff but your members and donors.

As outlined in my previous post, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Software for Nonprofits can help optimize your nonprofit’s operations. However, CRM Software can be somewhat complicated to implement so it is prudent for many organizations to contemplate if it is worth the investment. In this article about CRM for nonprofits, I extend my thoughts to underscore the sweet rewards and payoffs a nonprofit may enjoy which justifies the dollars spent and the effort involved to implement at your nonprofit.

Five Sweet Return on Investment Payoffs in CRM Software for Nonprofits

Below please find five important reasons why an investment in CRM software may prove to be “Sweet” for your nonprofit:

1. Streamlined relationship building:

Relationships are crucial to nonprofits. For-profit firms use CRM to have one “home” for all of their customer data. Nonprofits can do the same, to keep track of donors, potential donors, and members. The sweetest return comes when you know enough about them to use the data to provide a stronger experience for your donors or members. You can appeal to what matters most to them.

2. Engagement becomes easier:

Improving relationships is a prerequisite to effective engagement. You know how to create customized communications for different types of donors or constituents. CRM makes it easier to determine who gets what messages and on what schedule. This return coincides with relationship building in many ways. But, if you use the data to “serve” up an experience which is unique, your donors will want to give more. And, if you are a membership organization, your members will participate more often. In short, engagement will bring more revenue long-term.

3. Planning is more efficient:

Creating plans to communicate with major donors, current members, lapsed members, and potential supporters over the year is all doable without CRM, but faster and more reliable with it. Manage development time and money by keeping track of grant application deadlines. Plan ahead for fundraising and membership efforts throughout the fiscal year. Activity Management is a basic tenet of CRM, but the ROI is about keeping the promises you make with each other on the staff and with your constituents. If you don’t, your planning will impact your integrity with everyone.

4. Monitoring is easier:

You can learn about donor relationships, membership management and fundraising effectiveness through a variety of sources, but a CRM software tool puts much of the relevant information in one place, where someone can program canned reports that deliver key information. We can manage want is measured. When your staff and board get accurate data via CRM, you are able to improve your ability to do more in the areas which are important. And, know what to cut when it is not. Monitoring is critical to sustaining ROI.

5. Competition:

Why are all of these things important return on investment scenarios for investing in CRM software, which isn’t free? The bottom-line answer is about the same for nonprofits as for businesses: competition. Your donors and potential members haven’t got the time nor money to participate in every trade association, professional association, advocacy organization, and education program that might be relevant to their needs. There is only so much training money to go around. CRM software can improve your ability to be more competitive by improving the mind share you can capture from your audience.

While you certainly can obtain an optimized organization via CRM Software, your Return on Investment goes even further than just improving efficiencies. CRM can provide tasty strategic advantage which translates into serious ROI.

To talk more about your association’s CRM software needs, or anything else, please contact us. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Free CRM Membership Software Purchase Guide for Nonprofits

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