Should your Non Profit Rent or Buy Database Software?

501c3 Non Profit Software Buying Tips


To be sure, how a 501c3 or 501c6 organization deploys and licenses database software is a critical decision in your nonprofit. In this article, we explore a question which may be applicable to your nonprofit database software licensing.

What Type of Non Profit Software is The Best Fit?

Cloud Based Software vs. On Premise Software 

In my train of thought, “Cloud based” software clients could be construed as “renters”.  And, conversely “On-premise” clients are conversely a “homeowner” type of client. Without question, “Cloud based” software systems have gained huge popularity in the last several years for 501c3 organizations and associations alike. And, rightfully so! Due to the nature of associations and nonprofits, it’s easy to be allured by the catch phrases and ease of deploying a cloud based solution. You hear it everywhere today, “With a cloud based solution your association can deploy a solution quicker and less ”. And, this is likely true for you too.

The Renter vs. Homeowner Choice

However, a “renter” and a “home owner” are distinctly different in terms of mentality.  Apartments/Condos/Duplexes all  serve a purpose in our society. And, buying a home is still for many considered an intricate part of achieving “ The American Dream”. Quite frankly, renting is a necessity for many transient individuals/families/students/retirees which need a temporary place to store their property (like your associations data) and provide a safe secure place to call home. For example, an apartment communities are usually very accommodating.  One will likely enjoy a huge expansive swimming pool, workout center, nice club house lounge area at the office, wonderful landscaping and sometimes a nice size park area for kids to play if the property caters to families.

The shared amenities can be quite attractive. The “shared amenities” are not it! There is more to substantiate the allure of going down this path. The renter does not have to worry about costs when the dishwasher breaks (at your kid’s birthday party), the a/c goes out ( in the heat of the summer) or a tornado comes through in the spring to destroy your roof. Finally, a renter usually pays less, signs a one year lease term, & you have way more than you could get if you had to buy.

A home owner is usually in it for the long haul, right? As a home owner you have  the choice to make changes to your existing structure (if and when your family needs change) like building a new room for your new little one or modifying an existing space to update it to the new trends, paint a room a different color, or update the outdoors with a nice garden to plant vegetables. And, at the end of the day, you likely will enjoy the build-up of equity.

Obviously, “home owners” have their pitfalls. When it breaks, you fix it. When it needs updating, you buy it. When the taxes come, you pay them. You get the idea!

Cloud Based Non Profit Software is Renting

For well over a decade now, “Cloud based” software vendors have enjoyed the limelight. As an association executive, it’s important to know if a “Cloud” based database system is really the right choice for your organization. Understanding your nonprofit needs in order to better understand which donor database or membership software system option is best for your company, is warranted. Choosing the right enterprise membership management system is integral to your business. Here are some benefits of cloud software to chew on:

  • Database efficiency:

Keeping member or supporter databases up-to-date can be a daunting task using installed software. When all data or files are stored online (in the cloud) files can be updated and shared remotely and easily. This means, no duplicate member lists or outdated email lists and no need to email or copy files onto USB sticks.

  • Saves time:

Instead of staff making changes to member contact information or membership status, with cloud solutions, your members and supporters can quickly and easily update their own membership or contact information. In addition, staff or volunteers can update websites and manage event registration remotely and easily.

  • Increased Collaboration:

Cloud software can facilitate easier collaboration. Many cloud systems also allow you to see previous versions, so you don’t need to worry about editors accidentally deleting important information.

  • Reduced Infrastructure and built-in backup:

Most nonprofits and membership organizations do not have the resources necessary to update their systems and software, often leading to outdated systems, crashing computers and security holes. With cloud-based software or systems, the “burden of maintenance” is shifted to the vendor. Their automatic updates, backup and tech support save time and effort previously required for updates and infrastructure maintenance. In addition, with cloud systems there should be limited downtime since they have back-up servers as well as expert support to manage and minimize service disruptions.

Your Choice in Non Profit Software Option

The decision to “Rent or Buy” is becoming less applicable. But, for some the question is still pertinent and will be for some time. Like all decisions, there are many factors involved in finding the best fit. We encourage our clients to review the pros and cons of each option before making your decision. To be clear, we do not believe that one or the other is right for every association today. We can help with understanding your unique needs and determining the “Smart Fit” for your nonprofit.

Please contact us today if you would like more information or would like help in selecting your next apartment or home!

501c3 Software Options for Non Profit


How to Sell Your Database Software Ideas Internally

Selling Change is tough. In NPO's it's important to know how to sell Donor Management Software.

The Art of Selling Software Change

You may have likely heard it many times in your career, “Oh, I would love to have XYZ Software, but I can’t get the “board” on “onboard” to spend the money on software. They won’t change”. So, how do you successfully push the idea for obtaining new database software in your organization? In this article, I provide several key ways to address that question.

I believe the comedic movie, Tommy Boy, depicts in a lighthearted way a parallel to the challenges of selling new technology internally into an organization these days. I always get a chuckle out of this one. I hope you do too.

Now in terms of software projects, there are some instances (maybe more than we will admit) when the board and executive team may come from a different perspective than the staff. For many organizations, they are not intimately involved in the “Whirlwind” of a staff’s day to day activities. And, for small nonprofits, perhaps the board needs some education on the reasons why technology may be warranted in order to help push forward the mission.

For those reasons, the “Art of Selling” may need to come into play. And, if that is the case for you, you may require certain tactics and skills to make an effective “pitch” to push forward new innovation in your organization.

Why Selling is Important,Tommy Boy!

First, I believe in the idea that We are all in sales. In other words, probably more so than ever, I believe that every employee should view themselves in the role of selling a product. And, that often times, they are “the product” too. In other words, every time you talk to a member, donor, or customer, you should be providing service, promoting your cause, and pushing forward the unique benefits & value of participating with your organization. And, whether you are working in a nonprofit organization or a for profit, it doesn’t matter.

But, even working internally it’s important to be comfortable in this idea as well. I realize that for some “Sales” is a dirty word. I know, it is even often confused by a few reading now with one of the oldest professions in the world (you figure out that one). But, when sales is done right, it’s a very honorable profession. And, in order to fight the good fight and embark on a mission to overcome the “Status Quo” of yesteryear, change likely will come with resistance. And, knowing some good practices of selling will only advance your cause forward with software projects and other initiatives.

Granted, I must confess. I do not purport to be a sales expert. However, in my humble opinion, the best sales professionals take an altruistic view towards helping their client succeed in removing obstacles and solving problems. A successful sales professional “doesn’t tell” rather they listen, they offer insight not lies, they solve problems and provide a viable plan via their product and/or services. They care and sincerely desire to help their clients.

And, that’s how you need to be! When embarking on a journey to foster change in your organization, I do believe you need to invoke some of the expertise of the truly great sales people (like Ben Feldman or Zig Ziglar) in order to be successful. Below, I provide several ideas which you may consider to help you close your internal IT deal.

Teach, Tailor, and Take Control of the Software Database Project

A while back, I read a best selling book titled, The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. In the book, the author makes the claim that some of the most successful sales professionals are “Challengers”. According to the author, a “Challenger” is defined by the ability to do three things: teach, tailor, and take control.

In some instances, it may be imperative to confront the conventional way of thinking in order to push technology decisions forward. Yes, in order to achieve success in selling software change internally and test the prevailing way of thinking, you have to command reliable information. To be effective, you have to learn how to “teach” to your audience in an appropriate manner. And, it’s imperative to provide factual illustrations in which the proposed alternative will address your organization’s problems.

However, if you push, you need to be prepared to teach and tailor an outline which has impactful metrics to support your situation. You need to be prepared to answer some of these type of questions:

  • How the software will cut costs
  • Improve donor or membership levels
  • Increase participation at your big conference
  • Increase non-dues revenue
  • Improve engagement
  • Enhance donor retention
  • Improve member services

Without factual information, your mission will be futile and you may run the risk of killing the sale. You will need to take the time to “assess” before you “teach”.

Being a challenger isn’t the only thing you may need to consider in this pursuit. You need to inject several other ingredients to ensure success in sparking the revolution of change at your organization.

Build Consensus For New Database Software:

In addition to taking on the role of challenger, it is very important to build consensus. As you already know, when asking your board to spend money, consensus is more important than ever to get your ideas across. It’s no surprise that an internal project usually gets pushed through by a person who can effectively tailor the message to a wide range of stakeholders in order to build that consensus.

Don’t make the mistake of setting unrealistic expectations for the new software. It’s not all about your department but rather stress the impact of how this impacts the entire nonprofit enterprise. In reality, your IT requirement is likely a need which impacts everyone. Build consensus among everyone to highlight the failure points. And, use the agreed consensus often in the process to sell your software idea forward. It’s important to find a path to mutual understanding that launches an IT software project in the best way and avoids regrets, revisions, and stalling.

Justify with Accentuating the Bleeding of Your Database:

Do a thorough analysis internally in each department to determine the costs of doing it the old way. And, then use those insights to show a comparison to the costs afterwards. For example, the mere process of having Data Silos (Excel, Access, Website, Accounting, Event Registration Systems, Social Media Systems, Email Marketing etc.) can easily justify the initial expense for most systems today. Data Integrity (redundant data), Improved Marketing (better segmentation), Increased Support (systems which are disparate cause more support work), & training is easier (if in separate systems more likelihood of more errors and bad data) with an integrated solution.

Expectations are Reality in Database Situations:

If your organization is still living in the 90’s with just a website, you are not relevant. Your members and donors have come accustom to the online world of doing business. By not having your website connected with your nonprofit database management system, your going to kill your productivity capabilities. But, please be sure to frame your request for the new technology in realistic terms. People, partners, processes, and products play a role in success. Products are important but don’t frame the product to your executive leadership as the only challenge. Be realistic.

Database Programs Are Imperative to Advance the Mission:

The more you know, the more engaged you members and donors will be. For example, without an integrated community, your leaving the possibilities of increased participation in the public domain. In other words, make the case that most systems today will offer ways your organization needs to be competitive. Enterprise systems should enhance the cause for increased engagement and participation. And, having a new system will allow your organization to “retain” the mind share of your donors/members if you offer a solution. A new system may be what you need to advance your mission.

Live Inside the Box of Software Projects:

As Phil Dunphy, actor on ABC’s sitcom Modern Family, stated so eloquently,“Everyone is competing to be outside the box now. Yep, it’s crowded outside now”. “It’s time to take over the inside again”. Seriously, executives looking to push new technology ideas to the board need to get “inside the box” and figure out what your departments need. This solution will impact staff, executives, board, and customers (members/donors).As a result, it is critical to decipher the points of pain for everyone in the organization. Then, think outside the box to come up with a solution.

In many organizations, your team may need to investigate seeking good counsel to assist in this effort. It may be prudent to enlist the help of an outside firm to discuss how to best frame your project requirements and assess the impact before moving forward with an internal enterprise software project. In fact, that may just be, the first sale you make to your team!

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

501c3 Software