The Best Membership, Donor, CRM Software! Really?

The Best Membership Software|CRM|Donor|Databases|The Prob with Lists

What is the Best Membership Software, Donor Software, or CRM Software for Nonprofits? I field this type of question all the time. And, as the saying goes, “If I had a dollar every time I have heard it, I would be a rich man”. So, in this article, I am not going to provide yet another software list. Rather, a rant on the whole notion of “Best of Software Lists”.

What is the Best Database Software for My Nonprofit?

First, a quick story. My 7 year old son loves to play the Madden 15 Ultimate Team on Xbox. And, if you are not familiar with the video game, the goal is to win, of course. But, in order to win, you must build a professional football team comprised of the best players (both current and past). That said, my son often asks to know my opinion about great players for various positions. He wants to know who is “The Best”.

And, my reply is a variation of the following:

Well, that’s a tough question son. The game was different from decade to decade. The system impacted success greatly. And, the coaching certainly enhanced personal and group success. For example, the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s had the “Triplets”. Michael Irvin (WR), Troy Aikman (QB), & Emmitt Smith (RB) were very good football players. But, the system and coaching truly made the trio awesome together. But, had they each been on a different team, different era, or were asked to do different things, they may not have been so good.

Besides, I rate “Best Players” based on their team success. And, did they help win big games? And, my rating is not objective (now try explaining that to a 7-year-old!). But, let’s look at who you have, what are the options, and then let’s figure out how the game rates the “Best”. From there, we can work with that to figure out how to win your game.

The Ultimate Software Choice?

So, what does my son’s “Ultimate Team” have to do with selecting the best software for your nonprofit? Well, let me explain. My son’s question is similar. He wants to win. He wants a quick answer. And, he wants someone with experience to help him.

With software decisions, most executives simply want a quick answer and oh by the way they want to win too. Unfortunately, one of the challenges with making a software decision is that it’s not a cut and dry scenario, it’s a much more impactful choice, there is no universal scoring system, and everyone’s definition of “winning” is different.

The Psychology of Best Of…

It seems that we are bit fixated on “Best Of Lists”. So, in my thirst for the truth I wondered if there were any psychological principles which explain the need by humans to know what is the best? And, after a review of various psychology authorities, here are a few explanations I surmised on why “Best of lists” are so interesting and prevalent:

  • It’s about helping ourselves.
  • It’s about having an “expert” help us.
  • It’s about helping each other.
  • It’s about helping us compare.
  • We are easily manipulated.
  • We don’t always act in our own best interest.

We love to compare. The need to compare is human nature. In fact, we will go so far to rationalize differences even if there is absolutely nothing different between two objects. Recently, I had the chance to watch a program illustrating that psychological truism. Watch this fascinating video clip below which underscores this point:

Software Buyer Beware of the Best of Lists!

Generally speaking, I believe that “Best of Software Lists” are flawed, usually biased, and tend to be manipulated (not generally with a nefarious intent) information which should at a minimum be used with caution. As my Grandmother often said, “The pathway to hell is paved from men with good intentions”. Well, this may hold true for those responsible for many of these “Best of Lists” on the internet today.

Two Reasons to Punt the Best of Lists

Let’s take a look at one example. I used Google to search for “Best CRM Software for Nonprofits”. Do that search now, if you would like to follow along.

And, on the first line of the search results is from a site which provides their list of 3 options specifically designed for nonprofits. Here they are: Zoho, Vtiger, Microsoft Dynamics. Now, these options are all good Customer Relationship Management Software in the right environment. But, Really! I could go on and on here with all the “wrongness” with the results of this list. But, let me tackle two points with brevity.

First, what type of nonprofit are we ranking a solution for here? There is not one type of nonprofit. In fact, there are many different types of nonprofits such as charitable, churches, associations, faith-based, schools, recreation centers, arts and cultural, museums, etc. which all have different business functions, strategies, and needs. And, for certain very unique missions.

Second, what is the rating based on? There is no mention of how most lists are determined. You would hope at a minimum that some “evaluation” or “criteria” would be provided. But, even with some basis for their ratings this can still be meaningless data. For example, one software advice organization provides a “Best of Membership Software List” based on popularity measured by a combination of their total number of customers, members managed, and online presence. Really!

Suffice it to say, if you are into “Best of Software Lists” you will find a plethora of options to review on the web today. And, as many as there are, you will find as many opinions of who is #1 through #20 as well. The lists are subjective. And, at a minimum best of lists lack any true value in providing assistance in answering the ten million dollar question, “What is the best software for my nonprofit?”.

How do you find the Best CRM Software for Nonprofits?

In my opinion, business requirements are to software selections as foundations are to a home. If they aren’t right, there will be major problems. Further, if organizations don’t know what they want, how will they know when they find it? You won’t successfully be able to! It stands to reason the better the requirements are, the less risk of selecting the wrong database software product.

Going back to the question which led us here. What is the Best Membership Software, Donor Software, or CRM Software for Nonprofits? And, my answer is somewhat similar to my reply to who is the best player for my son’s “Madden 15 Ultimate Team”. Here it is:

First, your question should not be solely product focused. Rather, the question should be, “Which software program is best for my nonprofit organization (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives)?”.  Adjust your question slightly and enhance your outcome exponentially. The ultimate product selection is as unique as a finger print for most. To be sure, there is no magical “perfect fit” cinderella shoe to place on here. Step away from basic software features (early on in the search), and rather focus your time on how a particular solution (software & support) will most completely help your nonprofit achieve your unique strategy & mission (winning the game).

I believe there is a better way than “Best of lists” or “15 minute Free Calls” to find the smarter choice for you. Ultimately the software selection comes down to this: how do you measure the gap between your particular requirements and potential software products? Nothing is perfect! And, certainly don’t be so easily swayed by the temptation of “Best of Lists” published by various sources on the internet!

Are you currently seeking the best software option for your nonprofit? If so, please give us a call. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

 We discuss how to find the Best Donor CRM Software for Nonprofits

Customer Relationship Management Software is about relationships!

CRM For Nonprofit Organizations, CRM for Nonprofit, Not for Profit CRM, Best CRM Nonprofit is about Relationships,

The nonprofit world is all about creating and managing relationships with its constituents.  So, why is it that some nonprofits don’t spend more time and focus on developing new and existing relationships? Maybe it’s because many nonprofits are simply complicating the matter and need the help of software automation such as Customer Relationship Management to assist in developing their programs. Below you will find several simple ways using a good CRM system may help develop relationships at your nonprofit.

The Secret of CRM is Building Relationships 

1.  Consolidate… Avoid Disparate Data Syndrome!

This article  posted some time ago underscores the process some nonprofits use to manage their relationships.  The results are alarming:

Over half the small to medium-sized nonprofits who responded said they store information about contacts in more than four different places. In fact, 20% said they store it in more than ten places! Many of them use solutions that make it hard for the whole staff to access it – 58% used Excel, 52% used a personal contact manager like Outlook, and an alarming 55% reported using slips of paper.

Storing information in 10 places and using slips of paper is a really bad idea.  All of that information represents a valuable relationship and connection you have with someone who believes in your mission.  A CRM helps you treat each of your constituents as a whole person by allowing you to see how they have engaged with you in the past while also showing the many ways they relate to your organization. When you have all of their data in the same place, you can clearly see who people are, thank them for their previous donations, and facilitate a deeper relationship between your organization. Do not minimize the value of those relationships with sloppy Customer Relationship Management business practices.

2.  Relationships matter:

It almost sounds like a cliché, but it’s still true; a solid service relationship matters.  If you want your donors and friends to continue to champion your cause with their friends, you have to go above and beyond normal service.  Consider this story as an example:

A widow learned about a particular charity through a friend. She decided to donate because she was so taken with what the organization did for physically challenged children. She gave $50 online at the organization’s website. She got a minimal receipt by email but never received a thank you letter in the mail nor any other communication from the organization. She never donated again.

How much time would it have taken to pick up the telephone and contact a first time donor? At the most, five minutes.  If the organization would have investigated a little more deeply, they might have learned about the widow and her connection to the organization.  As it stands now, the organization will never know, and likely not grow their donor base.  Look for ways to make small “touches” that will yield second and third conversations with your donors.  You will double and triple your returns.  How can you keep tabs on all of those “touches”? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to know the digital foot print of your constituents?  A small investment in a software system may make your Customer Relationship Management more manageable.

3.  Time is Money:

One of the common objections to Customer Relationship Management software is the cost.  Does it really save you in the long run if you don’t have an efficient system in place?  You spend countless hours tracking down people who know “something” about donors, and then cobbling their memories together to try to build solid connections with your donors. And, what happens when your development officer who know everything leaves your nonprofit?  Your nonprofit pays employees to do the work at hand, however, the intellectual capital stored on each donor, volunteer, or vendor doesn’t have to go when he/she does.

The reality is this, cost should be a small obstacle to overcome in comparison to the relationships you potentially harm because you do not have a “single version of truth” in a quality software program.  Your time is valuable.  Your mission is critical, and no one is making it happen if you are always spending your working hours trying to decipher someone else’s handwritten notes. With Customer Relationship Management, people in your organization start to get on the same page, thinking similarly about business practices, using the same tools and building relationships with the same constituents. Building stronger relationships is the secret to increasing your chances to grow your donor and member population.

To talk more about how Customer Relationship Management Software can play a significant role in your nonprofit, please Contact Us.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

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