6 Options to Consider for Software Advice

Nonprofit Software Advice

To put software to use for your nonprofit, you will need to choose the right tool and implement it. For most, this is easier said than done, right? In this article, I outline the software advisement options your nonprofit has to help facilitate your very important software selection process.

Software Advice Options  

In the last 5 years, the dynamics of buying software has changed dramatically. What are some of those changes? Below you will find several:

  • The sheer number of software companies in the nonprofit space will make your head spin.
  • “Software As a Service” is allowing more software companies to develop “just enough” and “simple” solutions to address the needs of nonprofits.
  • The internet has made information, once only available from salespeople in the past, accessible to everyone with an internet connect or phone.
  • People do not answer their phones or return calls anymore. This makes it more difficult than ever for salespeople to connect by with buyers.

As a result of this shift & with so much at stake, how do you find the cloud or off-the-shelf software most closely aligned to your particular nonprofits needs?

Good Question!

Your software advice options can be as diverse as the number of software options on the market today. Let’s discuss those options now.

1. “Reseller” Software Advice  

In this option, you have an independent consulting firm which typically “sells” and “implements” software for nonprofits.

  • They generate revenue via the initial and ongoing services to “support” one (to several) software options.
  • Resellers of software have strong and valuable experience in providing services for the software they “choose” to sell and support.
  • Resellers are usually a reliable resource for additional support beyond the “developer’s” capabilities or to augment a nonprofit’s staff resources.
  • Resellers may offer extender modules or add-on applications which were developed to fill a gap in a product they sell.

In terms of software advice, they tend to offer a “this one” or “that one” approach. Software advice option(s) are limited based on a limited scope of option (s) in their bag. Generally speaking, resellers view a solution through a limited lens of options. A good expression comes to mind, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail“. Not necessarily bad, just nature of their selected focus.

2. “Paid By the Lead” Software Advice 

The “Paid by the Lead” software adviser is one of the newest players on the list. Many of these online software advice firms have sprouted up in the recent years to offer assistance in narrowing down your software list due to the sheer volume of options now.

  • “Paid by the Lead” software advice providers allow you to conduct a comparison of vendors and software systems.
  • “Paid By the Lead” companies are tremendous marketing firms which help software vendors with much-needed sales and marketing expertise to increase presence online.
  • They work very hard to push out content to educate and attract software buyers to their website through search engine optimization.
  • They are keen lead generators. If you do a “google” search you will certainly run into one of these folks.
  • They derive revenue by the leads, pay-per-click (PPC), or referrals generated for software vendors.

Make no mistake, “Paid by the Lead” marketing firms are driven by their relationship with the software vendors who pay to play or pay by the click.  Personally, I applaud their marketing prowess, but for nonprofit buyers it’s important to realize the nature of their DNA. In my opinion, this type of software advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

3. “Implementor” Software Advice

An “Implementor” is a firm or independent nonprofit consultant who is more like a general contractor for software. They are often confused with software “Resellers”.

  • The key difference is “Implementors” do not “sell” software.
  • They derive revenue by providing implementation services such as managed IT services, project management, training, customization, and ongoing software support.
  • Typically, these are small “boutique” consulting firms which offer tremendous expertise to their clients.
  • They can be very useful resources to nonprofits in terms of their expertise to utilize or enhancing the utilization of existing solutions.
  • Implementors often provide software selection services to their customers as part of their service offering.
  • Focus is not usually only Software Selection Services.

Therefore, due to the nature of other primary revenue sources, they tend to be limited in their exposure to software options. And, commonly reserve focus on the most well-known software providers to address the needs of their constituents. They do not usually have the time commitment required to continually evaluate software options designed for the nonprofit market. Therefore, software advice may be limited in terms of software options which they have the skill sets to support in-house.

4. “Vendor” Software Advice 

The software “Vendor” is your oldest software advice option.

  • They are “The Experts” in terms of knowing the ins and outs of their respective solution.
  • They are driven by the “Quotas”, “Sales”, & License revenue.
  • They should be able to “Sale” their value proposition and clearly outline why their solution is better than the alternative.

Sales is an admirable profession. The challenge with the current software procurement process is the general disdain for the value of “Sales Professionals” in software procurement process. While this is a mistake, it’s also a shame because after working in this industry for well over a decade, it’s quite refreshing to realize that most vendor “Sales Professionals” are just that, “Professional”. You should certainly “test” your relationship with software vendors but take comfort in knowing that most are indeed good resources when used properly in your search.

In terms of software advice, however, it’s important to remember vendors get paid to “Sale”. Therefore, it’s not advised to rely on the software vendor for transparent and impartial software advice.

5. “Internal” Software Advice 

Without a doubt, this is the most common approach to handle software selection projects. The task of finding software is usually delegated out to the de-facto “IT Expert” on staff who also wears many hats including “Membership Director” or “Donor Development” officer.

  • Self sourcing your software selection is the least expensive option.
  • Internal software selection projects can also be the most costly mistake if managed poorly or a mistake is made.
  • Nonprofit staff have usually never been involved in a software selection project. 
  • Nonprofit staff have the most experience in knowing more about their “processes” than anyone else.

It’s actually quite amazing all the jobs a typical staff performs in a non-profit. In terms of software selection, the thought of searching for the right software is daunting. In fact, it’s the last thing on the “Must Do List” for many staffers. In terms of software selection process or software advice, “Google Search”, “Peer Reviews”, “Endless Demonstrations” and “Brevity” are par for the course. 

6. “Outsourced Specialists” for Software Advice

An “Outsourced Specialist” is a new software selection option for organizations. It’s a stark contrast to the “Paid by the Lead” option in terms of revenue source and yet incorporate a blend of many of positive aspects of the other options mentioned above. They are often referred to as General Practitioners which have a more holistic view of software selection, focus on requirements as the software selection guide and keen understanding of experts (service/software) in the market.

  • Outsourced Specialists are beholden to serve the needs of the nonprofit only.
  • Revenue is derived from the nonprofit for a temporary paid engagement to help with making smarter software decisions.
  • They do not sell, implement, or train on the software which they are hired to help select.
  • They focus on evaluating software options which affords organizations invaluable intellectual capital on software options.
  • Their exposure to software options is unlimited and  do not get “Locked” into one solution to solve all problems.
  • They have no incentive to include the software which they are most familiar with or have exposure too.
  • Outsourced Specialists extend a valuable resource to your nonprofit to handle vendor identification and vendor management.
  • They have a structured software selection process with years of experience in many software selection projects.
  • Specialists usually have implemented software, sold software, or worked at nonprofits in the past providing a blend of experience.
  • Specialists realize that software is only part of the solution. And, have strong relationships with Implementors, Resellers, and Vendors to solve problems.

Which option is best for your nonprofit?

Like software, there is not a one size fits all choice. Each option has it’s pros and cons. So, if you are a nonprofit that would like to explore your software advice options, please contact us. We would enjoy sharing with you why we founded SmartThoughts with the intent of becoming the premier software selection specialty firm in the industry.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

We can help you find your voice and secure a nonprofit software solution!

Software Advice Nonprofits: CRM Software for Nonprofits, Membership, & Donor

Database Software for CRM, Membership, and Nonprofits

Software Reviews, Comparisons, & Reports 

(Fort Worth, TX,  April 1, 2014) – In an effort to help nonprofits overcome their current challenges with finding the right CRM software for Nonprofits, SmartThoughts LLC., a professional software selection firm has been launched.  With the charter of this new firm, a fresh new approach to nonprofit software selection is now available to help nonprofits make smarter software decisions.

The Mission Is To Provide A Smarter Way of Evaluating Software for Nonprofits

Chad Stewart, Principal, Chief Selection Adviser, of SmartThoughts stated, “ Over the past decade there has been a monumental shift taking place in the way that people buy goods. The way we have procured software has been forever transformed by this fact. We no longer look to vendors to uncover the basics, when executives are ready to talk, they require true counsel in sifting through the marketing noise of options. Our goal in starting this company and website is to be the primary source for nonprofit professionals beginning their search to find the right CRM software for their organization. We have listened to the nonprofit market and are responding to one of the biggest challenges facing nonprofits today; Technology.

Why we are Unique in Evaluating CRM For Nonprofits

We are unique in the online software advice options. We are not paid by the vendors to write about, recommend, or provide software leads. Rather, we provide education and services to help elevate our clients above the marketing noise and assist them in selecting the software tools they need based on their goals, needs, and budget. We are committed to an agnostic approach and plan to use our combined industry experience and valued strategic partner resources to help educate and align our association clients with the proper vendor partner solution based on the information we have curated over the last 20 years in the software industry. It’s our goal that our organization will give nonprofits the insights they need to meet their strategic objectives with technology automation well into the 21st Century”.

Purpose of SmartThoughts Website

The website will continually evolve over time. However, our desire is to educate executives in the areas of software selection processes, CRM Software for Nonprofits, Membership Database Software & complimentary software solutions which work in concert with their respective software solutions. SmartThoughts brings expertise in many software disciplines with specific expertise in Membership Management Software solutions, Customer Relationship Management Software for Nonprofits, Marketing Automation software, and other complimentary software designed to ignite the use by staff and member alike. The website contains a specific blog which is designed to serve as a free resource for selection process tips, nonprofit software reviews, current software in the market, software vendors, solutions providers, and general technology information pertinent to the association and nonprofit industry.

Subscribers to the blog will be able to sign up to receive weekly posts so association software information will be as close as their inbox. In addition, SmartThoughts is accepting applications for guest bloggers for the new site. Association professionals, Software Vendors, and others are invited to share on the site. We encourage all to apply on the site.


About SmartThoughts:

Our mission is to shift the paradigm involved in the evaluation and acquisition process of nonprofit software. Our Software Selection Services are designed to help associations conquer the ever-changing challenge with determining how to find the software they need to engage their members and donors grow their membership, and efficiently manage their human capital investments. Our goal is to work in the spirit of collaboration managing the relationships with buyers and vendor partners in order to find a solution which truly meets the needs of the clients.