When Should You Break-Up with your Membership Software


What No One tells you about breaking up with your Membership Software for nonprofits

With Valentine Day drawing near, I stumbled upon an oldie but goodie, “The Break-UP”. If you are not familiar with the movie,  The Break-up , it stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. And, after thinking about it, the movie sparked my thoughts about the importance of expectations & why organizations move on to another software solution.

Let me explain. As in most situations, it’s not just one incident which causes a tipping point, but rather ongoing poor communication, mishaps, and lack of trust which produces the termination of a relationship (personal or business). Hence, the connection to the movie, The Break-up. The central theme of this movie is that Jennifer Aniston’s character has had it. She is done. It’s apparent that she viewed her relationship differently than her partners. To say it mildly, her expectations were a little higher than her partners. And, as the movie goes, they both wanted different things.

Questions to Ask of Membership Software NonProfits

Take a moment and think about the last time you were fed up with your existing software and were ready to drop kick the software out the office door. What led you to the break-up? Were you made as hell? 

Each organization is unique. And, despite being a nonprofit, there are different people and processes in each organization. Here are several questions to contemplate as you mull this over a bit:

  • Is your situation due to the software? Service Provider? Or, Combo?
  • Are your expectations of the software justified?
  • Is my staff trained adequately on the software we have now?
  • Is the problem our processes?
  • How up to date is the software?
  • Did you have a “Go-To” point person when things went wrong?
  • Are you repeating a pattern of bad technology decisions? If so, Why?

Membership Software for Nonprofits is not perfect!

Let’s face it. Membership Software for nonprofits is not perfect. What tends to exacerbate matters worse is not being able to get the problem resolved which ultimately leads us down the path of discontent and ultimately to the break-up. At SmartThoughts, we specialize in helping organizations with system evaluations and system assessments. More often than not, the prevailing reason given by organizations for failure is the software.

Why Organizations Drop Kick their Membership Software 

When in reality after assessing the situation, it’s usually a combination of many factors which contribute to the break-up such as the following:

  • Lack of Executive Support
  • Outdated technology
  • Lack of training
  • Faulty business processes which have caused unnecessary changes to the software
  • Staff Changes
  • Poor Technical support

Certainly, no one wakes up and yells at the top of their lungs with excitement, “Awesome, we get to implement a new membership software for my nonprofit”. Usually, there are valid reasons (including the above) why an organization needs to move on and select a new software program. But, before you go down that path, we advise our clients to take the time to truly assess your situation before you dust off your last RFP to send out again (which is always a bad bad idea).

Many clients have invested over 10 years in their current membership software for nonprofits, and devoted countless hours to making the program work like a fine oiled machine. In short, first attempt to find some common ground rather grounds for terminating your current software investment. A break-up may not be warranted. Your success may be impeded by something easily corrected such as finding the proper support partner, training, or resetting your “Start Button” for expectations.

If you would like to learn more about our approach to helping associations and nonprofits achieve success with technology, please contact us now.

We provide a free document outlining the key questions to ask of a software reference

Streamline and Organize Business Process Asssessments for Your Organization


Have you ever found yourself watching synchronized swimming during the Olympics? It’s about the only time you will ever do so, isn’t?

Well, keeping your association running smoothly takes a lot of effort and keeping it all together can seem almost as tough!

In order to keep your team synchronized, SmartThoughts recommends regular Business Process Assessments. Business Process Assessments are vital for many non-profit associations to ensure that their organizations are in perfect working order. However, mounting such assessments can also be a pain in the neck and very difficult to find the proper time and resources to do.

So, how can organizations effectively conduct one?

What to assess

Much like actual business entities, non-profit association can run into risks that can hamper operations. Knowing what these risks are is important to create solutions to deal with them. Here, the Nonprofit Quarterly gives a comprehensive guide on determining risks.

Here, one important thing to do with regards to identifying risks is to cover a broad array of subject matters.  Don’t focus solely on the obvious risks, like legal issues. Take into consideration other hidden risks, such as internal differences, which can threaten the solidarity of the organization. There might also a growing distrust amongst the people the organization serves.

However, risk identification and planning is not the only thing that has to be taken care of during business process assessment. The effectiveness of the organization’s current strategy for service delivery to the catered group also needs to be regularly assessed. This is vital, as poor service can lead to the above-mentioned distrust.

Doing it right

In order to get right kind of information from business process assessments, using the correct tools for the job is important. Note that, while it has been said that process assessment for nonprofits run in the same vein as those for actual businesses, the needed tools are going to be different. After all, nonprofits operate on an altogether different mindset.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Office of Internal Audit gives comprehensive list of tools an organization needs for assessing its operations. Here, these are divided into several categories covering the nonprofit organization’s various components. Note that, depending on how the particular organization operates, there are some tools on the list that can be omitted. For instance, organizations that don’t depend heavily on donations for operations can simply put assessment of such under the Cash Handling department, instead of creating a separate assessment process for it.

Having a qualified personnel handle the assessment process is also important. Here, it would be best to get someone independent of the organization to avoid any biases. Do note, though, that getting an outside reviewer will cost the organization, so don’t forget to also take it into account in the assessment process. In case your organization opts to do it in-house, take all the necessary measures to ensure the impartiality of the assessment process.

Acting upon the assessment results

One of the important parts of doing business process assessments on nonprofits is determining whether the current processes employed have proven beneficial for the organization. As management leader Lewis Kinard points out:

”This is a natural phase, especially for critical thinkers. One where you question the results, both expected and unexpected. Why did you get the ones you did? Why did you not get some you hoped for? Have you accounted for these things?”

Determining the answers to those questions is your main goal here. Thoroughly compare and contrast the assessment results with those of previous methods to see why they are falling short of the expectations. Also, take into consideration whether your initial expectations are, in fact, attainable at all. Disclose your findings to the entire organization and set discussions to develop strategies to meet the recommendation of the reports.

To learn more about the importance of regular business process assessments and tools for your organization please do so by contacting us today.


Like Thanksgiving, Finding The Best Software Is Unique For Every Organization

Nonprofit Software and Organizations are all Unique

Finding The Best Software Is Unique For Every Organization Too!

It’s Thanksgiving! It is that time of year when we are either heading off to the market (to pick up that forgotten item) or getting into a plane/train/automobileto visit our relatives to give thanks, spend time enjoying good food, games, and perhaps catching a couple of football games. In this article, I discuss what makes thanksgiving special for me and how focusing on what distinguishes your organization from others is imperative when evaluating software technology.

What Makes My Thanksgiving Special  

In our respective homes, the majority of Americans will enjoy Thanksgiving Day with Turkey. But, despite that one common staple, in many homes we all have something uniquely our own which accompanies the festivities.

It may be a special side item such as my favorites such as “Passion Fruit”, “Cornbread Dressing” (as opposed to Bread Dressing), or my moms “Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls” (Yep, that’s an actual item on the menu at the Stewart home).

Besides the food, it may even be a relative we see not enough and certainly the dynamics of everyone when they come together. For many families, that experience along with the food, can be a recipe in and of itself which drives us to partake in our special refreshment too!

Whatever it may be (people, food, or how we prepare it) there are certain item(s) which distinguishes your tradition from others and makes your Thanksgiving Holiday special in your own family tradition.

Your Organization is Unique Too

So what’s the point with regards to software technology for non profits? To the point, despite the entire country celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday and likely consuming tons of Turkey, each family has something which makes our day “unique” or “distinguishes” us from other families celebrating this holiday.

Like families during the holiday, each nonprofit comes to the table every day with different people, processes, and traditions of serving their members or donors needs. In short, regardless of being classified as a nonprofit, each and every organization is comprised of different people, business process rules, constraints, biases, strategy, & missions for your organization.

Yes, there are literally thousands nonprofits in the United States. And, despite working with hundreds of nonprofits over the years, each and every time I visit a nonprofit I find something special about each and everyone which will ultimately dictate the proper solution required to be the best fit. Simply put, I focus on what distinguishes your plate from others.

First Things First in Your Search

Therefore, I encourage you too. The fundamental task which should be done first in the software evaluation process is to focus on an organization’s uniqueness. For many who are quick to react and have the “I need it now” approach this will be a hard piece of turkey to swallow for sure.

I understand for many this is counterintuitive and often difficult to do. But in order to truly be able to make a decision in the end, it’s imperative to focus on youand your organization first.

While assuming is not a good idea when dealing with software vendors and functionality, you can safely assume that you are different than similar nonprofits. And, I am here to testify to that fact as well.

Today, most organizations start with technology reviews or calling up peers rather than center their attention on themselves. Further, they start out by reviewing software demonstrations which certainly is a drain and cost center for all parties involved in the “demo days” approach to software selection.

And, one of the most common things I hear from executives, is that they spend countless and often useless time searching aimlessly watching webcasts online, virtual window shopping every vendor in the space, & focusing on price to determine their next software system.

Software Vendors are Unique Too! 

Throughout the years,  I have been through hundreds of software selection review projects. And, spent many hours with hundreds of software vendors too. And, as true as the fact that nonprofits are unique, software vendors are unique too. They come to the proverbial table with different ways they approach solving problems. And, despite some misconceptions they are not all turkeys either!

Having said that, I believe that there is a better way to assess and select software. The challenge is taking your uniqueness and matching it with the uniqueness of the software options. And, in order to do just that, your software selection project should start with a little soul searching led by a structured approach to software selection.

Smart Steps Before The Software Demos

In a SMART software evaluation process, it’s imperative before the demo days or vendor calls to first:

  1. Define who within your organization should be part of the shopping process.
  2. Define your timeline for evaluating, implementing, and launching the new system.
  3. Put together and prioritize a list of all requirements, wish list items, and goals that you hope the new nonprofit software will address. Make sure to clearly differentiate between the wish-list and the core needs.
  4. Consider your budget. While price is not the only factor, it certainly is a big one for many to come to grips with.
  5. Review all the software your nonprofit has in place now.
  6. Determine where you have been and why your arrived at this point.
  7. Define what you truly need in order to do better and reach your return on mission.
  8. Analyze how you may better leverage your strengths (people and processes).
  9. Refine your business processes where needed.
  10. Then, take some time to learn about the different software vendors that are in the market. Create a short list of vendors. Remember, this is the last point on the list for a reason!

This Thanksgiving we want every organization to be thankful that you chose the right software partner. And, know that not everyone has to live with a software turkey either!

Happy Thanksgiving! Be thankful for the important people in your lives, and enjoy those little things which distinguishes your plate from others on this special day of gratitude!

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.