Do Groups Make Better Software Decisions?

Software decisions are challenging. And, Group Dynamics play a big role in finding the right software for your nonprofit.

It is no surprise to many that organizations rely on groups,teams, or committees to come up with a decision on software. In fact, it’s rare today to rely on a single person to make the software decision. In this short article, I wanted to shed some light on how group dynamics can be good and bad in making that very important software decision.

How to Address Group Dynamics in Making Software Decisions

Why are teams formed to make software decisions? I believe the thought process behind this is that while one person bases decisions on their own experiences and biases, a group applies their collective experiences and differing perspectives to come up with a better solution. In our opinion, it’s important to form a group to perform the software selection task, however, the leader of the group should realize that there are some negative consequences that may arise due to group dynamics in making software decisions. And, in order to provide the best overall outcome, various dynamics must be addressed before they become detrimental to the decision-making process.

The following are some of the most common negative dynamics based on psychological principles that can result in poor group decision-making, and a few smart thoughts on how to address them:

Lack of Strong Leadership

Weak leadership within a group often leads to one person dominating the process. This often leads to a lack of direction, shifting of focus away from the actual issue, or infighting within the team. The best way to address this is to designate a group leader or facilitator. This person should have great communication abilities, and have the skills and knowledge necessary to guide the group without becoming domineering. If domination occurs, it may require coaching of the leader to point out what is needed from the group as a whole. For example, in a recent software selection review at a nonprofit, it was clear that the Membership Director was the dominant player on the team. And, no doubt was going to do their best to persuade the group towards their departmental needs rather than that of the organization even if it meant giving up in other lessor known and “sizzling areas” like Accounting. In this particular case, we addressed it early on and avoided the derailment thank goodness!


Groupthink occurs when members are more focused on everyone agreeing than they are with making the best decision. This dynamic often leads to a lack of exploration of possible solutions. The best way to deal with this dynamic is to ensure that emphasis is not placed on group harmony. Instead, the members need to understand that personal insights are needed in order to reach the best decision, and that dissent is an acceptable part of the process. This is an interesting psychological principal. It’s not common, for the “leading options” which are perceived to be the “easiest path of resistance” aren’t always best choice for the company. In other words, just because a software option has been around for a long time, doesn’t mean it’s always a fit for everyone.

Authority Deference 

When the leader of the group is a highly influential member of an organization or department, it can lead to team members agreeing, regardless of their own feelings, in order to be seen in a favorable light. This can be avoided in some cases by choosing a leader with a lower or less esteemed status within the organization with varying degrees of success. However, if this isn’t possible or a good idea, it may be worth employing a specialist in software selection to help here as well. In software decisions, there are usually many (siloed) initiatives in the works and it’s important to know that going into the process and during it.


This occurs when there are members of the team that block decision-making by interrupting the flow of information. Common behaviors include aggression, withdrawal, negativity, & possibly unwarranted humor. This typically transpires at the start of the software selection process, however, can creep up at the tail end when a member perceives the decision going a different direction than they desire. When these behaviors are present in the group, strong leadership and coaching will be required to challenge the behavior. And, providing feedback to the member on how his or her actions are affecting others will be necessary, and often eliminates the problem. Across organization sizes, it’s important to have Executive Sponsorship and oversight. And, at the end of the day, be held accountable to the decision making process.

Groups can and do make good decisions. However, each of these dynamics pose a threat to the common goal of finding a software “fit”. But, they can be overcome if they are addressed quickly in group decision making. Monitoring behaviors in the group will ensure that these problems are identified before they result in negative dynamics. This will lead to improved information sharing, improved group dynamics in the software selection decision-making process, and a better software decision outcome.

If you may need help in determining the best software solutions for your organization, SmartThoughts would like to be apart of your group. Contact us today.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Nonprofit Software Dynamics play a role in the decisions for your organization. Be smart.



If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

A review of Nonprofit software options from a vendor who sells is like having a hammer. Everything looks like a nail.

For many, the thought of searching for the right nonprofit software is daunting. In fact, it’s the last thing on the “Must Do List” but the most important item to complete. In this article, we will shed some light on the challenges and inherent issues with software assessment or software selection consulting being performed by a company who “Sells” or “Implements” one software tool.

Buyer Beware in your advisor for Nonprofit Software

Personally, I have heard the expression hundreds of times, but I never explored enough to determine if there was any psychological basis for it. And, actually during my research for this article, I found out that Abraham H. Maslow in 1962 in his groundbreaking, Toward a Psychology of Being, actually studied the following phrase

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Anyways, many of us know and have heard that expression before, but in essence, it implies:

  1. With limited tools, single-minded people apply them inappropriately or indiscriminately
  2. If a person is familiar with a certain, single subject, or has with them a certain, single instrument, they may have a confirmation bias to believe that it is the answer to/involved in everything.

As a consultant who is laser focused on the evaluation of software and working with organizations seeking software solutions, it’s critical in our mind to be agnostic.

Agnosticism or Atheism in Software Selection

What is Agnosticism Agnosticism is typically associated with views on religion, but we actually use the term in essence to underscore that at SmartThoughts we do not believe that there is one software which best fits every operational problem. The other extreme is Atheism. Again, typically associated with religion. But, we believe it’s important to note that we are definitely not against or reject the belief or existence that no solution exists. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. we believe that there are some terrific solutions on the market today which can and do provide a solid solution to address the needs of many organizations. There isn’t, however, one size that fits all situations. 

The Challenge with having only a Hammer

To be clear, it’s required to be passionate about what you provide or sell in order to successful.  But, I also believe there is a challenge in acting as an “objective” third-party adviser when you actually only “sell” one product which is ultimately going to be your solution. Frankly, to purport you can be objective is absolutely ludicrous. And, in my mind, why this expression resonates with me most. A purported solutions provider (implementer or software vendor) which states that they can provide your organization with an objective “assessment” yet only have “one solution”, is not objective.

We are Aspiring to be different than the alternative software advisement firms!

In our opinion, if you are seeking true software advice, we believe it’s important to seek some of the qualities below:

  • Spends more than 15-20 minutes on the phone to understand your needs
  • Doesn’t implement or train on specific software
  • Continually researches software options which may fit various needs
  • Acts as an expert analyst to continually search/review/& provide software product reports
  • Experienced in the uniqueness of software for your industry or category reviewing Ex. Customer Relationship Management Software, Membership Software, Donor Software, Marketing Automation Software etc.
  • Demonstrates the values of choice by being truly agnostic and has a track record of working with a multitude of software providers
  • Listens and seeks to truly find alignment between software products and your specific needs
  • Respectful of a vendor organizations “Sales Process” but also adheres to the needs of the client
  • Has strong relationships with software vendors who solve problems in your industry
  • Does not have a “Leads List” to pull software options from based on paid advertising dollars

As the Chief Software Adviser at SmartThoughts, I am charged with setting the tone and adhering to integrity in the selection process. I am responsible for fostering collaboration between clients and vendors in order to truly find a solution which meets the needs of all parties involved.

The good thing is that there are many options. The bad thing is that there are literally hundreds of options for various sectors and unique needs which can be confusing. We believe that it’s our job at SmartThoughts to take the time to align the needs of our clients with the proper vendor who can provide a solution. It’s our job to understand what makes various software unique in order to do that. In short, we are on a constant search to uncover the DNA of the software.

There is software (s) which can be the “Best Fit” for organizations needs. However, as a software advisement firm we do not have one hammer for every challenge we face. If you would like to discuss our approach and tired of getting hammered by the noise, please give us a call. We would be excited to explore the various tools which may be right for you. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.


We do not sell nonprofit software, we listen, and solve problems with software for nonprofits.

16 Key Pointers in Selecting Membership Software for nonprofits

Software Selection based on Goals hits targetOur primary consulting service is helping associations select Membership Software. As a result, we often get the question, how should we go about selecting Membership Software for nonprofits.

Regardless of size, most nonprofit organizations need help and lack membership software product knowledge in house for embarking successfully in a  proper software selection process.

Quite frankly, your staff was not hired for their expertise in understanding Membership Software for nonprofits and will likely have a departmental outlook only on the needs of  technology. Therefore, whether you are from a small associations or large associations you likely lack internal resources (time & people) and need guidance in choosing an AMS system which is right for your organization.

In short, to answer the question, is that the effective selection of Membership Software for nonprofits must start first with outlining exactly your vision and goals as they pertain to technology enablement. Technology should be viewed as a means to an end. The vision should outline exactly the anticipated ROI (benefits/costs) from use of the technology.

Without a doubt, your nonprofits vision and goals should set the tone, direction and final destination. The journey in the process is critical and should be embraced by your executives, staff, & board. The absence of your goals in the evaluation process is similar to a ship setting sail without a clear understanding of the final destination.

Although you may end up in a good location by chance, it is far more likely you will end up lost or run aground. So, where do you begin? Below you will find 16 Pointers to contemplate in your journey to find the  “right fit” for your nonprofit:

How to Select Membership Software for Nonprofits the Smart Way

  1. Begin with the “end in mind”: It should be concise and provide a clear “picture” of how your technology will impact staff and your members/donors.
  2. Quantify the value of the program (ROI): What will you gain and what are the metrics by which you will achieve success?
  3. Create a roadmap: Where will your organization be with the new system in 5 years?
  4. Build an Effective AMS Software Governance Structure: Assemble a good representative team of executives, board, staff, members, donors to monitor progress. 
  5. Secure Staff Buy-In and Adoption: This new system should be a “blessing” not a “curse”. Eliminate discontent early on in the process. 
  6. Run The Numbers (Be Realistic with what’s palatable): Get real. Be realistic and be cognizant that your not going to get everything you want for “free”. 
  7. Check Your Calendar :The implementation of this system won’t happen overnight. And, don’t expect it too either.
  8. Assemble the Selection Committee:  This should be comprised of key functional players from all areas/departments.
  9. Ask “Friends” and “Associates what they use: Use Social Media for a good purpose. Ask your Peers.
  10. Make Contact with Vendors: No more than 3 finalists should be called & avoid RFP’s based on features alone. Don’t Guess!
  11. Schedule Demonstrations: Score based on your road map not only features
  12. Ask Good Questions: Come prepared with Key Criteria Not Feature List
  13. Collaborate with the “Finalists” and “Share” what is required: This is a partnership you have to open up too. 
  14. Get Real: Be Realistic, SMART, & Open
  15. Make a Decision: Don’t allow Status Quo to be an Option
  16. Don’t look Back: There is nothing worse than talking about “our old system did this”. Move on. 

Without a doubt, it takes a concerted effort to select Membership Software for nonprofits today. The effort is intense but will be rewarding if done properly. And, if you utilize the suggestions above, you will be better prepared to select Online Membership Management Software which is a smart fit.

If you would like to discuss our approach above or services we provide, please contact us.

Association Membership Manager Software defined and explained in this article.