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5 tips for implementing new software for your nonprofit

Bonterra Author
May 04, 2021
This image shows two ethnically diverse women working over a laptop, implementing new software for the nonprofit they work at.

Adopting new software, whether that be switching to a new fundraising CRM or investing in a marketing solution, is an opportunity for nonprofit organizations to improve upon their current operations. Implementing more modern tools can provide your nonprofit with new efficiencies and capabilities to improve fundraising, marketing, and volunteer management, and ultimately do even more to power your purpose.

However, swapping technology can also be a challenge, as you’ll need to change your operations and train your staff on how to use the new program. The good news is that thoughtful, proactive planning and preparation can make the move to new software much smoother for your nonprofit. Here are five simple, effective ways to prepare your organization for an upcoming software implementation.

1. Designate a point person for implementing new nonprofit software.

Having a person dedicated entirely to implementing your new nonprofit software will help to streamline the process. This person will be in charge of researching different options and installation, and will essentially become an expert at using the new software. They’ll guide other employees through the process and answer any questions or address any issues that may arise.

When deciding which employee to designate as your point, select someone who is already very familiar with your nonprofit’s existing software and how it’s used throughout the organization. Give this staff member enough time to manage the software implementation project and regular work tasks, which might require pausing some of the person’s tasks or temporarily shifting their normal responsibilities to other staff members until the software implementation project is completed.

2. Locate and clean up your data.

Check in with your staff to make sure you know where all data resides. Ask if they’re capturing and maintaining data in places like spreadsheets, email inboxes, or physical filing cabinets to ensure you migrate the necessary information into your new software system.

If you’re already using some form of data management software, look for ways to export that data and import it into your new nonprofit software. Create a list of all queries, reports, exports, and dashboards that your organization uses so that they can be created in the new system as appropriate.

After you’ve located all existing sources of data, you’ll want to do a data clean-up to remove duplicate, incorrect, and outdated data. Decide which data you don’t need to migrate into your new software based on whether it is necessary for your nonprofit’s operations.

3. Update your database policies.

Although you have minimum control over how individual supporters enter their information in online forms, set standard operating procedures for your staff. With the guidance of your vendor or implementation partner, update your database policies based on your new nonprofit software solution. These policies may include security guidelines and data entry practices to ensure new data is clean. For example, your policies could include consistent naming standards for campaigns, events, queries, and exports to make searching and reporting easier and more accurate.

4. Revisit your staff onboarding checklist.

Your staff onboarding process should include a comprehensive checklist to ensure the security of your data and give new staff members the tools they need to do their jobs. For example, you may want to:

  • Determine what data permissions/access they’ll need to do their jobs.
  • Provide them with usernames and passwords for system and program access.
  • Schedule a training session with them to go over policies and procedures.
  • Create a process for removing staff members from your systems when they leave your organization.

When implementing new nonprofit software, revisit this checklist and update it to reflect any new changes in policies or operations. For example, if you create training videos for new hires to watch, film updated ones for your new software.

5. Plan the software implementation timeline.

Because the time needed for each software implementation project will vary, build a timeline with input from all stakeholders, including your software vendor and implementation partner. In general, the phases of implementation projects will include:

  • Discovery and planning: This phase will help you stay on track for the rest of the project and guide you through identifying your needs.
  • Design: This could entail the physical design of a public-facing component, such as a website or form, or it could mean reviewing workflows to ensure new technology, such as a CRM solution, supports your organization’s existing processes.
  • Development: During this phase, you’ll configure your new system, including data mapping and web development.
  • Testing and quality assurance: This phase will help you spot any issues and fix them before your go-live date.
  • Training and deployment: Ensure that your employees understand how to use the new software and are clear about their roles, permissions, and processes before you officially make the switch will help that process go smoothly.

Every software implementation timeline will vary—some simple implementations can take a few weeks or months, but more complex processes may take longer. For example, rolling out a new online donation form is relatively simple and could take a matter of days or even hours. However, if your nonprofit is large and you’re doing something complex, like replacing your CRM system, it could take multiple years to plan, implement, and migrate to a new solution.

Next steps for implementing new nonprofit software

Thoughtfully consider any possible new software implementations and how they will support your nonprofit’s operations. Once you have decided on which software to implement, take the time to prepare for the shift. With the right planning, your organization can make the most of your investment and use it to support your work and busy staff.

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Bonterra Author
  • Nonprofits
  • Fundraising ideas