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Ten Common Mistakes Made With Fundraising Technology

Resource Center - Foundation

By Robin Fisk

(April 20, 2010) When implementing fundraising software and a donor management system, nonprofits face two possible results--success or failure. How can they avoid the latter? This list reveals 10 common mistakes made when it comes to fundraising technology, to help organizations better select the right database and more effectively manage it.

1.  When you start the search for a new fundraising system, you resist the temptation to define the parameters of your selection. Unfortunately, this does not increase your chances of success. Each department in your organization should instead discuss two or three items that are most important to them, to help determine the best technology fit.

2.  You don't involve your users in the selection process. Wrong! Although there will be obstacles, including staff buy-in, with purchases, the people within your organization know its operations better than anyone else-and fully understand their fundraising technology needs. Assign a department champion to refine the strategic vision; this will help them feel more involved and accept responsibility for their pieces of the project.

3.  You choose a solution primarily for how it looks-not what it does. This is not enough. When evaluating software options, look at the strengths of the vendors, their support capabilities, relevant experience and references, product functionality, implementation track record and technology price. Have you also considered asking for customer references?

4.  You go for the latest trends in technology. Don't take the risk on ‘bleeding-edge' software. Ask potential vendors for customer references, so that you can determine the proven, reliable technology and make sure it can support your organization's future needs.

5.  When you have chosen a new system, you set extremely high expectations and make these publicly known. An ambitious, ‘go live' date announced will certainly get everyone's attention. Although it might be good for morale and earn you respect from your peers in the short term, you are putting your project at even greater risk for failure.

6.  You exceed the budget in mind during the fundraising technology selection process. Don't have champagne taste with beer money. It's important to build a strategic plan with adequate financials in place that suggests the scope of the software you really need to support your operational objectives.

7.  One word: assume. Predictability in IT projects is far from overrated. Invite vendors to conduct a "Discovery Session" to learn how your organization does things. Make sure all project deliverables fit your needs, so that you do not achieve failure with your implementation.

8.  Make sure you change project personnel at your end on a regular basis. Nothing succeeds like continuity, although you want to make sure you have the same staff in place throughout the entire selection and implementation process.

9.  Never trust your supplier; always be suspicious of them. Engage with your selected vendor, to continuously determine fit and feasibility of the product and the competence of the people behind it. It will provide an opportunity to refine business practices-rather than ensuring that they run out of patience, further improving your chances of failure.

10.  Keep the project away from senior management. Right from the start, they will ask awkward questions like "Why?", "When?" and "How much?". Obtain the board's and senior management's support by being transparent about the software selection process.

Robin Fisk is senior charity technology specialist at Advanced Solutions International (ASI).

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