7 Things to Think About Before You Implement a Fundraising System
After making the important decision to implement a new fundraising system, there are some key factors to consider before selecting the system, kicking off the project, and implementing the system; and after go-live. I recently interviewed several of Heller Consulting’s implementation consultants for their most practical ideas about ensuring a successful project.
Here are their top tips:
Establish goals and objectives
Before you do anything else, think strategically about the future of your organization. Where are you going? What areas do you want to develop? This is a good time to map out key business processes, as a new system should not be limited by existing processes. Make sure that the fundraising software you select not only fits your current needs, but allows you to grow and meet future needs as well.
Data sharing and security
As part of establishing goals, it is also important to think about your data sharing model and security, especially if you are part of a larger organization with multiple affiliates that will all be migrating to a new coordinated system. When you are thinking about security, make sure that you don’t limit yourself so much that it affects day-to-day work.
Create a steering committee
The participants should be representative of a cross-section of the organization to help ensure understanding of the needs of the organization across lines. This includes executives, directors, managers, and front-line staff. By securing feedback and support from a cross section of staff, you help ensure all of the teams are represented, as well as all of their needs and requirements. A department that can be overlooked, but is beneficial to involve, is Finance. This becomes a key group to coordinate with when accounting and coding decisions are being addressed. While they may not need to be part of this committee, their thoughts and feedback should be considered.
Prepare for change, and communicate effectively
Implementing a fundraising system will almost always require more work than anticipated. This type of project affects everyone in the office, and it is important to set the tone for the project early. It is equally important to continue open lines of communication with staff for the duration of the project as well as after go-live.
One way this process can be facilitated is by appointing “Champions”. These Champions will help facilitate ongoing communication among staff and can provide valuable assistance in making the case for change and gaining buy-in from staff. Gaining buy in for the project can help encourage user adoption of the system after go-live. User adoption must start at the top with senior leadership. Everyone has to use the new fundraising system in order for the project to be a success. In addition to Champions, ongoing communication with staff around the process and status of the project is key, as well as soliciting feedback and involving staff members from a cross section of the organization.
Ensure proper resources are in place
Make certain that you have the necessary resources in place to coordinate this project, keeping in mind the earlier point that an implementation project will almost always require more work than you think. Typically, a number of staff will be required to participate in different phases of the project. If this is going to be staffed internally, it will be important to determine a plan to shuffle work responsibilities so that the day-to-day running of your organization is not affected. Because staff members in a nonprofit tend to wear many hats, it may be determined that you don’t have the bandwidth for day-to-day project management, and this may be the point at which an outside consulting firm is the best option for you. Either way, it is best to have your resources in place prior to the project kickoff.
Set staff expectations
Implementing a new system will not happen overnight. Depending on the size of your organization, a project like this typically takes 6-18 months. Additionally, tweaks may need to be made after go-live.
Plan, Plan, Plan
When it comes to implementing a fundraising system, essentially, plan, plan and plan some more! Set a good timeline, taking into consideration the time of year and your organization’s unique “busy seasons.” Plan for project resources, encourage user adoption, communicate often, and ensure proper training. This covers the “people” side of things, but there are also considerations for managing and migrating your data. Watch this blog for an upcoming article about considerations when migrating your data to a new system.