Welcome to Part One of our three-part series on preparing for your nonprofit database conversion. In Part Two we discuss budget considerations and in Part Three we recommend ways to organize your assets.
Just like sauerkraut or pineapple on pizza, you probably either love or loathe your contact management system. It’s no wonder why; your system’s strengths and weaknesses determine how successful (or how big of a headache) each workday is. You may even consider your CRM an office mate, with its own quirks and personality. However, when these quirks are consistently hurting instead of helping you accomplish your goals, it may be time to shop for a new office mate.
Now, how do you get buy-in from your boss? It’s easy to overshare your disorganized reasons and pick the wrong time to communicate your whys. When this happens, you may come off sounding like Ralphie telling his mom what he wants for Christmas.
Don’t be Ralphie. Don’t speak too soon. Get organized and make your words count. Along the way, you’ll most likely discover your needs are different than what you first thought. Take detailed notes while you ask yourself and your team these five questions.
One: How did we get here?
This is supposed to be open-ended. Write down all the reasons why you are frustrated with your CRM and want a change. No need to organize your reasons now; there’ll be plenty of time for that later.
Perhaps you attended a conference recently and got to try out different systems. Maybe you have fond memories of software from a previous job. If you are leading this process, have each of your team members write down their experiences with your current system. Come together and look for overlaps. This will reveal your biggest pain points and opportunities.
Two: What do we want to accomplish?
Now that you’re done complaining, let’s go back to basics. Why does your organization have a CRM to begin with? Write up a summary of your mission and what you need to track and report on to demonstrate progress toward that mission. You know from Question 1 the nuances within this that are most frustrating. We don’t care about that here. Think about the WHY. Why are you using technology, and how is it furthering your mission?
All too often we fail to revisit questions like this. They allow us to remember and reflect on what matters most, keeping us mission-focused instead of task-oriented. This sort of analysis also encourages creative thinking since it’s not focused on the tools you use. Rather, it gets at why the tools exist.
Three: How well do we know our current system?
This question is hard because it hits our egos. You may want to yell, “It just doesn’t work, okay!” and have your boss give you a new system. But in most organizations it’s not (and shouldn’t be) that easy.
How did you learn your current system? Was it by trial and error, or did you receive actual training? Write down how your team manages training and ongoing needs. Perhaps this is provided by your technology partner. Depending on your frustrations, you may just need a new partner instead of a new system.
Look for resources. Do your due diligence of verifying that the functions you need are not possible or overly clunky in your current database. Be patient with the learning process. The more you understand your current database, the better you will be able to articulate what you want and why. For all the UX design and feature differences, most CRM systems offer similar core functionality. The better you understand your starting point, the more thoughtful and creative you can be in articulating your needs and questions to a software provider.
Four: Will the new CRM manage the same information better, or manage new information?
Hopefully the answer is both. Your leadership team will want to know the end result: what will your organization get out of making this change? Document all the systems you use to track and manage your data, whether that be contacts, events, e-communications, memberships, advocacy efforts, or grant funding.
Look at your reporting needs. What do funders or your board of directors expect to receive, and how difficult is it to give them that information? It’s fine to not know how to improve your workflow. That’s why there are technology partners (like us!) who can learn about your needs and propose ways to improve your processes.
Remember, you uniquely understand how you and your team function. The better you can articulate the ins-and-outs of a regular day, the more informed a technology partner can be in proposing a solution.
Five: Are we on the same page?
Hopefully this isn’t a solitary march for change. You need your team with you or, frankly, it’s not going to work. Take this as an opportunity to get to know your co-workers better. By doing so, you’ll develop empathy and an understanding of their responsibilities. Perhaps you’ll even discover ways that you can support each other and simultaneously relieve some of the frustrations you’re having with your CRM.
Document how changing to a new CRM will benefit multiple departments in your organization. If it won’t, you may want to think more about Question 1.
Six: Where’s the money?
This process won’t be free. An important and often overlooked part of the budget is how your own time and your team members’ time will be redirected to focus on the database conversion. Something’s got to give. Write down the upcoming campaigns or projects your team will be working on. Don’t add unnecessary stress by proposing to implement a new database at the same time key team members need to be focused 100 percent on other projects.
Your boss will appreciate that you are considering the impact this will have on your team’s capacity and schedule. Keep the goal in mind: all of these stressors are justified if the gains of a database conversion are fully understood and documented.
We’ll look at more budget considerations in Part Two of this series.
Celebrate the Process
- If you’ve worked honestly through these questions, then you will have:
- Stronger relationships as a team
- Greater understanding and empathy of each other’s responsibilities
- Deeper understanding of your existing system
- Improved ways of organizing yourself and your priorities
- Better ability to articulate your needs and the opportunities that exist to improve your most critical processes
- A boss that appreciates your leadership skills and thoughtful approach to organizational change
You organization is primed for change (and will be any digital agency’s dream client)! Continue your preparations by reviewing key budget considerations and ways to organize your assets.
Of course if you’re ready to talk now, feel free to drop us a line.