Welcome to Part Two of our three-part series on preparing for your nonprofit database conversion. In Part One we discuss how to pitch a new CRM to your boss. In Part Three we recommend ways to organize your assets.
Congratulations! Your team is primed and ready for a new CRM! You’ve recognized and documented your current system’s weaknesses. You know the basics of what you want to manage and report on. Your organization’s upcoming priorities align with and can accomodate the time required for this change. Your leadership team is onboard and ready with funding. If you’re not feeling confident about all of this, check out Part One of the series.
Your natural next step will be to reach out to software vendors and technology agencies. Before (or at least while) you do that, consider and plan for these six things that are sure to affect your budget.
One: Internal Staff Time
Great leaders ensure that their teams spend time and invest their intellectual resources in what matters most. If you treat your technology environment as an investment, not an expense, you’ll naturally need to allocate a portion of multiple team members’ time to your CRM transition.
Think about what each team member brings to the table. Perhaps even develop a matrix to rate their unique qualities and strengths; it is unlikely that any one team member will possess every trait.
- Excellent at boosting team morale
- Understands long-term goals of the organization
- Detail- and task-oriented
- Clear communicator
- Committed to the organization’s mission
- Strong technical skills
From here you can be prepared, and more importantly prepare your team, for what role each will have in the transition. The more collaborative you can be, the better. There are many considerations when choosing a new database. Nobody likes being in the dark, especially when there are so many unknowns about what tools they will use to do their work, how smoothly the transition flows, and what level of training and support will be provided.
How We Work
We ask each of our clients to appoint a technology liaison from their team to interface with our project management team. The person will typically provide us with access to existing tools and data, as well as help us develop the project workflows and data structure. This person would also receive the highest level of system training and would act as a SME (Subject Matter Expert) to the rest of your team.
This person doesn’t have to have the highest technical skills. Instead, they should be someone who is unafraid to ask questions and excellent at motivating and working with others to find information and keep the project on schedule.
Two: Transition from Current Provider
If you have more than a pile of Excel spreadsheets, the database transition will most likely involve transitioning away from your current provider. There could be costs on both sides of this; costs from your current provider for transition assistance and information, and costs from your new provider or consultant to migrate into their environment or kick-off the project.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As a technology agency, we work in a very competitive sector. It’s your organization’s choice how it spends its money and with whom. Ask early what transition costs may exist. Review and understand your contract. This can keep you from getting in a costly and frustrating situation.
How We Work
We provide ongoing support for the majority of our clients. This includes hosting or hosting management, system security audits and maintenance, regular backups, technical support, and ongoing training. Because ongoing support is one of our core offerings, we also provide a reduced rate on all new project work for these clients. We also do not charge new clients who are transitioning into one of our support plans. This transition support is provided as a thank you for free.
Three: Custom Development
Any CRM you are considering will come with its own features and functionality out-of-the-box. This refers to everything you just get by having the software. With many CRMs, there is much more that can be configured to ensure the system is meeting the unique needs and workflows of your organization. Examples include custom fields, like your contacts’ interests, or your membership types and fees.
On top of this configuration you may also be able to add custom features, which is basically functionality that is built to spec for your organization. Do your homework and ask detailed questions as you evaluate each CRM to know what you get out-of-the-box, what can be easily configured, and what you may need to have developed custom in order to meet your database requirements. The better prepared you are to share the dream list of everything you want, the more realistic an agency can be in developing a defined scope of work and budget.
How We Work
Nearly every CRM implementation project we undertake begins with a discovery phase. You’ll also see this has its own line item in our cost estimates. Besides ensuring that we have a clear understanding of your broader mission and long-term goals, we use this phase to review and work through all the key data points, workflows, processes, and integration needs with other systems. This will allow us to develop detailed design and development plans. At this point we’ll also have a clear understanding of needs that fall outside of the native configuration options. We’ll develop and share a separate proposal for these features.
Four: Data Prep & Migration
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Your system may sound magical, but it will only be useful if it can actually house your current data. Lean on your technology partner. Let them think through and develop the migration plan for mapping your current data and fields into the new system. If you don’t feel confident in their experience or skills, it’s probably worth shopping around for a different provider. Data migration is typically one of the last things that will take place before your new CRM goes live. If not handled correctly, you may end up with one of those “nightmare” database conversion stories.
Your job is more simple. Make sure you know where all your data is and how to access it. Think about what data are most important to you. These data are non-negotiable and must be in the new system.
How We Work
Unless you’re ready with your data up front for review, we typically handle this as separate from the CRM development. Because this process can be so laborious and time intensive, we’ll also try to provide a few options for how to share in the work and control costs. Perhaps this means we provide you with specific guidance on how to prepare and clean the data, rather than preparing it ourselves.
Your prospective technology partner should have a very clear plan in place for how they will provide training to your team. If it’s not detailed, ask. Here are some things to consider. Make sure you understand what you’re getting.
- One-on-one training: Whether in person or online, this is an excellent way to ensure your team can ask questions and try the system out for themselves in a supportive space. Ideally, these trainings should be recorded, which can be useful for onboarding new employees.
- Access to online training materials: Additional questions will always come up, and they’re most likely not unique to your organization. Many CRMs are well-documented and have free or low-cost training materials online.
- Custom manuals: Custom manuals may be especially important for custom development and features in your system. Think from the perspective of a new employee. How will they learn the system? Try to avoid trial and error. Custom manuals can ensure that every team member, new or old, is using your organization’s CRM in a consistent way.
- Ongoing training support: Does your team have a real human they can call for the questions they just can’t seem to answer on their own? This type of support is invaluable, giving your team a greater sense of confidence in using the CRM.
How We Work
Having trained dozens of nonprofits on various aspects of their technology environments, we’ve seen again and again that end-users really don’t want to read manuals. The majority of us learn best by seeing the functionality in action and asking questions in real time. A core part of our ongoing support is providing regular technical assistance to our clients. While we still develop custom and detailed training materials, we know our support line will be even more useful.
Six: Ongoing Support
What happens after your CRM goes live will determine how smooth and secure your technology environment is for the long term. Your organization’s investment is most impactful and worthwhile when you also have a plan for long-term security, maintenance, and support. Find out what your prospective technology partner offers so you’ll know what gaps you may need to fill.
How We Work
We love when our project clients join our family. We’re proud of the quality of support and service we offer. This keeps your team members focused on what matters most: implementing your mission. Technology should be an incredible tool that helps you along that journey.
If you like what you’re seeing, drop us a line.
- Database Change Part I: Answer These 6 Questions Before Pitching a New CRM to Your Boss - April 5, 2018
- Database Change Part II: Six Budget Considerations for Your Nonprofit’s Database Conversion - April 5, 2018
- Database Change Part III: Three Things Nonprofits Should Organize in Preparation for a Database Conversion - April 5, 2018