Business management software for nonprofits can help improve relationships with donors, track funding over time and help charitable organizations grow. However, choosing which platform to use can give nonprofits a difficult time. When trying to make a choice, or plan an implementation, keep the following tips in mind:

1) Set a timeline

Board Assist, an organization dedicated to matching prospective nonprofit board members with the best charities for them, stated that setting up a timeline for adoption is crucial. Avoid making this transition at a time when the organization is occupied with a year-end campaign, a largely publicized fundraiser or other commitments that would make implementation exponentially more tricky. While nonprofits are likely busy throughout the year, find a time when employees will be able to devote ample hours to exploring a new system, before having to use it to manage a large event.

2) Know the budget

Spending a lot of money on a software platform may seem like a financial risk for some nonprofits. While it can be pricey, the amount of time, money and energy that a business management software system can save an organization down the line makes implementation today worth it. When setting up a budget, plan ahead for any technical surprises that may pop up. Board Assist recommended adding 20 percent of the software price onto the project; this is a good safety net should any last minute, unexpected fees come up.

3) Identify needs

Choosing software without knowing what the nonprofit needs is like prescribing medication for a patient without knowing any symptoms. Ideal Ware stated that identifying the top three to five processes that a nonprofit can’t live without is a strong way to start. Be honest about the issues the charity is currently having. Whether it’s donor retention, managing funds or reporting on campaign success, knowing which features are most important is essential. From there, consider the future of the organization and which items may be helpful down the road.

4) Ask about trial offers

Some software providers allow users to test the system before purchasing it. This is a great way to get familiar with how the program would work during real-life scenarios. Run several hypothetical situations through it and see how well it responds, or more importantly, how well the people who will be working with it every day respond. It will become apparent early on whether the system is helpful and intuitive or if it will slow down operations. While there will certainly be a learning curve with any new software adoption, it shouldn’t completely derail employees’ day to day.

5) Include employees

Aside from involving staff in test runs, ask them to be active participants in the software decision. Without bogging down the process with too many perspectives, simply asking employees what features they would find most helpful is a great place to start. There may be issues that had never been brought up before. There may also be requests from certain departments that leaders would’ve been unaware of otherwise. Make sure they feel like they are part of the process, and thus an integral aspect of the charity’s decision-making journey.

6) Take advantage of data migration

Checking to see if the chosen platform offers data migration will make implementation enormously more successful. Vendors that can help transmit current data into a new system will save the nonprofit time and energy that could be otherwise spent putting the software into action. Though this typically comes with an additional fee, it is worth it to start out on the right foot.

Business management software is a strategic tool that can improve a nonprofit’s ability to connect with contributors, have a greater influence on its community and understand effective processes.