An excerpt from A Guide to Donor Management Software Conversion
Whether in an informal group discussion, or using a structured staff audit, eliciting responses to the following questions will provide invaluable feedback about your organization’s software conversion readiness. Whatever style of inquiry best suits your corporate culture, encourage–and protect–the broadest range of participation across staff roles and supervisory levels.
1. Is there support for the project at the Leadership level?
Is Leadership willing to dedicate staff resources throughout the entire process; from the Assessment through Implementation and beyond into adoption and expansion over time?
Is Leadership willing to participate in the Vision process? New software should support high-level fundraising strategy for your organization and should consider a five to ten year planning horizon.
Is Leadership committed to utilizing a more data-centric approach to fundraising? Since the goal of conversion is to bring new tools and processes to the team in order to improve fundraising effectiveness, the team must be willing to adopt the new, and imagine the best possible benefits and functionality a new system offers.
Is Leadership willing to trust the processes and the team? A conversion project can create inconveniences across several business functions, and it can take an unexpectedly long time to yield efficiencies, but these are the times to trust a well-managed process and a team’s best thinking.
2. Are there adequate data-team resources for executing and maintaining a conversion?
Does the data team have the knowledge and experience with the legacy system to prepare, clean and map files for conversion? What is the condition of the present data? Data hygiene issues in the legacy system will yield a compromised conversion. Also, staff turn-over frequently increases during a conversion project, so having a deep bench–or at least redundancy–in database and organizational knowledge will help ensure success.
Is there a project coordinator able to work with leadership, user groups and vendors; to manage workflow and shifting priorities; and to adequately document and report on the conversion process? Various types of consultants can be used to help fill this gap, but having a staff person as point-person will be more efficient and improve adoption.
3. Is there a culture of continued learning and improvement?
Once the new software is implemented, is the data administrator willing to seek out help and support? Support for most software products goes far beyond resolving a specific issue. There are large communities of users and knowledge banks rich in information and tips that help administrators and users enhance functionality and optimize the performance of new software.
Are all users willing to change and adapt to new systems, and to contribute to the refining of new business practices? Long-time staff can be subtly–or overtly–resistant to change. Understanding each staff person’s tolerance for change will help plan respectful and successful training and specific change management activities.
Are all users–from organizational leadership to data-entry staff–willing to adopt a more data-centric view of the donor management activities and to imagine ways that new functionality can enhance fundraising?
Is the organization willing to adapt current business practices to optimize new software features. Which practices and processes are truly non-negotiable and which can be brought into alignment with best practices and software recommendations?
4. Does the organization have the resources necessary to purchase and maintain a new system?
In addition to the published costs of a software product or service, prepare for add-on functionality fees, implementation fees, consulting fees, training fees and fees for partner services (mass email, online payment, online forms, and web consultants if changes are required on managed sites).
In addition to the “hard costs” of new software mentioned above, consider the cost of staff resources: project coordinator, team projects, IT staff, and training for all users. Will there be opportunity costs for the coordinator’s time, or costs for temporary labor?