This does not mean simply asking other non-profits what software they’re using and whether or not they like it. Talking to industry peers means asking what their criteria was for new software, what the selection process was like for them, what the total cost of ownership is, and how well the software met their needs.
Research Online. Look for ratings and, both good and bad, for each of your top software candidates. Visit each software company’s website and read through their information thoroughly. Read the company’s news to see how well the company is doing and if they seem to be financially stable. Read testimonials and case studies to look for similarities between your organization’s needs and the vendor’s customer needs.
Talk to Technology Providers. After narrowing your list of potential technology partners down to a manageable number, start making phone calls directly to the companies. Pay attention to how friendly, knowledgeable, responsive and open company representatives are over the phone. Ask candid questions about industry experience, customer service, and software functionality. Ask sales staff what their non-profits customers would say about the company if you were to call them up. These are all very fair questions to ask and the right software company will be more than willing to provide any information you need to know to make your software selection.
Request On-Site Demonstrations. By the time you reach the software demonstrations phase, you should have narrowed your list down even further to just a handful of possible partners. Before software vendors arrive for demonstrations, collaborate with staff members to create a comprehensive list of questions to ensure that you are prepared to evaluate each vendor equally. Ask vendors to walk you through step-by-step processes for a typical transaction your staff might handle on any given day. Ask what customers find most challenging about the software. Ask what feedback the company receives the most on the software. Ask every question that you and your staff deem important in the software selection process. And ask these questions to each of the vendors.
Buy Software Based on Features Only. When focusing just on features of the software, such as online registration, membership management tools, Web content management, etc., you can unknowingly overlook other important factors, such as software scalability, technology requirements, customer service support, total cost of ownership, and finding a software solution that doesn’t change your business processes. It’s important to buy non-profits software that will grow with your organization, allow you to take advantage of existing investments in computers and other IT equipment, offer you 24/7 customer service support, save you money while driving new revenues and donations, and be user-friendly so anyone, from volunteers to full-time staff, can utilize the software to improve current business processes.

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