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What nonprofit organizations need to know before upgrading technology

Mar 16, 2021

For years, nonprofit organizations have worked with aging technology systems. Even with the desire to upgrade, finite resources led to limited budgets and employee time to pursue and adopt new technology.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic began. The need for cloud-based technology that enabled employees to work remotely and allow community members to receive services online became paramount. Government stimulus funds for nonprofits provided the budget to put toward technology. 

2021 has brought new nonprofit challenges

Yet the ripple effects of 2020 have been clearly felt. The government has rigorous reporting requirements for the accounting of granted money, and because the scale of funding is now greater, so is each nonprofit organization’s burden of reporting. Plus, private donors continue to specify how nonprofit organizations can spend donated money. Using aging technology to separate funding sources and track expenses is especially arduous for employees who wish they could use the time to serve the nonprofit’s mission.

With so many people struggling during the pandemic, that mission is all too critical. The increased demand for nonprofit services has placed even more demand on aging technology systems. 

Organizations are at the point where they need to upgrade technology across the board. Payroll technology must be able to track employee hours back to grant funding. Expense management must enable fast, electronic approvals. Accounting software must be able to display how much funding you have and where you’ve put past funding so 1) you don’t run out of funds, 2) you can deploy funds to areas that need it most and 3) you can allocate the remainder of funds before the end of the grant year.

But even if you know all this, selecting the right software can still be a daunting process. What if your employees struggle to adopt the technology or the streamlined processes around it? What if the technology doesn’t align as well with your needs as you thought it would? What if you just plain make the wrong decision?

Many leaders have these fears, but there is a way to take much of the risk out of software selection, and that’s through a structured — and tested — software selection process. 

What do you need to know before starting this process?

First, you want to understand what your critical business issues are that your new software will need to solve. What are the needs it must meet and the key organization processes it will need to support? Knowing this will narrow down the type of technology system you need. There’s far too much out on the market, so you must have clearly defined goals and objectives that help guide you down the multitude of software choices.

Second, identify who needs to be part of the evaluation team and who will help implement the new technology so that you can communicate the upcoming changes with them appropriately and set the team up for success. 

Third, settle on a budget for your new system. There’s a significant price difference between different systems, and a realistic budget will drive focus to the most important features and processes of the new system . A lower budget doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to miss out on essential features, but it helps streamline the selection process if you first eliminate technology that is out of budget.

These are just a few of the steps that help lay the foundation for success when selecting a new technology system. Because there’s a lot more that goes into it, we’ve put together a software selection checklist for nonprofits to use, based on our proven selection methodology. 

Wipfli can help

Wipfli has helped many nonprofits through the software selection process, giving them the peace of mind that they’ve chosen the right system to meet their needs and grow with their organization. Our experienced, skilled consultants lead requirements-gathering sessions so that all your critical processes and software needs are captured and prioritized. We can take the project management burden off your shoulders.  Then we break down vendor RFP responses into key scores, giving your team concrete data to make decisions. 

The decision on new software often feels like a leap of faith. Using our approach, nonprofit organization leaders will feel confident in the decision, knowing that the choice is a validation of the work they put into the selection process.

Click here to learn more about how our team can create clear and efficient conversations around your software requirements, while freeing up more of your team’s time to focus on meeting your mission.

Related content:

How technology can take your accounting function to the next level
How to build a tech-enabled volunteer strategy
How one nonprofit used technology to address the increasing and shifting needs of its communities and constituents


Brett Polglaze
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