A lot of nonprofit folks are hesitant to change technology, but it’s not for the reasons you think.
It’s not because they love their current systems.
It’s not because they don’t need the features and benefits of modern technology.
It’s not even because of budgets or skeptical boards or leadership.
It’s because they’re haunted by change processes from their past that can only be described as a nightmare.
They’re thinking about the changes that never really “took,” the full-out battles over new processes, and the weird sneaky workarounds. They’re remembering spending more money than they wanted and more time than they had to make a change that didn’t really deliver on its promise.
So it makes sense that when they think about changing technology, they start muttering things about “better the devil you know,” and go back to trying to make their systems work as best they can.
The problem, of course, is that you can’t really make your legacy technology work like a modern, responsive CRM. If you want features and capabilities that support your responsive fundraising, you’ll need to make a change.
So how do you prevent your next technology change management process from turning into a nightmare?
Here are the top five tips from our internal change management experts here at Virtuous.
Hear more about nonprofit change management from this panel discussion at the 2022 Responsive Nonprofit Summit!
1. Start With Your “Why”
What is motivating you to change technology? Is there something you want to do that you can’t with your current system? Do you need to reclaim your time from clunky software and cobbled-together systems? Would you be able to serve your mission and your donors better with different tools? Is there a kind of fundraising you want to try that your new system just wasn’t built for?
Talk with your team about what’s motivating the change. Ask for their input? What do they want to see in a new system? What common themes emerge?
Once you’ve had these discussions, try to articulate your “Why” in a few sentences. You might settle on something like:
- “We’re changing CRMs to get a clearer picture of our supporters, so we can give them personal experiences.”
- “We’re changing CRMs to take advantage of modern automation tools to help us communicate more consistently and effectively with our supporters.”
- “We’re changing CRMs so we can spend our time raising money, instead of wrestling with our software.
Throughout the change process, your “why” will serve as a guiding light, so it’s worth it to get specific about what it is and share it widely with your team.
Looking to make a technology change? Use our Nonprofit CRM Checklist to guide your search.
2. Establish Roles
As you start your change process, before you start scheduling product demos or comparing pricing, figure out your team.
- Who will be actively involved in the decision-making process?
- Who will give input or participate without making the decision?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
- Who uses your current system? (Do people outside of fundraising access your CRM? Does the volunteer department use your email provider?)
- Who is the internal project manager?
- Who will be the internal trainer, who will become the expert on your new system?
Make sure you’re including input from everyone who is impacted by the change. Your fundraising and marketing teams are the people who will use your new software the most, so the leadership of those teams should lead the decision-making process. You may need to loop in executives, finance, volunteer, and technology teams, too.
“Input” doesn’t mean “everyone makes the decision.” Prioritizing the needs of too many different people with separate goals will only dilute the power of any software choice and extend the disconnect with your donors.
Before you start vetting software, decide who the final decision-makers are.
3. Audit Your Internal Processes
To get a sense of how the change will affect each team, start by auditing your internal processes. How do you do things now? How does each team use the existing system?
It’s not uncommon to discover that different people or teams are using software in different ways for different purposes. Your marketing team may value different functions than your data manager, for example.
Interview your team leads and introduce the change you’re hoping to make and why. Ask them how they feel it will affect their job and the work their team does. Invite them to share any concerns, red flags, or ideas about how to better implement the change.
4. Help Your Team Adopt the Change
No matter what technology you choose, it will only be as successful as the team using it allows. When users haven’t understood or accepted the “Why,” or are otherwise resistant to the change, it can be hard to make progress.
Changing requires an open mind. Help people adopt the change by showing them how the change can improve their jobs. Does the new system make something easier? More effective? Lead with that.
More than anything, people need to feel heard. Make space for questions and concerns. Whether or not you can address every issue, you’ll get farther by listening and taking issues seriously.
Communicate clearly about the change process, including when the change will begin and when the old system will go away. Be clear about delays or issues you encounter. When people don’t have information, they will start to surmise instead, which may lead to misunderstandings.
5. Stay Engaged
Okay, you’ve migrated your data, your new system is up and running, change complete, right?
Not quite. While the heavy lifting of change management will occur while you’re switching over and implementing a new system, the process is ongoing. Re-evaluate quarterly or semi-annually to see if you’re accomplishing the goal you set out to achieve.
If you’re not seeing the benefits you expected, ask why. Do you need more training? Do you lack buy-in? Has adoption stalled out? Do you need to tweak a process? What could get you closer to your goal?
Change Is A Challenge, But It Doesn’t Have To Be Scary
Changing your fundraising systems is a big undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. With a solid change management process and a technology partner like Virtuous, you can make the switch and begin to see the benefits of a modern responsive fundraising platform at your nonprofit, without nightmares.
Want to learn more about making a change with Virtuous?