Data management solutions can enable you to better track the contact, organization, and program information you need to be successful, and streamline key processes like donations or communications. It’s an all-too-common scenario… you know that a data management solution could help your nonprofit, but need to convince your leadership. Where do you start? What should you focus on?
Katie Hubner, U.S. Operations Manager at nonprofit One Acre Fund, knows your challenges. One Acre Fund is a multinational nonprofit that uses a CRM to manage donor and financial data, communications with different departments, and more. Here are Hubner’s top tips for buy-in:
1. Address resistance by emphasizing simplicity.
Realize that upper management might have the same resistance to learning a new data management system that other staff do. They have the least amount of time to spend on training, so focus on how this effort is going to simplify their lives.
2. Make efficiency gains tangible.
Excite your board and management by making flowcharts or schematics for how the data is going to flow across your team, from trigger events to desired outcomes. You can work backwards from what you need to find out in your business processes (such as due dates of an application, relationship mapping, etc). Then overlay your needs onto the system, figuring out whose time goes to what. This will help you make the case for where you can automate, whose work you are simplifying, and costs you are saving. See more ways to make the case here.
3. Go to the heads of impacted teams.
By making your case to leadership one at a time, you have a chance to address individual concerns. Also, once you start getting approval, tell them who else has signed off on it, as this can help your cause.
4. Present the counter-reality.
In other words, state what things will look like if you don’t address this. Be realistic about it, for example: “This problem has limited impact for now, and we may be okay not addressing it for a few months, but the situation will be much thornier in the next few years as we grow.”
5. Think small.
It’s nice to sell the big picture view, but it can also be compelling to solve a specific data problem. If it’s too overwhelming, people may give up. If you focus on getting buy-in for a smaller project first, and then show results, it can be motivating and confidence-building.
6. Empower a champion.
Find an enthusiastic party willing to do research on cool new tools and apps. Ideally this would be someone with formal or informal influence at the organization, but it should also be someone whose job is impacted by the switch. This person can help you win over management as well. They will also feature in your larger technology adoption strategy.
Kerry Vineberg is Marketing Associate at Exponent Partners, a mission-based technology consulting firm and B Corp that helps nonprofits use information technology to carry out their missions more effectively. Her career includes experience in nonprofit, higher education and startup settings, with an emphasis on capacity-building in the nonprofit sector. Twitter: @ExP_SF