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If All You Have is a Hammer! Right!?

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

A review of Nonprofit software options from a vendor who sells is like having a hammer. Everything looks like a nail.

For many, the thought of searching for the right nonprofit software is daunting. In fact, it’s the last thing on the “Must Do List” but the most important item to complete.

In this article, we will shed some light on the challenges and inherent issues with software assessment or software selection consulting being performed by a company who “Sells” or “Implements” one software tool.

Buyer Beware in your advisor for Nonprofit Software

Personally, I have heard the expression hundreds of times, but I never explored enough to determine if there was any psychological basis for it.

And, actually during my research for this article, I found out that Abraham H. Maslow in 1962 in his groundbreaking, Toward a Psychology of Being, actually studied the following phrase: 

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Anyways, many of us know and have heard that expression before, but in essence, it implies:

  1. With limited tools, single-minded people apply them inappropriately or indiscriminately

  2. If a person is familiar with a certain, single subject, or has with them a certain, single instrument, they may have a confirmation bias to believe that it is the answer to/involved in everything.

As a consultant who is laser focused on the evaluation of software and working with organizations seeking software solutions, it’s critical in our mind to be agnostic.

Agnosticism or Atheism in Software Selection

What is Agnosticism Agnosticism is typically associated with views on religion, but we actually use the term in essence to underscore that at SmartThoughts we do not believe that there is one software which best fits every operational problem. The other extreme is Atheism. Again, typically associated with religion. But, we believe it’s important to note that we are definitely not against or reject the belief or existence that no solution exists. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. we believe that there are some terrific solutions on the market today which can and do provide a solid solution to address the needs of many organizations. There isn’t, however, one size that fits all situations. 

The Challenge with having only a Hammer

To be clear, it’s required to be passionate about what you provide or sell in order to successful.  But, I also believe there is a challenge in acting as an “objective” third-party adviser when you actually only “sell” one product which is ultimately going to be your solution. Frankly, to purport you can be objective is absolutely ludicrous. And, in my mind, why this expression resonates with me most. A purported solutions provider (implementer or software vendor) which states that they can provide your organization with an objective “assessment” yet only have “one solution”, is not objective.

We are Aspiring to be different than the alternative software advisement firms!

In our opinion, if you are seeking true software advice, we believe it’s important to seek some of the qualities below:

  1. Spends more than 15-20 minutes on the phone to understand your needs

  2. Doesn’t implement or train on specific software

  3. Continually researches software options which may fit various needs

  4. Acts as an expert analyst to continually search/review/& provide software product reports

  5. Experienced in the uniqueness of software for your industry or category reviewing Ex. Customer Relationship Management Software, Membership Software, Donor Software, Marketing Automation Software etc.

  6. Demonstrates the values of choice by being truly agnostic and has a track record of working with a multitude of software providers

  7. Listens and seeks to truly find alignment between software products and your specific needs

  8. Respectful of a vendor organizations “Sales Process” but also adheres to the needs of the client

  9. Has strong relationships with software vendors who solve problems in your industry

  10. Does not have a “Leads List” to pull software options from based on paid advertising dollars

As the Chief Software Adviser at SmartThoughts, I am charged with setting the tone and adhering to integrity in the selection process. I am responsible for fostering collaboration between clients and vendors in order to truly find a solution which meets the needs of all parties involved.

The good thing is that there are many options. The bad thing is that there are literally hundreds of options for various sectors and unique needs which can be confusing. We believe that it’s our job at SmartThoughts to take the time to align the needs of our clients with the proper vendor who can provide a solution. It’s our job to understand what makes various software unique in order to do that. In short, we are on a constant search to uncover the DNA of the software.

There is software (s) which can be the “Best Fit” for organizations needs. However, as a software advisement firm we do not have one hammer for every challenge we face. If you would like to discuss our approach and tired of getting hammered by the noise, please give us a call. We would be excited to explore the various tools which may be right for you. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.


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