For a non-profit organization, especially a smaller one, the initial expense connected with database software for nonprofits appears as a prohibitively exorbitant expense on the balance sheet. However, this is especially true if no one on the staff or among the volunteers knows how to use the software. And, relying on learning it by the trial and error method isn’t smart either. In this article, I outline why training your staff on software is one of the best investments you will make and likely help you avoid failure with it.
The Pain, Value and Options for Software Training
While choosing the best software for your non-profit is important, even the best Nonprofit CRM Software in the world will not help without software training geared toward helping you accept, understand, and fully utilize that software. In most software searches, a smart non-profit considers software training as a part of the line item cost when deciding to implement new software. For most, initially it’s easy to see that the time and expense of training the staff using the software is easily justified by the lack of frustration and lower rate of user error. But, let’s discuss the good and bad of not staying on top of it for others.
The Pain of Bad Training
But, what truly sets the “Best Software” from others is due in large part to a lack of knowledge about how to use it or not knowing what they already have. Nothing is more frustrating than an entire weeks worth of data entry lost due to operator error. It is very disheartening if a staff (or even volunteer) is the one who loses an entire list of donor or member information because it was input wrong. The tendency when these types of frustrations mount is to abandon the software no matter the cost outlay and chalk it up to an expensive lesson learned. And, that’s certainly not smart!
The Value of being Trained Well
The greatest cost of software is when it doesn’t work. With well-trained users (all stakeholders), the cost/benefit return time shortens considerably. When the software for donor development and tracking is working optimally the non-profit sees an immediate return on investment in donations that are easier to track, quicker response to requests for subscription, and greater contact with lapsed donors thus keeping them from falling through the cracks. Further, when fundraising software works well and staff or volunteers know how to use it optimally, it can potentially pave the way for a smoothly run fund-raising campaign. And, the stress level lowers because the software is doing work that in the past had been allotted to multiple people, now frees up those people to do other tasks.
The Types of Training Options
With that in mind, there are several kinds of software training options available, depending on the number of employees or business partners you need to train, and on factors such as their availability and technical expertise. Here are a few options you will want to consider:
Train the Trainer. Depending on the nature of your non-profit, you may have already utilized a train the trainer program in other ways. Perhaps you already have a network set up. Essentially, train the trainer programs involve having a few people trained to use the software, and at the same time training them to teach others. For non-profits with a broad geographical reach and a high level of community involvement, this method can be ideal. You help minimize the cost of the initial training and provide in-depth access to software users, wherever it is needed. Train the trainer is especially common in software training, where not everyone may have the same level of technical expertise.
Self-paced Software Training. Another form of training often used to reach across distances, self-paced software training allows users to access training materials on their own schedule. To maximize the benefits of this kind of training, you should still have someone on hand to answer any questions users may have. Also, make sure that the training includes a measurement to gauge the effectiveness of the training, such as a self-test.
Group Training. For smaller non-profits, or if you only need to train a handful of employees, you may benefit from group software training, either in person or via web conference. As a hands-on approach to training, do your best to ensure everyone in the conference room has access to a computer, so they can follow along with exercises.
Ongoing Software Training. Finally, however you choose to conduct initial training sessions, don’t forget ongoing training. As time passes and the software comes to be accepted and used, you will discover new uses for your software, unique to your non-profit. New people will still need to be trained and may have new and complex questions. It is important to keep a plan for ongoing training and sharing of ideas, so that everyone can make best use of your software. This could also be achieved by joining the software providers users group as well.
In essence, the best donor management software, CRM Software, or Membership Management Software (or any software), is one that solves problems not creates them. And, even the best non profit database management software cannot overcome the negatives found in not knowing how to use it!
If you are a non-profit uncertain if you have a “training issue” or “software issue”, please give us a call to learn more about our software assessment services.