Updated: Apr 20, 2021
What is the Best Membership Software, Donor Software, or CRM Software for Nonprofits? I field this type of question all the time. And, as the saying goes, “If I had a dollar every time I have heard it, I would be a rich man”. So, in this article, I am not going to provide yet another software list. Rather, a rant on the whole notion of “Best of Software Lists”.
What is the Best Database Software for My Nonprofit?
First, a quick story. My 7 year old son loves to play the Madden 15 Ultimate Team on Xbox. And, if you are not familiar with the video game, the goal is to win, of course. But, in order to win, you must build a professional football team comprised of the best players (both current and past). That said, my son often asks to know my opinion about great players for various positions. He wants to know who is “The Best”.
And, my reply is a variation of the following:
Well, that’s a tough question son. The game was different from decade to decade. The system impacted success greatly. And, the coaching certainly enhanced personal and group success. For example, the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s had the “Triplets”. Michael Irvin (WR), Troy Aikman (QB), & Emmitt Smith (RB) were very good football players. But, the system and coaching truly made the trio awesome together. But, had they each been on a different team, different era, or were asked to do different things, they may not have been so good. Besides, I rate “Best Players” based on their team success. And, did they help win big games? And, my rating is not objective (now try explaining that to a 7-year-old!). But, let’s look at who you have, what are the options, and then let’s figure out how the game rates the “Best”. From there, we can work with that to figure out how to win your game.
The Ultimate Software Choice?
So, what does my son’s “Ultimate Team” have to do with selecting the best software for your nonprofit? Well, let me explain. My son’s question is similar. He wants to win. He wants a quick answer. And, he wants someone with experience to help him.
With software decisions, most executives simply want a quick answer and oh by the way they want to win too. Unfortunately, one of the challenges with making a software decision is that it’s not a cut and dry scenario, it’s a much more impactful choice, there is no universal scoring system, and everyone’s definition of “winning” is different.
The Psychology of Best Of…
It seems that we are bit fixated on “Best Of Lists”. So, in my thirst for the truth I wondered if there were any psychological principles which explain the need by humans to know what is the best? And, after a review of various psychology authorities, here are a few explanations I surmised on why “Best of lists” are so interesting and prevalent:
It’s about helping ourselves.
It’s about having an “expert” help us.
It’s about helping each other.
It’s about helping us compare.
We are easily manipulated.
We don’t always act in our own best interest.
We love to compare. The need to compare is human nature. In fact, we will go so far to rationalize differences even if there is absolutely nothing different between two objects. Recently, I had the chance to watch a program illustrating that psychological truism. Watch this fascinating video clip below which underscores this point:
Software Buyer Beware of the Best of Lists!
Generally speaking, I believe that “Best of Software Lists” are flawed, usually biased, and tend to be manipulated (not generally with a nefarious intent) information which should at a minimum be used with caution. As my Grandmother often said, “The pathway to hell is paved from men with good intentions”. Well, this may hold true for those responsible for many of these “Best of Lists” on the internet today.
Two Reasons to Punt the Best of Lists
Let’s take a look at one example. I used Google to search for “Best CRM Software for Nonprofits”. Do that search now, if you would like to follow along.
And, on the first line of the search results is from a site which provides their list of 3 options specifically designed for nonprofits. Here they are: Zoho, Vtiger, Microsoft Dynamics. Now, these options are all good Customer Relationship Management Software in the right environment.
But, Really! I could go on and on here with all the “wrongness” with the results of this list. But, let me tackle two points with brevity. First, what type of nonprofit are we ranking a solution for here? There is not one type of nonprofit. In fact, there are many different types of nonprofits such as charitable, churches, associations, faith-based, schools, recreation centers, arts and cultural, museums, etc. which all have different business functions, strategies, and needs. And, for certain very unique missions.
Second, what is the rating based on? There is no mention of how most lists are determined. You would hope at a minimum that some “evaluation” or “criteria” would be provided. But, even with some basis for their ratings this can still be meaningless data. For example, one software advice organization provides a “Best of Membership Software List” based on popularity measured by a combination of their total number of customers, members managed, and online presence. Really!
Suffice it to say, if you are into “Best of Software Lists” you will find a plethora of options to review on the web today. And, as many as there are, you will find as many opinions of who is #1 through #20 as well. The lists are subjective. And, at a minimum best of lists lack any true value in providing assistance in answering the ten million dollar question, “What is the best software for my nonprofit?”.
How do you find the Best CRM Software for Nonprofits?
In my opinion, business requirements are to software selections as foundations are to a home. If they aren’t right, there will be major problems. Further, if organizations don’t know what they want, how will they know when they find it? You won’t successfully be able to! It stands to reason the better the requirements are, the less risk of selecting the wrong database software product.
Going back to the question which led us here. What is the Best Membership Software, Donor Software, or CRM Software for Nonprofits? And, my answer is somewhat similar to my reply to who is the best player for my son’s “Madden 15 Ultimate Team”. Here it is:
First, your question should not be solely product focused. Rather, the question should be, “Which software program is best for my nonprofit organization (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives)?”. Adjust your question slightly and enhance your outcome exponentially. The ultimate product selection is as unique as a finger print for most. To be sure, there is no magical “perfect fit” cinderella shoe to place on here. Step away from basic software features (early on in the search), and rather focus your time on how a particular solution (software & support) will most completely help your nonprofit achieve your unique strategy & mission (winning the game).
I believe there is a better way than “Best of lists” or “15 minute Free Calls” to find the smarter choice for you. Ultimately the software selection comes down to this: how do you measure the gap between your particular requirements and potential software products? Nothing is perfect!
And, certainly don’t be so easily swayed by the temptation of “Best of Lists” published by various sources on the internet!
Are you currently seeking the best software option for your nonprofit? If so, please give us a call. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.