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Top 10 Questions You Should Ask On A Software Reference Call

Top 10 Super Smart Questions to ask of a software reference

Ok, Nonprofit Association Executives. It’s down to the wire in your search for the best damn Nonprofit Donor Database Software system in the land. You have dotted your “I’s” and crossed your “T’s”. It’s for certain  you have done your due diligence and finally your nonprofit is down to the last choice. In this article, we tackle the purpose of a software reference call, who you should talk too, and the top questions to ask too.

Purpose of the Software Reference Check 

I believe that it’s important to note that the reference check is one of the last steps before negotiating the purchase. The purpose of the reference check is to provide an audit of sorts on what the vendor has stated that they “can” do. In other words, the reference check is to find out if things are not what they seem such as was the purchase in line with expectations, any unexpected surprises, warnings to know about before implementing, or perhaps recurring issues that may be stated.

Who Should You Talk Too In A Software Reference Call 

It’s important to visit with relevant references. Here is what I suggest on who you should visit with on a reference call:

  1. If possible, with context that is similar to your situation. In other words, if you are a museum, talk to museums using the software too. You also should desire to have a conversation with someone who has the software at least 6 months and not more than three years too.

  2. While not always feasible within the nonprofit software sale situation, if you have a choice you want to talk with several different titles on reference calls. You may want to ask for the Executive Sponsor, the development officer who was in charge of the implementation, and perhaps someone who has specific experience in a high priority area for the software you desire such as Grants Management.

  3. As a nonprofit you don’t have an unlimited budget for IT, do you? Of course not. So, references should have a similar level of IT support that your organization has in place too.

Super Smart Questions to

Ask on a Software Reference Call

So, what do you ask a reference to be sure that what you need mirrors your goals and requirements which are important?

To that question, we have come up with some questions to aide in the process for your nonprofit in this situation. Below is a list of valuable questions you should always ask during a reference call.

what to ask on a reference call
  1. What is your role in using the Nonprofit software database system? Ex. Primary User, Project manager, Support person.

  2. Were you the decision maker responsible for purchasing the last Nonprofit CRM?

  3. If you were involved, what made you choose the solution you selected?

  4. How long did it take you to do high priority functions? Ex. Sending an email to your donors or setting up events for the conference? Ask what is most important to your nonprofit.

  5. How long did it take to get your data migrated?

  6. How complete is the integration with Accounting? How hard was it to set up and maintain? Dues Billing?

  7. Have you seen an increase in efficiency since you implemented the nonprofit association management solution?

  8. How long did it take before you began to see a return on your investment?

  9. What’s the single best thing about the system? What is the worst thing?

  10. When implementing, did you incur any costs in addition to the price of the solution?

Ok, we couldn’t get it down to 10, sorry! So, here are several bonus questions for yawl:

  1. Did the vendor offer to give you anything in return for being a reference? How often are you used as a reference?

  2. Can you tell me about your experience with implementation and support? What went well? What would you do differently?

  3. If you went to another company, would you absolutely buy the same system again or would you look to see what else is available?

Closing Thoughts on Software Reference Checks 

References should be respected. They are taking time out to help you. So, I believe it should go without saying but it’s important to be respectful. Here are some ideas to do that:

  1. Be sure you are talking to the right person

  2. Schedule your call via email.

  3. Send out questions before the call to minimize the time on your call.

  4. Stay on track with the time that they provide to you.

If you have any insights into other questions which may help the community. Please share below.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind!

We provide a free document outlining the key questions to ask of a software reference


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