This is the fifth post in our blog series: Best Practices for Selecting Nonprofit Accounting Software
In order for you and your team to make a final decision on which nonprofit accounting software is right for your organization, we recommend that you have your short list of accounting software providers come in and demo their proposed system.
Most nonprofits don’t really think about how to get the most out of these demos. Many just let the presenter perform their standard dog-and-pony show, invite half their organization to attend and then struggle to determine which presenter is the best fit for them. Often, some of the attendees really like one presenter more because of their personality than substance, where the best fit software may have been presented by someone not as strong in presenting.
To help ensure that you set a level playing field for these accounting software demos that will result in a well-informed choice afterwards, we recommend the following steps.
Establish Demo Criteria
Provide each nonprofit accounting software candidate with an agenda and your requirements 2-3 weeks ahead of time, so they can properly prepare. If you can, give them whatever combination of the following to incorporate into their demo:
- Sample data for your different funds, programs, projects, and grants
- Example POs, requisitions and sales orders (if applicable)
- Procedural documentation and checklists
- Financial reports or key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards
- Fundraising forecast and budgets from your departments
This Is Not a Field Trip
To ensure effective participation from your team, you’ll want to block out at least 3-6 hours depending on the size of your team. You’ll then want to break that down into functional areas: finance, fundraising, marketing, human resources, payroll – do not have everyone in every session or you’ll lose people and Q&A will be a free-for-all and debriefing afterwards will be very challenging.
Making Sense of It All
You’ll want to prepare your team members attending the demo by providing hard or soft copies of the agenda and setting expectations for what they will see. Have attendees write down and share their thoughts on what looks good, what doesn’t and debrief afterwards as part of a follow-up working session on how well each presentation covered your accounting software requirements. This helps maintain objectivity and avoids distraction/top-of-mind thinking.
If you take this approach, choosing the right accounting software for your nonprofit will be a breeze.