All posts by cannon

5 Considerations for Successful CRM Implementation

I (well, the whole Zuri team, really) have the good fortune of helping dozens of clients figure out their successful CRM Implementation. Should they stay or should they go? Go where? When? How much will it take? And, what should they do about that athletics/marketing automation/grateful patient/data analytics/[insert here] tool? A well-organized selection process (see some ideas on that here) should have you well-positioned. And, ideally these 5 considerations for successful CRM implementation should be dialed in…but, too often, they remain unresolved after selection and can derail implementation.

Once you sign, there will seem like a million issues to consider as CRM implementation begins. Of course, things like an effective kick-off week are important. Logistics, understanding current state practices, etc., etc. all matter. But, as the saying goes “some animals are more equal than others”. As your team is wrestling with getting office space and picking an issues management tool (you know, the easy stuff), here are five things that you MUST handle:

  1. Culture. The thought leader Peter Drucker stated that “culture eats your strategy for lunch.” All of the planning in the world can fail if you ignore culture. This means analyzing who has hard and soft power in the process, aligning project components with the right players, and maintaining open communications. This also means including the least engaged (and sometimes most hostile) people.
  2. Gaps. Whatever you buy, no matter how expensive your new CRM, it will have some gaps. Identifying and understanding these is essential to the project’s success. “Gap” may mean some customization that your vendor will build (but has never been done before, may not work, and may push your go-live by 6 months!). “Gap” may mean that Alumni keeps their online engagement tool, despite the potential for moving all functions into one stack. Being thorough and honest here is critical.
  3. Risks. Culture+Gaps=Risks (well, sort of, you get the point). Of course, not all issues, gaps, or obstacles are really risks. You should track those issues that are identifying, under control, and will require time and attention. But, some things are monsters! Will that Dean go rogue? Did the board approve a budget with enough resources? Will your vendor deliver on time and on budget, despite a track record of overages and shortcomings?
  4. Timing. Too fast will kill you and too slow will bore you. For big shop, under a year is a pipe dream (and someone will get fired). Much over two years doesn’t tend to match how organizations function, how long leadership stays in place, campaign targets, and other realities. Dialing in culture, spec’ing the gaps, and protecting against risks will help you determine the right length of time. There is also the small matter of when to get started as key institutional dates and calendar and fiscal year-end realities must be accommodated.
  5. Expectations. When you blend the other four considerations, you will be stuck with countervailing forces…don’t go too fast or too slow…work this into the organization’s calendar that never seems to have a down moment…sell folks on the 360 degree view of CRM knowing it has gaps…persuade folks that technology is key when offline principal and major gifts may drive the bus…which all boils down to managing expectations. A project charter is a great start. Weekly updates, transparency, one-offs with key players, a Champions Committee, and other steps will help. Being disciplined and focused is important. Expectation management cannot be underestimated in successful CRM implementations.

And, one last thought: inherent in all of these considerations is that perhaps most important to success is to be honest. Honest about culture, gaps, risks, timing, and expectations. Because, as we all know, this will be a marathon and not a sprint, it will take a village, and, whenever possible, avoid mirroring the Dilbert cartoons (see below).

Kidding (yourselves) will be counterproductive

5 Thoughts about the (not-so) Fine Print in CRM Selection

Does your organization need to consider a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system? Is CRM Selection on the table? Have you explored the market? Secured responses to an RFP? Conducted demonstrations? Starter or even completed conversion to the shiny new CRM?…. only to find you didn’t get what you needed? Or, you got to the 20 yard-line? Or, you now need to buy another application or two to get whole? Welcome to the club.

Too often in these processes, organizations drink the “sales kool-aid” from vendors, get “wowed” during demonstrations, and are left with an 80% solution, locked in due to fine print during a CRM selection process. Two of my clients are dealing with this issue right now, as in, today...a dozen or so face it each year. My company Zuri winds up parachuting in to way too many problem implementations due in part to these fine print situations.

What’s the solution? How do you protect your organization during the selection process while helping to ensure success long-term? Here are five key considerations:

  1. Bluntness and Discipline. Don’t mince words with your vendors. Record and remind them of what they promised. Stick to your guns, the script, and the schedule. This also means you need to watch out for scope creep so you aren’t the cause of delays, bottlenecks, or wishful thinking.
  2. Zealous Advocacy. Remember that you are your organization’s best line of defense to avoid being sold on sub-par solutions. Ask for the moon. Expect great results. Don’t accept that first or second “no” from a vendor. But, follow the plan that is in place and persuade your colleagues to get on-board.
  3. Red-Lining. Never sign a contract before a careful review. If there are terms that are unclear,  get your red pen out and mark up the document. Watch for broad or simplistic language like “will be completed in a standard fashion”.  Nope! Instead, mark those up to read “…in a fashion accepted by [insert your organization’s name]”.
  4. Skip/Script the Sales Pitch. Bright, shiny sales pitches often get us into this mess. Don’t allow the vendor to show you the sizzle and ignore the steak. Instead, script the vendor’s demonstrations to prove that gift processing, prospecting, direct response, stewardship, and analytics work actually work in the proposed solution.
  5. Heed the Advice of Others. Finally, make sure you listen to what references (or lack thereof) are telling you. A vendor that states “we only share references during the contracting phase” probably have a lot to hide and hope you’re too far down the path with them to pull out. So, make those calls and then circle back to vendors to resolve the gaps in the pitch versus the performance.

That last thought is a little self-serving. This sort of CRM Selection counsel is what we do everyday. I’d submit we’re pretty good at it. So, if Zuri can help, drop me a line (and hold me to these same points!). Good luck.

Fiscal Year End in a Brave New World

This year seems a bit different for many in the advancement operations business around the U.S. Volume seems lower, as supported by this helpful if a bit depressing NonProfitTimes piece.  In addition, certain giving areas–athletics in higher education for instance–are operating in a gray-ish area due to tax reform changes, new motivations for potential donors, and other large-scale factors.

By now,  your team’s game plan should be clear and underway. The following tips are hopefully just reinforcement for the smart practices you already have in place.

So, if you’re approaching your fiscal year end, here are a few tips:

  1. Scour LYBUNTS: If you don’t a marked-up LYBUNT list now, start one…figure out for whom you need better data and from whom you simply haven’t received a gift. There is still time–THIS WEEK!–to make a difference with a few donors.
  2. Make an extra push: Email is inexpensive. Use some new messages (see point #5 below) and try to win over a few more hearts and minds.
  3. Step up Stewardship: Tell folks who have already given that they’ve made a difference. Tell a new story about the impact of philanthropy on your organization. Consider prominent placement of the organization’s website for the rest of the week. Again, there is still time.
  4. Communicate Internally: No check left behind! Make sure that your colleagues know, understand, and will follow industry-standard practices to send all checks into the gift administration team asap. Remind folks that this is also a great chance to follow up on any open proposals one last time.
  5. Be Open Externally: If you’re down, let your constituents know.  Some of your donors surely like data and many will appreciate being informed. The cause(s) may remain for examination, but wouldn’t it be healthy to reach out to folks and ask why they decided not to give this year? That could then inform next year’s approaches.

There are dozens of other steps to take (most of which should have been initiated months ago). These last few steps this week will help make the most of a potentially slower season.

Do you have other ideas, comments, or experiences with your team’s 2018 year-end activities and volume? Share them in the comments. We can all learn some new tips and tricks this way.

6 Considerations for the #ConsultantContinuum

Every week, I have a chance to talk with someone in the industry about “becoming a consultant”. I love helping anyone understand what their professional vocation should be. These calls trend toward a handful of common themes–thought leadership, travel, doing vs. winning the work, etc. As a result of these discussions, I’ve distilled the six primary considerations when you’re wondering whether consulting is for you.

All of these considerations operate along a #consultantcontinuum. Think, “travel all the time” to “no travel”or “pre-set salary” versus “paid only when you bill”.  So, when looking below, consider where you feel comfortable compared to what the consulting gig may offer. Be honest! You can lie to yourself about “traveling being fine if it’s only 50% of the time” only to realize that this means 125 nights in a hotel each year. In my case, that’s great for my Hilton Honors account and hard on my family.

Where are you along the Continuum?

Consulting Consideration Continuum
Considerations for the #ConsultantContinuum

So, Consideration 1: are you a thought leader or a great “do-er”? This is really the difference between consulting and contracting, where “leading” is better but harder. If you don’t like to write and present, leading is hard to achieve.

Consideration 2 involves “Travel.” If you won’t/don’t travel, there’s a good chance you can be successful locally but limited regionally, which diminishes your impact.

Consideration 3 involves how you’ll earn compensation. If you need to bill a client for work in order to be paid, there is more risk (and likely more reward via bonuses).

Consideration 4 concerns whether you need to get your own work or will be given work by others. By far, the more work you “get”, the more challenging your consulting may be (due to constraints on time, competition, etc.).

Consideration 5 (Team v. Solo) relates to whether you will be a solo practitioner (which can be lonely and risky) to a team-based consultant, which comes with its own pros and cons. If you love QuickBooks, then solo is more viable.

Finally, consideration 6 reflects the type of consultant you want to be. Are you a “coach” or a “contrarian”. My experience is that coach-based consultants tend to balance these considerations better while contrarians gain their credibility by focusing on often-minor findings, and frequently burnout their clients and themselves.

Where do you land? In my opinion, the closer you are to the left side of the #consultantcontinuum, the more likely you will enjoy consulting and its rewards. Not a thought leader, no biggie but the authors and speakers in your niche will eat your lunch. Not one for travel? Local consulting can work but most pools are shallow. Looking for a salary guarantee regardless of billings? You may be in the wrong place. And, finally, if you want to be “right” more than be “helpful”, you may be a great consultant but your clients may beg to differ.

So, what did I miss? Where do you put yourself here? Would you like to talk about consulting? If so, drop me a line. And, best of luck figuring this out.

 

 

Mindset Impact: Beloit’s Mindset List and Your Team

Have you seen the Mindset List? Beloit College creates a list of realities for incoming freshman that help inform their faculty. It’s turned in a thing, really. It’s fun, it’s insightful, and it’s useful. For example, you may not know “1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.” for those in the class of 2021.

What Does this Mean for Us?

For those of us in higher education advancement, this list is a good barometer of our incoming classes. Beyond this, I wanted to see what it would tell us about advancement users–what can we learn from the Mindset List….from 2007.Beloit 2007 Mindset List

Think about it: many of our 20-something colleagues are experiencing one of their first jobs when they join our advancement teams. Their experiences are shaped by their mindset, some of which will mirror what they were like when they entered college.

So, what was the mindset of the class entering 2007? Here are a few items that may reflect on advancement operations:

  • “19. They have never been able to find the “return” key
  • 20. Computers have always fit in their backpacks.”

What does this tell us? For starters, some of our new colleagues expect today’s lingo and increasingly convenient hardware. For too many, we deal with the iPhone problem (which, not coincidentally, launched in 2007). Our consumer lives team with awesome tech and we head to the office to be told to “click the return key” in our decade old documentation while working on often outdated tech. At a minimum, we need to recognize the differences in mindsets across our colleagues.

The rest of the lists are useful, too. The 2008 list provides #44 “They have done most of their search for the right college online” tells us just how likely every new teem member is to demand web-accessible tools. The message in all of these mindset lists is clear: know your audience….and these lists will give you a look into their perceptions and realities.

Curious what the future holds for us? Check out investor guidance from our market’s leader

Are you wondering what the year has in store for the nonprofit industry? One great place to look for such guidance are the public filings of Blackbaud, one of the industry’s leaders in advancement tech.

Have a look at their most recent filing to get a sense of where they see the market ($7 billion in “total available market” seems a little aggressive) and where they’re investing (payments, finance, and a few other areas have the least penetration and the most potential).

Click here for this interesting view into the advancement industry.