Avoid these Nonprofit Technology Implementation Pitfalls

Implementation PitfallsYour organization secured a budget for nonprofit technology and chose a provider after a lengthy selection process – well done! However, the work isn’t over quite yet! Now’s the time to prepare your organization for the implementation process.

At StratusLIVE, we have a 100% implementation success rate, so we’ve learned a thing or two about the process and some common pitfalls to avoid. If you consider these common mistakes prior to embarking upon this process, you’ll set your team and organization up for success.

Common Nonprofit Technology Implementation Pitfalls

The nonprofit sets unclear objectives with unmeasurable milestones, and no shared vision of success.

The first step in the implementation process should be to establish a mutually agreed-upon project plan with critical checkpoints throughout the project. The project plan should include the following steps: requirements and discovery, design, configuration and development, data conversion, training, system testing, mock go live/go live, and post go live stages. Before moving onto the next step, each party should successfully recognize the completion of the previous step.

Without a structured plan, a nonprofit and the technology provider can wander aimlessly toward an unclear future that does not accurately meet the system requirements set at the onset of the engagement. Take the time to seriously consider your end-goal and ensure your entire team is on board.

The technology provider begins by implementing a constituent-facing system versus CRM.

As with many new projects or engagements, it’s helpful to start with an end goal in mind – that way you ensure success from the outset. If your nonprofit seeks to implement both a constituent-facing platform, such as StratusLIVE Ignite, and a nonprofit CRM, such as StratusLIVE 365, it’s important to first determine how the data will appear within your CRM.

Begin with the focus on converting the core constituent data and establishing the basic data management processes and business rules that will guide and govern the remainder of the project. This will help avoid any data mishaps once your development team seeks to analyze your constituent data within your CRM.

The nonprofit does not create clear documentation on business processes. 

When your organization is crunched to obtain your fundraising goals or implement new programs when a constituent need arises, operations and process development may go to the wayside. In fact, our experience demonstrates most organizations have little or no formal documentation around their current business processes and data governance.

Without clear documentation, your nonprofit technology cannot effectively automate processes or trigger workflows. If these workflows are defined prior to the implementation process, you’ll avoid re-work, confusion, and cost throughout the project.

The technology provider has multiple points of contact for the nonprofit.

Multiple points of contact on an implementation project creates chaos and confusion. Your organization may risk information lost in translation.

With one point of contact, this individual knows the ins and outs of your current database including the meaning of each individual data field. Based upon this understanding, he or she can offer best practices and recommendations.

80% of StratusLIVE team members have experience working within nonprofits. They draw upon these experiences from product design to implementation, service, and beyond.

The nonprofit did not accurately prepare the staff through change management. 

Change is scary but also necessary within a fundraising environment that constantly shifts. Without strategies set in place to analyze any changes caused by new technology, your organization may suffer productivity loss and jeopardize your project’s success.

A change management expert can work alongside the implementation process to comfortably escort your staff through this new transition. With increased communication and peer-to-peer accountability, your organization will be prepared to accept and embrace this new change.

The nonprofit hasn’t assembled the right internal team.

An enterprise technology system such as a nonprofit CRM or online giving platform has many users from Executive Directors who require quick access to business analytics to Development Directors who need the ability to cultivate major gift opportunities. Without the right internal team providing input to the implementation process, your nonprofit may not accommodate the needs of each of these users.

At the onset of the implementation process, define the internal team and develop use cases or user scenarios based on the requirement needs. This will greatly increase user adoption of the new system.

The nonprofit doesn’t understand their own data or how it is used.

A core component of implementation is the data migration process. It’s vital that nonprofit organizations dig into the meaning of each individual field and its use. Say for example – you cull through your donor database and determine that radio campaign history is not relevant to import. You later find out near the end of the data conversion process, that this field is important to help budget for future advertising. This mistake could have been avoided with the right internal team reviewing the data.

“Before you undergo a data conversion process, understand your data. It probably sounds so simple, but get to know your data, and where it lives in your system, and how you use it.” – Staci Glaser, Director of Development Operations, at National FFA Foundation

The implementation process can be daunting; however, if your organization avoids these common mishaps, you’ll avoid any unforeseen surprises and enjoy all the benefits of your nonprofit technology.


Curious about the details of implementing StratusLIVE technology? View our webinar recording interviewing one of our clients, Staci Glaser, Director of Development Operations at National FFA Foundation, regarding their process. 

Posted by Kelly Perry

Kelly Perry is a Digital Marketing Manager, Nonprofit Solutions at StratusLIVE. She has over eight years marketing and communications experience within nonprofit technology and the publishing industries.

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