In my last post, I outlined six steps for choosing Nonprofit CRM software. Step one was:

1. Honest assessment of organization’s readiness – Before you devote the significant amount of time that’s needed to accomplish steps 2-6, make sure your organization is willing and able to make use of the resulting software investment.

Let’s explore that further, with the help of some friends from the Progressive Technology Project. When I asked them for their two cents on this topic, Natalie Brenner responded,

“If I could give nonprofits one piece of advice about preparing for/starting a database transition, it would be to make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. That you are not looking for a quick fix, but you are truly interested in collecting and using data from your constituents to drive how you provide services to them, and because of that, you are committed to the sometimes long and somewhat painful process of choosing and implementing the right database.”

Earlier this month, I saw Brenner present a session at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Technology and Communication Conference, which covered organizational readiness in the context of database integration. In Doing More with Less (it is possible!) – Database Selection and Integration, Brenner and her colleague Robyn Perry of PTP shared some red flags that indicate your nonprofit might not be ready.

One salient point was that if the organization itself is fragmented, it’s unrealistic to expect otherwise of their data. The presenters emphasized that moving toward a “culture of data” is key to a successful database transition, especially to an integrated CRM solution. Their handout, Keys to a Good Database Transition [PDF], neatly summarizes what needs to be in place when you begin, and gives you a head start on the next step: needs assessment.

“A database itself does not solve your organizational issues, and one tool will never meet every single need,” Brenner told me later. “You need to be clear and articulate the work you really need to do, then you fit the tool to your needs, instead of trying to adapt how you do your work to fit a database tool.”

Don’t miss the next post in this series:

Resources and Tips for Step 2, Needs Assessment