Undertaking a “full-throttle” development program can have its dangers, especially when it involves implementing new software. Ward Orem, CEO of the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home, has seen organizations go down because they became tangled in their own technology. For that reason, when he recognized the need for software to support the Home’s new development efforts, he took some important precautionary measures.
Ward hired consultants to help choose the right software for the organization, and, once the software was purchased, he was very careful to make sure staff was well-trained in its use.
“I want to make sure that the Home is here in the future,” says Ward. “Up until 5 years ago, we didn’t have an aggressive development program. Our work was supported by an endowment but not a huge one. Whatever modest development efforts we made were scribbled on notes and kept in a binder.”
“However, we could see that at the rate at which we were dipping into the endowment, we would eventually spend ourselves out of business. It was sort of a draconian doomsday projection but it was crystal clear we couldn’t keep withdrawing money from the endowment if we were going to sustain ourselves into perpetuity. The economic downturn drove the point home, but we already knew we needed to do things differently.”
“As development folk, we recognized that the bulk of support comes from individuals,” says Ward. He also knew he needed a solid infrastructure for donor gifts. “We hired some consultants to help us get up and running. I’ve seen technology implementation go terribly wrong. I’ve learned you can mess things up so badly with poorly used technology that people turn way from your mission, even though it is valuable. I worked on the board for another nonprofit where I watched this happen. Their technology was all there, but it wasn’t being used properly. Donors were getting the wrong tax information in letters, among other serious reporting problems. Donors started to say, ‘We love you but you are fouling this up so badly we’re taking our dollars elsewhere.’ I wanted to avoid that happening to the Home.”
Getting some help to choose the right software
“The consultant we hired had a guru who was familiar with many donor management programs. They did a “down and dirty” review for us, and we went through the programs with a fine-tooth comb. We studied and analyzed them, and FundRaiser came out on top. For our purposes, the most complex programs were overkill. We wouldn’t have been able to figure out how to use them. FundRaiser had the ability to get us started at an entry level and we could then upgrade as our needs increased. We started with Select, and then moved to Professional. Then we moved to FundRaiser Professional Online because we have an offsite employee. It has had everything we need. We haven’t even come close to tapping half of the features that Pro has to offer us.”
Having found the right software, they hit another snag. Shortly after launching their fledgling fundraising effort, they lost the person who had been the main FundRaiser user and who had participated in the training. They had to find a replacement for her and get her up to speed on FundRaiser Professional Online fast. Ward was pulling his hair out. “We had a huge mailing coming up, and then a spring campaign, and immediately after that a large fundraising event!”
Virtually at the last minute, they found a new Development Coordinator, Debbie Lyle. “Debbie is new in the position and was literally being dumped into boiling hot water,” says Ward.
Onsite training in using FundRaiser
He decided to purchase onsite training for her. “Debbie had to get her feet on the ground and start running immediately. Individualization was critical. Although we have benefited in the past from FundRaiser training webinars, we felt that it would be so much more beneficial to have a FundRaiser trainer sitting right next to us. It was well worth the investment,” says Ward.
Debbie was happy about his choice. “I learn best one-on-one and I was new in the position of Development Coordinator. I didn’t know anything about FundRaiser before the training.”
FundRaiser made all the arrangements for Larry Weaver, head of FundRaiser’s Training Department, to come onsite to the organization. Larry flew out and worked with Debbie and others at the organization for two days.
“I am really surprised how quickly I picked up the technology,” says Debbie. “Larry did a great job of explaining things in a way that I would understand. He’s also been there for any questions I’ve had since then.”
Ward was happy too. “It was wonderful to have Larry visit us and train our team. He was absolutely remarkable and made the experience educational, practical, and enjoyable. We all walked away far more knowledgeable about the system and its many applications. It truly was a valuable two days.”
Since the onsite training, Debbie has continued to feel satisfied. “Larry helped me get familiar with the system initially, and has been good at following up.”
How did the first mass mailing go, just a few weeks after Debbie was hired? “That was complicated because I didn’t know how to set up the email. I called Tech Support and got the help I needed. We got the mailing out, and I feel confident that I can get a hold of someone to help me whenever I need it.”
Ongoing support for using FundRaiser
An additional benefit to the onsite training, says Ward, is the comfort they still feel with Larry, their trainer. “The ongoing relationship is great,” says Ward. “We now feel comfortable in picking up the phone when we need Larry. You never feel like you’re bothering him or anyone else. I’ve experienced other tech support departments where you don’t feel like you are getting anywhere and you don’t feel like they are interested in really helping. At FundRaiser, I really feel they care.”
For his part, Larry enjoyed the experience, too. “I really enjoyed being able to be there and guide them through the steps to accomplish tasks that are unique to them. In a webinar, I point out how things work, but it can’t be geared as precisely to one individual or situation. It’s also really nice to be able to personally experience the organization and see what they do,” says Larry. “It is wonderful to see the direct benefit of what FundRaiser is giving them.”
“We cannot say enough good things about the training,” says Ward of the Home. “Larry is a stitch and we are a comical crowd. We like to laugh and at the same time he taught us so well.”