How Nonprofits Can Avoid Buyer’s Remorse for Fund Accounting Software

In the nonprofit sector, every dollar matters. So, when your organization is considering the purchase of new accounting-related software technology, it is crucial to carry out a thorough review of your requirements before you sign that agreement.

Key software purchases typically require a significant investment, so you want to do what you can to avoid as much post-decision dissonance as possible. In addition to the financial investment, there are many people, processes, and systems that you need to account for with this decision.

Before you decide to add another layer of duct tape to your current system, here are a few tips to make sure you ask the right questions and identify your current and future needs so you get the accounting software that will help your organization grow.

Prioritize Planning

If you want to mitigate any post-purchase regret, spend a lot of time planning. This phase can be the most complex and time-consuming part—and one of the most effective ways to get a strong ROI.

Assess your organization’s wants and needs before you even start talking to potential vendors. Don’t do this in a vacuum. Involve your staff by developing a steering committee comprised of different members of the team who interact with your system, including your accounting, technology, and program teams. This gives people ownership and enables them to take initiative in the process. By getting the right people on your steering committee, you can prioritize the end-user’s wants and needs and keep their experience top-of-mind when making these decisions.

One important goal of your steering committee is to document your organization’s requirement list for technology solutions. This should include the staff resources and capacity for this project—from vendor selection through implementation. Identify the specific functionality needs of your organization, such as a segmented chart of accounts for accurate fund accounting and whether the software was built for organizations like yours.

Once finalized by the committee, have the requirement list approved by your leadership. This document will help you be better prepared when evaluating the potential vendors, easily eliminating those that don’t meet the requirements.

You might also invest in an external subject matter expert to help make sure all voices are included as you think through your organization’s needs and the needs of the project. These individuals can also help you develop project management milestones and timeline management processes. They can take some of the process work, like prioritization and follow-ups, off your plate so you can do your full-time job. Having an unbiased third-party involved can make sure you are asking the right questions, such as, “How do I set up my projects? Is my fund structure correct? What modules can I utilize?”

Set Expectations for Implementation

Implementation is another large part of the system selection process, but the work you did on outlining your requirements should make this phase much easier. You are less likely to be swayed by a vendor’s shiny new feature if it’s not on your list.

As you narrow the list of possible software options, know what to expect in terms of vendor capability and timeline for implementation. This is your chance to make sure that the vendor has the tools and support they need to set up your system correctly and efficiently, based on your requirements document.

Look for vendors that have ongoing system testing and support before, during, and after implementation. This might include a live support option, a user community, and weekly status call cadence with a dedicated implementation specialist. Make sure they work regularly with organizations like yours, so they are familiar with your specific needs.

This is also the point where your organization may need to clean up other auxiliary systems connected to the one being implemented. You don’t want to bring old problems into your new solution, so do a review of your chart of accounts, general ledger systems, payroll, and accounts payable to make sure what moves into your new system is correct.

Establish Post-Implementation Monitoring

Even after implementation, periodically assess your ongoing needs. Monitor your new system’s performance and make sure it still adheres to your requirements document. This will let you know quickly if any changes are needed, and it can also provide the vendor with insight into their product’s performance. Hold regular office hour sessions with your implementation team to discuss issues that arise when using the software after the go-live date.  

Also remember that this process requires flexibility and managing expectations. Even with ample planning preparatory work, there is still a possibility that there will be a steep learning curve to adjust processes and people to the new system. It is crucial to take as much time as needed to set aside resources and time to prepare your staff and processes.

An external subject-matter expert can also assist with the change management aspect. These individuals can facilitate a smoother transition to the organization’s “new normal” way of operating, increasing the chances for success.

Center Your Mission

Every software selection and implementation is different, but they all require careful planning and effort. Keep your organization’s long-term mission in mind as you create your requirements documentation, review vendors, and change your processes. With that as your guiding center, you increase the likelihood of selecting and implementing technologies that will help you meet your needs long-term, while minimizing the potential risk of buyer’s remorse.

If you want to learn more about how mitigate post-purchase regret, check out the webinar, Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse with Fund Accounting Software: Smart Strategies for Confidence During Selection and Implementation.

Christina Alfaro Lopez of Forvis Mazars also helped write this post.