Nonprofit Board Organization: The Inside-Out Conundrum

Andrew VaethBoard of Directors, Nonprofit Collaboration

The nonprofit collaboration landscape is completely different, and software choices should reflect those nuances.

Often, nonprofit business software amounts to jamming a square peg into a round hole. The new collaboration tools that all the big businesses are using these days, like Slack, simply aren’t optimal for nonprofit use, because they’re conceived for organizations where the majority of collaborators focus their time and energy only on that organization.

Thousands of dollars, and worse, hundreds of hours, are expended by nonprofits on software that has been purpose-built for business, only for it to become shelfware.

The Nonprofit World is Inside-Out

Nonprofits are completely different than other businesses. The vast majority of constituents have their own day jobs, and they choose for themselves when and how to engage.

Business-focused solutions are silos with learning curves and digital profiles to create and manage for all users. Users need to be trained and retrained. They need to be reminded how to log in every month, even how to find information. The president of your board, perhaps a prominent and very busy executive in town, doesn’t have time to learn your chosen software.

How to Choose the Right Collaboration Software

Most nonprofits I encounter are stuck in some level of email purgatory. But before purchasing, or even conducting a free trial of modern collaboration or board portal software, make sure you can answer some critical questions:

  • Is the software intended for both internal and external users?
  • Does the software require key constituents, such as board members, to be trained? This is a red flag.
  • Does the software contemplate multiple internal and external use cases and modules, or is it just another spot solution?
  • Is the software supported by humans who you can reach when you need them?
  • Does the solution have a meaningful nonprofit base of customers?
  • Was the software purpose-built for nonprofits, or is the nonprofit segment just an afterthought?
  • Is software priced affordably enough to scale it up without incurring upgrade fees every few months?

It’s too easy to haphazardly implement another web-based spot solution, and it’s too large a risk. The wrong solution may end up adding to the communication and collaboration chaos that holds missions back, rather than solving for it.

Be mindful of the special dynamics —the inside-out dynamics— that make up your teams, committees, and partnerships when you explore your software options.

View a demo of the collaboration software designed specifically for nonprofits.