Nonprofit case management software — Consider features, budget and common pitfallsAre you looking for the right application to keep track of your clients, beneficiaries or program activities? Do your due diligence to make sure you select the right case management software for your organization.
What's driving the purchase?
You don't necessarily need to follow an extensive formal process, but take time to identify the primary drivers behind your purchase decision. For example:
- Do you need case management software to replace a manual system that's become cumbersome to use or existing software that no longer meets your organization's needs?
- If you're replacing existing software, are you looking to streamline operations?
- Do you anticipate growth or other changes in the next few years that would affect your case management software needs?
How will the software fit into your business processes?
Consider your organization's business processes. For example:
- Who will use the case management software?
- How will it be used?
- Will new case management software require changes to current business processes?
- How will case management software fit with existing accounting software or customer relationship management systems?
What are the most important features?
Next, identify and prioritize desired functionality for your case management software, such as:
- Depth and customization of stored data fields (depending on number of clients and number and complexity of programs)
- Contact management
- Communication capabilities (such as manual and automated emailing)
- Case or client management workflow
- Off-the-shelf and customized reporting (depending on number of metrics to be tracked or other aspects of your case management reporting needs)
- Specialized case management needs
Also consider related issues, such as:
- Accessibility (such as cloud-based vs. desktop)
- Compliance with data protection and privacy laws (including HIPAA compliance for U.S.-based nonprofits)
- Ease or speed of use
- Availability and quality of system documentation
- Length and cost of technical support and training
- Backup and recovery
- Technical configuration (including number of users and need for simultaneous access or access restrictions)
- Ease of conversion or portability (including any transitional period or downtime while data is transferred into the new system)
- Integration with other software or programs
- Scalability (ability to meet current and future needs)
- Maturity of the solution and company
What's the budget?
Confirm your software budget to help narrow your choices. Remember to account for both initial and ongoing expenses, such as upfront and annual license fees and staff time for implementation and maintenance.
Also remember that case management software shares functionality with customer relationship management systems. You might be able to use the same software for both, perhaps with additional features from add-on applications.
What are the most common pitfalls?
It may be tempting to skimp on requirements gathering or simply go with the first recommendation, but this can lead to the wrong software choice for your organization — and a difficult decision down the road on a costly conversion to another solution. On the other hand, spending too much time on requirements may waste precious resources and delay the purchase and implementation of your new software.
Narrow the decision to your top two or three solutions. Then:
- Compare the capabilities of each solution against your requirements and priorities
- Use a matrix or scorecard to weigh the key advantages and disadvantages of each (including support and maintenance needs)
- Consider the trade-offs you're willing to make as you prioritize between the variables of cost, features and time
- Review your results with the key stakeholders and decision-makers
- Develop as much consensus as possible — and make the call on your new case management software