The largest YMCA and YWCA organizations in North America rely on robust software packages to help manage everything from program registrations, facility reservations and child care scheduling to membership management, donation and payment processing, and Web site content management. To find the right software for your YMCA, there are a few common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
- Copycat Selection. Just because other YMCAs are selecting a particular software package doesn’t mean that you should too. Evaluate why they’re selecting certain software, how it’s meeting their needs, what the total cost of ownership is, and whether or not they would buy the same software if given the chance all over again. If relying on industry peers for advice, make sure to ask the important questions to see if your criteria closely aligns with theirs.
- Focus on Features. Features are great. Poor customer service support or high maintenance costs are not. Just because a software package may be feature-rich (think fundraising integration, automated emails, etc.), doesn’t mean it’s the right software solution for your YMCA. Make sure the software meets your other requirements, including scalability, ease of use, budget friendly, 24/7 customer service support and customizable options. You’ll want a software solution that can grow as your YMCA grows without interruption in service, data access or overall business continuity.
- Stranger Companies. It’s important to know the software company you’ll be partnering with. Do your due diligence and look into financial data, company news, customer testimonials and case studies, product data sheets, and accessibility of company contact information. The more positive information you can find, the more established the company likely is.
- Solo Pursuit. Don’t take on the software selection process on your own or just with a group of department heads. Instead, involve other staff members in setting the criteria, developing questions and evaluating software packages. This not only ensures that you are selecting a software solution that will meet the needs of the entire organization, it will also help drive adoption of the new software technology, as staff will feel personally involved in the organizational change.
- Hidden Future Fees. Know the total cost of ownership of the YMCA software from the outset. Just because a software solution requires no out-of-pocket expense doesn’t mean it is the most cost-effective solution for the long-term. Understand all fees, now and in the future, required to own and operate the software. Additional fees may include annual license fees, maintenance costs, training fees, IT investments, customer service support fees, upgrade charges and usage costs. Understand the total costs of each software packages now, a year from now, and five years from now, before making your selection.
- Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Technology. Beware of investing in a dying breed of technology, such as outdated platforms, operating system or databases. Older technologies may no longer be supported or taught, and may even cause major issues when trying to upgrade. On the other end of the spectrum, you should also beware of technologies that are too new, as they have not yet proven their effectiveness and your YMCA may be faced with navigating around technology bugs and errors. Look for a software company with a proven track record for developing new software versions and upgrading customers without difficulty.
- Complex = Robust. Complex software does not translate to feature-rich or robust software. It translates to being complex. Know what you need to achieve your desired results and don’t buy anything more. You will not only be spending money that doesn’t need to spent, you’ll also be giving staff members more to do and learn that they wouldn’t ordinarily need to with their current workload. Implement only the software solutions you need right away and, with a scalable solution, you can add on other features you want in the future without difficulty.