Nonprofit employees are well-versed in the fight against the clock. From fundraising to community outreach and serving constituents, there is always something to be done and never enough hours in the day to do it all. Maybe you’ve heard a case management solution can put more hours back in the day or that it can help nonprofits do everything from optimize case workflow to secure funding by showing how your organization makes an impact. Perhaps you’re ready to dive into a new system, but you’re wondering where to begin?
We hear these queries from new partners every day. That’s why we’ve put together this crash course to help you get started on the right foot with case management software. Read below to find everything you need to know to take your nonprofit’s case management solution online (and to new heights)!
Step 1: Find Your Case Management Solution
No two organizations are the same. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, finding the best case management solution can make you feel like Goldilocks looking for a bed that’s just right.
Before you begin researching solutions, conduct an internal needs assessment to determine the desired features and software capabilities. The information you gather from the evaluation should help you figure out what your organization needs from the software and the specifications of each department.
Most nonprofits want to increase efficiency and effectiveness of programs, optimize workflows, and manage cases and data electronically. But, each solution can help you achieve these objectives in different ways. Always look for a solution with:
• Robust reporting and analytics to better serve each constituents’ unique needs
• A customizable infrastructure so your solution is tailored to meet the demands of your organization
• Cloud-based storage for optimum flexibility and program scalability
• Assistive data accuracy and consistency tools
• Outcome measurement to help prove your impact and secure more funding
Step 2: Prepare Your Organization
It may be tempting to dive into implementation as soon as your nonprofit decides to take its case management solution online, but skimping on sufficient preparation could be counter-productive and costly. Before making any changes to your internal infrastructure, a lot of other things must happen first.
Staff support is extremely important, but sometimes getting buy-in can be a challenge when making the transition to a new case management software. So, what’s the best way to get everyone on board?
• Have a Solid Pitch: In other words, be prepared to answer “Why?” By nature, most of us are resistant to change, and your team will want to know why there’s a need. If you aren’t confident in the decision, your team won’t be, either.
• Show, Don’t Tell: Telling your team that a solution is awesome isn’t as valuable as showing them why. Will the new solution shave off time during intake? Optimize program assignment? Don’t be afraid to get specific and show your team how the decision will improve their day-to-day workflow.
• Be Transparent: Be open and honest with your team from the beginning. Including them throughout the process will help them adjust once the transition happens. Any new software comes with a learning curve, but transparency will help you manage expectations, instill confidence, and ensure support from staff.
Discovery and Requirements Gathering
You started this evaluation during the internal needs assessment, but the discovery and requirements gathering phase will give you greater and more technical insight into the functionality your organization requires.
For instance, if one of the desired functions of your new case management solution is to include a drop-down menu, text fields, or other customizable features during client intake, you’ll need to do some research to figure out what technical requirements you’re looking for in the new software.
The goal of this phase is to help you manage timelines, resources, and budget. Skipping this step may lead to a lack of communication between teams or an incompatibility between your organization and the software.
Plan (And Then Plan Some More)
What will happen when, and who will own what? What can your organization and staff members expect during each phase? Make sure everyone involved is clear on asks and expectations so you can keep the momentum rolling.
One of the most important components of planning is assigning ownership. Instead of viewing the entire project as a company-wide responsibility, break it down into manageable bits. Delegate ownership for user-testing to case managers or training to program managers. This creates a sense of responsibility that keeps everyone in check and on track.
Two key components to plan for and assign ownership to include:
• Training End Users: This should be accounted for before in the planning phase. Assign an individual, team, or department to this task to divide and conquer. The software provider will probably help, but one of the best ways to learn is through teaching. If you know the new management system enough to teach your colleagues how to use it, you’re on the path to success. (Tip: Ask the people who will need to use the software the most to conduct the training. They’ll be experts in no time.)
• Setting Up a Framework for Admin Support: Proactively account for gaps in knowledge and set up meetings for knowledge transfers and routine data integrity checks once the system is live. Case management software is integral to a nonprofit’s success, but it’s not a set it and forget it tool. Once the implementation is complete, it’s critical to maintain a high level of quality and functionality.
Step 3: Manage The Transition
The only way your new case management system will be successful is if people use it. Here are some ways your organization can guarantee a seamless and successful transition:
• Identify a super user early on. Find a team member who is comfortable with the software and can help others in the organization.
• Monitor usage to see if your staff have made the transition. If not, find out why not. Do they need more training? Is the functionality meeting their needs? Understanding any hesitancies will help increase usage over time.
• Incentivize usage and clean data. For example, the team with the most complete intake fields each month gets a free t-shirt.
• Pull in key staff members during the testing phase. It’s important for them to be familiar with the software for visibility and possible troubleshooting.
• Get ahead of staff questions. Not everyone will feel confident using the new technology immediately. Try to think ahead to field potential questions. Tip: Create an FAQ and send it to your staff before internally launching the software.
Step 4: Reap the Rewards
Case management software will help your team save valuable time. This leaves more time in the day to focus on boots-on-the-ground community outreach, proving impact, and managing outcomes. The goal of any nonprofit is to help as many people as possible, and having a solid case management solution helps organizations achieve this goal.
In an increasingly technical world, using data to prove your organization’s impact and outcomes is becoming the norm and even a funder requirement. Donors want to know the nonprofit they support will deliver on its mission, and providing data-driven insights from your case management solution is the best way show donors how you’re reaching your goals.
At its core, case management systems give nonprofits a window into their constituents’ lives through data. And data helps a tell a complete story.
For more information on Social Solutions products, visit https://www.socialsolutions.com/software/eto/advanced-features/