Whether you're investigating donor management software, ticket sales systems, or choir management software for your chorus, developing a search process and evaluating your options is key to finding the right platform for your chorus.
Here are some tips for getting started in your software search.
Write Up a List of Challenges & Goals
The first step to choosing software for the chorus is to write up a list of challenges you are trying to solve. Be as specific as you can be about your challenges - what is the current process now and why isn't is working?
Think through some of your organizations goals and priorities in the short-term and long-term. Write down your top three goals that you'd like to achieve.
Don't Think About Budget... Yet
Cheaper software is usually cheaper for a reason. When evaluating software it's important to not just look at the cheapest options because they might not give you the best return on investment or the best value. Of course, it's always good to have in your mind an idea of what the organization might be able to afford. But try not to eliminate companies over price from the get-go.
Do A Lot of Research
If you know what types of software you need, start an online search using that terminology - such as "donor management software," "ticket sales software," or "chorus management software."
If you're not sure what you're looking for, start an online search using your challenges listed above as a guiding point. For example, if you are having trouble with managing your donors records, try a search query like "how to manage my chorus's donors." This will hopefully pull up a company that specializes in that or at least has a blog with suggestions.
Keep a List of Options
As you find companies online that can help you solve your challenges, keep a running list of them. Use their websites to find out more information about each company.
You may also wish to make a table of all of your challenges mentioned above and compare that to each software option. Ask yourself, "will this software solve this challenge"? If yes, put a checkmark down for that software. Do the same with your organizations goals and priorities.
Track data points such as:
- List of features
- Any additional fees
- Ease of use and/or user utilization
- Support rankings
- References (company and contact information)
- Integration functionality
- Onboarding procedures
- Export/import process or data migration process
- Company mission
- Will this help us solve challenges 1, 2, and 3?
- Will this achieve goals 1, 2, and 3?
Narrow Down Your List
Based on the information you found on each company, you should be able to narrow down the companies to a few for consideration. You don't want too long of a list, as it can be time-consuming to do demos with every company. Try to stick to 3 or 4 options at most.
Do a Demo
Once you've narrowed your list down to a few companies for consideration, contact their sales team to book a demo of the system. The sales team can show you how the system can help you solve each of your challenges and help you achieve your goals.
Try Before You Buy
Even after a demo, most software companies will encourage you to set up a free trial of the system so you can explore it for yourself.
Gather a team of people to help you evaluate the platform and get them to check out the system for themselves.
Together with your team, be sure to test all the system's features and set up some fake data to play with. Try to use the system as if you were actually using it for your organization. Think about whether you can find things easily, if using the system is easy to use, are there limitations you weren't expecting, does it do everything you want it to do, etc.?
Ask Lots of Questions
As you evaluate the platform, don't be afraid to ask lots of questions from the companies. You'll get answers to your questions and you'll also be able to evaluate how good their company is at communicating. Do they respond in a timely manner? Are they helpful? Do they answer questions effectively?
Ask for References
While you're trying the system, ask the company for references of similar organizations that use their system. Do they work with choruses of your size/type? Ask to connect with a few!
NOW Look at Budget & Compare Value
After you've explored the system fully, had all of your questions answered, and spoken to references... it's time to look at the price.
Compare the price of each company with the value you will get out of each system.
Ask questions like:
- Does the system solve your challenges?
- Will the system help you achieve your goals?
- Is there any functionality you gain or lose from one company to another?
- Will your users use it?
- How does each affect your bottom line?
- How much time does it save?
- How will this impact your chorus's revenue?
- What's the overall impact that each product will have on your chorus?
Make Your Choice
It won't cost much, just your voice. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
After your careful analysis, it should be pretty clear which company is your top choice. Let down the other companies easily and then give your top choice a heads up that you'd like to work with them. You may ask for additional resources to help pitch the proposal to the board.
Pitch it to the Board
Once you've decided on the system you want, put together a formal proposal for the board to consider. Be sure to bring all of your data - comparison lists, notes from any reference calls, any statistics/data points/case studies from the company to help make the sale, etc.
Have a few answers prepared for questions or pushback you might get from the board. It never hurts to be over-prepared!
Upgrade Your Account
Once you've finally gotten approval from the board, make your first payment and you're on your way!
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection, an active board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium, and a soprano with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro-Musica. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.