The technology adoption process can be overwhelming for non-profit organizations. Where do you start? How can you implement new systems and keep volunteers, staff and donors up to date? And once you pick the right tool, how do you get staff to adopt it?
Below are 5 tried-and-true tactics that I use when working with non-profit organizations on their long-term model for system adoption, whether it’s for a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Constituent Relationship Management system (CRM).
Explain what an LMS or CRM is in clear and simple terms
Recently, I was working with the executive director of an organization who was certain they needed an LMS.
But it turned out they didn’t actually know what an LMS did or how it could be used! So I started asking questions like, are you sure? What do you want to do with it?
As an Instructional Designer and Learning Technologist, it’s critical to explain what an LMS or CRM system does for non-profit organizations. They might need someone to translate the tech speak so they can figure out how they can make use of the system. Remember, these are employees who were hired for their community outreach skills—they haven’t been hired for their digital know-how.
Employees will be more receptive to adopting a new system if they understand how it helps them be more impactful and efficient.
Make non-profit learning sticky
Learning something new is hard work. For many non-profit organizations, the idea that information should be living, breathing and on something called the Cloud can be a brand new concept (especially for smaller ones or those run by an older generation).
Here are a few ways to introduce new CRM or LMS technology to non-profit organizations so that it sticks:
Start employee learning sooner—not later
Do not wait until the end of an implementation project to start enabling non-profit employees! Achieving adoption for new technology requires communicating with staff early and often.
Start by giving staff or internal users an idea of what the CRM or LMS is. Bring them into the conversations. Get their input. Show them what it looks like.
Employees who feel that their voices are heard will be more engaged with the roll-out than those who feel that they aren’t valued throughout the adoption process.
Be sure to incorporate enablement throughout the duration of the implementation and build that learning into employee onboarding.
Get direct access to the executive director or key knowledge holder
Download as much information as you can from the executive director. Because they know everything—they just haven't had time to enter that information.
However, this is usually the biggest barrier to a smooth implementation process. Executive directors have a million things in their head, but it’s not documented anywhere.
You’ll be far better equipped if you gather answers from the executive director early on. Here are a couple tips for doing so:
Bonus points if you can arrange “brain download” sessions with not only the executive director/key knowledge holder, but also together with employees. With everyone part of the same session, it will encourage knowledge transfer between staff.
Adapt corporate resources for non-profit learning
Yes, you can use corporate learning resources and materials for non-profits—but you have to make the translation for them. Otherwise it just doesn't make sense.
There are tons of videos that corporations use that talk about the "bottom line" and “knowing your sales funnel.” But if you show those to a non-profit crowd, it doesn't sit well. But the concepts are good, right?
So use translation pieces. Explain that CRMs come from the world of sales and retail. Explain how they can use it for community outreach. Make the connection. This will really help get buy-in.
If non-profit employees understand how the CRM or LMS will help them be more productive, they will inevitably feel more open to adopting the technology.
Did you find these tips helpful? Why not share it with your network!
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Leah Chang is a learning consultant with 16+ years of experience designing online and classroom learning. In her spare time she goes on self-propelled travel adventures and tries to grow vegetables.