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One Size Does Not Fit All: Program Management Software Solutions

James Gaynor, Affiliate

As today’s leading companies launch and expand corporate citizenship programs, they continue to seek greater social and environmental impact. While they operate at various levels of scale, they all face critical challenges around tracking and reporting data, operational inefficiencies, and nonprofit relations.

For example, some companies have told us about the difficulty they have tracking basic data. Meanwhile, other companies want to expand their data collection to tell stories about their impact. Many strategic changes could facilitate progress for either challenge, but program management software solutions can serve as valuable tools to address these core challenges.

Software Solutions

In recent years, the field has expanded from a handful of companies to nearly 50, making it difficult for companies to navigate the myriad options. We’ve found that the prices and capabilities for software solutions vary widely, and one size does not fit all. These solutions can provide management support in a variety of areas including grant-making, in-kind giving, sponsorships, skills-based volunteering, matching gifts, automatic payroll deductions, internal employee fundraising, and dollars for doers. Beyond the primary service areas, some companies offer strategy and communication support to supplement the core services.

While these wide-ranging needs exist, we’ve identified three main categories that help frame the options:

Service Areas Examples
grants management Grants Management Grants, sponsorships, in-kind giving Fluxx, GIFTS, Foundation Connect
employee engagement Employee Engagement Matching gifts, dollars for doers, internal employee fundraising, automatic payroll deductions, skills-based volunteering JK Group, VolunteerMatch, CauseCast
Hybrid Hybrid Includes some combination of services provided in both grants management and employee engagement Benevity, Good Done Great, Versaic

Selecting a Software Solution

As part of larger strategy projects, companies increasingly ask us to lead them through a selection process to help find the best software solution for their unique needs. We provide basic education about the options, but see that knowledge as insufficient. We believe the decision should primarily rely on a set of criteria that outline the company’s critical needs in a software solution. Through interviews and assessments, we work with them to identify those needs and develop clear, customized criteria leading to the best available software solution for that particular company.

As companies develop the criteria, we recognize that there are important basic questions regarding such topics as: services areas provided, budget, and integrations. However, through our work with companies, we’ve identified some additional criteria categories that every company should consider when selecting program management software solutions.

The table below outlines the four categories and lists sample questions and related criteria that might be developed from each question. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but provide a starting point as you begin to think about the needs of your own company.

Sample Questions Sample Criteria
Basics Basics What programs do you currently run, and what programs do you hope to develop in the future?
  • Desired service areas
Data tracking Data Tracking & Reporting How do you want to improve your data tracking and reporting in the next few years?
  • Outcomes reporting
Operations Operations What are the key operational obstacles that currently take up too much time or cause frustration for key staff?
  • Automated emails
NP relations Nonprofit Relations How are your current relationships with grantees and partner nonprofits? What might help you build stronger nonprofit relationships?
  • Technical support for grantees

What challenges are you facing in grants management and employee engagement? If you’ve selected a software solution already, are you happy with the solution you chose? Why or why not?

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