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How to Get Frontline Employee Buy-In to Adopt New Fundraising Software


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This post was written by Michelle Hansen, an enterprise account manager at Classy.

You did your research and signed a contract, and now it’s time to get up and running with your new fundraising software. This marks an exciting new chapter, and a shift in platforms is a great investment for your organization’s future. But as with many changes in life, making the switch—even with a thoughtful plan in place—can create fear, cause concern, and leave staff with questions.

When onboarding new, larger organizations, we typically find that when other individuals are not involved in the decision, change is often met with resistance. Internal resistance is the Achilles heel that often jeopardizes the project’s success.

That’s why initiating a feedback loop through every step of the onboarding process is vital. A strong feedback loop allows you to:

  • Keep lines of communication open
  • Give staff a voice
  • Create transparency
  • Report on change initiatives
  • Set expectations
  • Address questions and concerns
  • Understand when to pivot

When executed effectively, the feedback loop will help your organization minimize points of friction and ultimately establish crucial frontline buy-in from the day-to-day users of the platform. Without this frontline buy-in, adoption will take more time and, in turn, postpone the return on investment you see from your new fundraising software.

Below, we walk through how you can you create an effective feedback loop to get your staff onboard and successfully implement new fundraising software. But before we dive into those steps, you need to make sure you’ve taken some preliminary action.

Identify Your Internal Champion (and Team)

If you have done your due diligence in planning, then you have likely already identified an internal champion who will serve as project manager. Even though your champion functions as the point person for the software implementation, that does not mean they should go at it alone. Just as you wouldn’t purchase fundraising software without input from a team, you shouldn’t tackle implementation without a team in place either.

Designating a larger team early on can improve efficiency and save your organization valuable time down the road. At Classy, our team once worked with an organization who didn’t build a core team for implementation, and their champion made all of the decisions regarding the project plan in a silo. Halfway through implementation, it became clear that there were various considerations that still required feedback from others, and this resulted in the organization having to restructure their entire project plan because the champion hadn’t consulted a larger team for input.

When building out your team, it’s imperative that the group is cross-functional since the shift will impact departments differently based on function and how they will be using the platform. Specifically, you’ll want to include individuals who are in charge of:

  • Donor relations and communications
  • Campaign strategy and goals
  • Designing and building campaigns
  • Managing integrations and systems (working in concert with the platform)

Each team member plays a vital role in keeping the feedback loop healthy. Since they are closest to the frontline, they can bubble up department-specific feedback as well as disseminate key information.  This will help your champion keep a pulse on how change is affecting the organization holistically so they can track the project’s overall success.

With your champion and team in place, now it is time to execute.  Below are best practices for how to create a strong feedback loop.

Best Practices to Create a Strong Feedback Loop:

1. Share Your Project Plan

Your organization needs to put a project plan together that outlines objectives, milestones, and resources required to successfully implement your new fundraising software. Because everyone in your organization will have an effect, whether large or small, on the overall success of the project plan, share the plan with your staff to set expectations for the role each party will play, as well as provide transparency into what the organization hopes to achieve overall.

Given that your core team will ideally include the leads of the aforementioned groups,  you should spend extra time with them to ensure they intimately understand and buy into the project plan so they, in turn, can successfully communicate this out to their departments to establish frontline buy-in. After all, in classic change management theory, staff is more eager to adopt change if their manager believes in and endorses that change. In an article published by Harvard Business Review, researchers found that communication between frontline managers and staff about a change was the most effective strategy for getting frontline buy-in. Because managers are so influential, ensure they know how to communicate the project plan to their teams.

2. Implement Office Hours

Even though email is typically the go-to medium for communication, talking to someone face to face is proven to be the most effective way to communicate when it comes to talking about change. Your champion should set aside office hours weekly or bi-weekly where the core team, as well as staff, can voice their feedback and engage in person about how the change is impacting them and/or their teams.

3. Provide Weekly Updates

Your champion should share weekly updates with the core team to shed light on the overall health status of the project and give visibility into progress on key performance indicators. To save time and maintain consistency, your champion can create a template to follow every week.

We follow this best practice at Classy as well. When managing large scale client implementations, the leading team regularly fills out a document that ranks the health of the project and sends it out to our senior team. In another example, our CEO sends a weekly email to all staff providing an update on our progress towards quarterly company KPIs. This helps everyone at the company keep our larger goals top of mind and stay focused while working to achieve these objectives.

4. Celebrate Wins

Positive reinforcement is a proven tactic in the workplace to elevate team performance and engagement. When someone is recognized for a job well done, they’re more likely to repeat that behavior.

So plan to celebrate wins, even the small ones. Do it early, often, and publicly to inspire others to follow suit. In addition to highlighting accomplishments, it is also great to publicize efficiencies that the team has unearthed so others can benefit from this knowledge-sharing.

5. Offer Incentives

Incentives are tried and true motivators in the workplace.  Seventy percent of employers found incentives to be effective, according to Bank of America’s 2015 Workplace Benefits report.

Incentives do not have to be monetary. Get creative and think about what kind of perks would motivate staff at your organization. And if you don’t know, ask. A quick survey could help answer this for you.

Here are some other ideas for incentives that won’t kill your budget:

  • PTO (time off or to volunteer)
  • Casual dress day
  • Training opportunity
  • Opportunity to attend a conference
  • Lunch or phone call with a top executive at the organization or a board member

If you do have a budget, even better. Gift cards, money, or prizes are the most common ways to reward staff. It’s exciting to offer incentives, but make sure the structure you put in place is driving the desired behaviors and outcomes that will propel the project forward.

A strong feedback loop is just one piece of the larger implementation puzzle. However, when done well, it is one of the most effective ways to build frontline buy-in for the successful adoption of your new fundraising software.

Organizational Behavior 101

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