Congratulations! You have just experienced one of the most difficult periods of our lifetime, but are we out of the water, yet? For those of us who have spent time on the water and have had the pleasure (or terror) of being pulled behind a boat on water skis, you know the feeling of getting jerked around. The past year feels awfully similar, doesn’t it? Let's discuss a strategic plan for our nonprofits and small businesses recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As some states begin to lift restrictions, there’s a sense of hope around us, but still a level of uncertainty. Have no fear, BTD is here! If you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you’re not quite sure where to begin, keep reading. We’ve developed a mini roadmap to help you brainstorm the many paths toward pandemic recovery.

First, take a minute to review the graphic below and then let’s discuss which best describes your organization during the pandemic.

Amidst the pandemic, did you re-invent, find a new normal, return to operations as usual, or close down? As we start to return to some sort of normal, how are you planning for the next steps? There is no wrong or right answer. We just want to help you think through the next steps.

The Hunkered Downers

It was not unusual for most baby to small organizations to scale back or even close down during the pandemic. If staff and operating costs were already minimal, it may have made the most sense to simply meet the minimum board meeting requirements and call it a day. Others may have ventured into virtual fundraising events to support scaled-back missions. There’s no wrong way to manage through a pandemic and “hunkering down” may have been the best decision for your organization and certainly not an easy one to make. We applaud you!

The Mild Pivoteers

If you continued to fulfill your current mission, just in new ways, you’re likely a mild pivoteer. Some training was likely required to help staff work remotely, but other than a new office view, things were business as usual. If your organization was not already equipped to working remotely, you likely faced many challenges. How many of your team members had used Zoom before the pandemic? How many still have dialup at home? We’ve heard it all at BTD! If your organization is large enough to have an IT department, transitioning was a breeze. If not, you may have found yourself a few months behind other orgs, but that’s OK. Your team has learned so much from this experience and it’s possible many of these new tools and systems may become the norm for your organization. We applaud you for leading your organization into a new age of technology!

The Extreme Pivoteers

Our extreme pivoteers likely did a 180 during the pandemic. These organizations either temporarily or permanently revised their mission to support brand new programs, products, or services. You likely developed brand new policies and procedures to support the new mission, revised job descriptions, and trained staff. It’s possible you may have even hired staff to support the growing need. The challenge now becomes whether the previous mission will blend back into the current mission or whether the pre-COVID mission goes away all together. We will address this in a future post. For now, take a deep breath. We applaud your innovation and ability to adapt quickly to an ever-changing environment!

So What's Next?

If you pivot back to your pre-COVID normal as fast as you were forced to pivot into the pandemic, you'll miss the opportunity to care for your organization and innovate towards a new normal. Use this next phase to wipe the slate clean. Revisit programs and projects and think strategically about how to reintroduce, reinvent, or discontinue. Don't be afraid to make educated and bold decisions for the good of your organization. The best advice any coach could give you at this point is to simply PACE yourself...


Pause with purpose. We've moved from bright and shiny fluffy goal setters to badass conquerers this year. What's your drive, now? If you didn't have one before, we bet you do now, even if you haven't said it outloud yet.


Analyze the market, opportunity, needs, covid impact, lessons learned, what's working, what's not working, what can be left behind, and what can be leaned into.


Lay out your current state. How does it overlap with your P&A?


Evaluate how you evaluate. What are you tracking, counting, and/or measuring? How and when are you collecting it? What's the response?

Give yourself the time you need. We have been pandemic-ing long enough and we're now in a groove. Let your organization run while you get crystal clear about how and when you start your post-pandemic pivot.

Not sure your next strategy is the right decision? You're never alone with BTD at your side...

Want to learn more about how other nonprofits have managed through the pandemic, check out the NONPROFIT REPORT: 2020 Virtual Pivot Insights!

If only we had a nickle for every time one of our clients asked "What's the best software for my nonprofit or small business?" We belong to several online communities for nonprofit and small business leaders. Some of the most common tech-related questions are:

Obviously, X could mean anything from payroll, accounting, volunteer hours tracking, board management, client data management, CRM, online courses, sales, inventory, document management, task management, project management, and grant management. Did we leave anything out?

Wine, anyone?

Asking what is the best software is like asking what is the best bottle of wine. You’re going to get many different answers at many different prices. You could ask the salesman at your favorite wine store, but he may try to sell you the most expensive bottle when the $10 merlot just might be the best fit for your palate. Asking a colleague might be helpful, but she only drinks rosé and that’s not your thing. You could just close your eyes and point to any $20 bottle and hope it’s the right one for you, but that’s risky.

The best option would be to call your friend, the Sommelier, who graduated from a wine school, reads wine books, takes numerous wine courses, works as a waiter, and tastes at least 10 wines a week. She can probably help you find the perfect bottle, right? And she’ll do so by asking you a few precise questions.

So, who is the best person to turn to when you need software product advice? It’s likely a computer science expert with years of practical experience. You may not know someone yet and that’s OK. We’re here to help you make the best decision by starting with a few precise questions. Grab a glass of wine, pen and paper, and let’s get started!

A Step By Step Guide to Choosing the Best Software

Software isn’t something you pick out for fun (most of the time anyway). Typically, there is a reason and that’s where we’re going to start.

Step 1

Ask Yourself: What problem am I trying to solve? What need am I trying to meet?

Write this down and fill in the blanks:
I can’t do _________ (function) because of _____________ (barrier).

Step 2

Ask Yourself: Why is it a problem or need?

Software is designed to simply store, retrieve, and process information. It doesn’t actually fix an inefficient process or problems created by people. For example, a software will not know whether errors were made by the person entering data into its system. The result is bad data that is not the fault of the software. If bad processes are not resolved prior to beginning your software search, you may end up wasting time and money on an unnecessary solution.

To get to the root of the cause of your problems, begin by writing down the following statement and filling in the blanks. Repeat this step 3 to 5 times until you get to the actual root cause.

  1. I have a problem because ________________________________________________.
  2. My answer to #1 is a problem because ___________________________________.
  3. My answer to #2 is a problem because ___________________________________.
  4. My answer to #3 is a problem because ___________________________________.
  5. My answer to #4 is a problem because ___________________________________.

Watch this YouTube video on the 5 Whys Explained for more information about root cause analysis.

Step 3

Ask Yourself: How will this software solve the problem? What MUST it do to make our lives better? What would we LIKE it to do to make our lives better?

Now it’s time to put together a list of “functional requirements” or things you need the software to do. Add to your list characteristics like price, nonprofit discounts, and whether it’s compatible with other software tools you are currently using.

Here’s a sample chart to help you get started:

SoftwareAnnual Price (including discounts)Can we easily import our data?Can we customize the dashboard?Does it work with Paypal?

Step 4

Make a list of potential software products that meet most of your requirements in Step 3.

This is where you can ask your Facebook buddies for help. Be specific, but keep it simple. This is also where sites like come in handy. Gather 5 to 10 options. Then, visit each of the software websites and gather the information you need to fill in your chart. Likely, a few will fall off your list for obvious reasons.

Step 5

Of the remaining software on your list, pick your top three.

You can do this individually or get your team to vote. Sign up for a free trial for all three and run through a quick exercise of the most important items on your list. Test how easily it integrates with your current tools and how easy it is to add your team as users. Then, delegate some additional basic testing to your team. Be mindful of the skill level of your team and take note of any major learning curves. After about an hour of use by your team, gather their feedback.

Step 6

Out of those top three, declare a “winner” and do a one-week trial run.

This is where you really put it through the paces. You’ll import your data and begin using the software regularly.

Here are some follow-up questions to ask yourself.

If you answered “no” or “kind of” to either of the questions above, begin the process of talking through issues with the software company or reach out to someone you know who is using the software in a similar way. If there is a feature missing, you may consider a customized solution. First, consider the value of having this feature added. For example, if a $1,000 customization means saving 20 hours per month of staff time, it’s probably worth it.

If at this point, you’ve hit a roadblock, let’s chat!

If you answered “yes” to the questions above, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 7

Commit for a defined period of time.

This is where you commit to using your new software for 1 to 3 months; no cheating allowed! After some time has passed, reevaluate with your team by answering the following questions.

If the issues are manageable, make some changes, and keep going. If you get the sense you are dealing with numerous impossible issues, it’s time to return to step 5 and select another software.

Step 8

Commit for 1 to 2 years.

At this point, you’ve ironed out many issues and are ready to commit for a longer period. Software should always be reevaluated with your team every couple of years because the industry and product lines change frequently. It’s important to also keep an open line of communication with the software company. Most software companies develop new features, based on the needs of their clients. So, just keep asking for that new feature you really want!

If your organization outgrows your current software (and it just might), don’t be afraid to start this process all over again.

Remember these quick tips when searching for a new software:
  1. Set up your organization for success by solving the process, people, and purpose problems first.
  2. Make sure the software integrates well or “talks to” your other software tools.
  3. It should integrate well with your team and require a minimal learning curve.
  4. It should hopefully reduce and definitely not increase your team’s workload.
  5. You and your team should feel confident about this new long-term commitment.

Finally, we want you to know we’re here for you. This is what we do.

We simplify the complex technology and software issues so you can quickly make an informed decision and get back to running your nonprofit like the superhero you are!

On the other hand, if you need help picking out wine, we’re not the right people for that.

Blue Tree exists to help nonprofits and small businesses set clear, life-giving strategy and turn it into action.

Lead From Hope  |  Delight in your Data  |  Grow Your Impact

Helping big-hearted organizations build greater capacity for impact since 2017.