Ask the typical church leader what kind of software they use for managing their database, and, if you don’t get a blank stare, you won’t likely hear kind words.

The typical church is frustrated with its technology.  But the anger is almost always misdirected.  Here’s what happens:

The Church of St. Normal has a problem.  Its records are out of date.  People who should be getting communication aren’t.  People who have specifically requested not to receive communications are.

Easy solution: The church buys a software program.  They believe the software’s promise that it will be do what it says it does.  The church makes a one-time purchase, uploads the software, and problem solved, right?

We all know that technology (and life) simply don’t work that way.

Here’s the crazy thing: The software does work.  The software does exactly what it said it would do.  What the software doesn’t do is actually solve the problem, because the problem, at its core, is not a software problem.  What the software doesn’t (and can’t) do is ensure that the essential (non-software) systems are in place to actually solve the problem.

The problem is almost never a software problem.  It’s almost always a system problem.

Single-issue, technical solutions almost never solve the deeply entrenched systemic problems that tie up an organization and keep it from tending to its first priorities.

Most non-profits don’t need help with technical fixes.  Anyone can buy and install software.  They need help knowing how to build the funnel, how to align responsibilities, how to establish accountability protocols.  This is the kind of back-room detail work that few non-profit visionaries want to spend time on.

Though software can and often does save immense amounts of time eventually, software that actually solves problems will require a heavy, front-end investment as well as regular maintenance to ensure the software is doing more than simply multiplying inefficiencies.

Bill Gates was right when he said,

The first rule of any technologyis that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify efficiency.  The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify inefficiency.