NFP Consultants - Hands-On Entrepreneur


The accolades pretty much tell the story: NFP Consultants is a three-time Micro Information Products reseller of the year, the first MIP partner to achieve $1 million in annual sales, and a member of the Presidents Club.

NFP Consultants

St. Louis, Mo.
Founded: 1990
Sales: $3 million (est. 2003)
Employees: 12
Main Product: MIP

Company founder, president, and director of projects John Francis thanks his nonprofit clients for these successes, but he and his staff have to take their fair share of credit. For one thing, there’s NFP’s staunch commitment to ongoing customer training and communication.

The reseller sponsors free seminars nationwide on technology advances in systems designed specifically for not-for-profits. There are also online Webinars for software and service demonstrations. More traditionally, there is MIP classroom training, customized on-site training, and specialized product migration services.

Partner Insights

NFP Consultants also sponsors users’ groups in Chicago, St. Louis, central Illinois, and central and northern Florida. Meetings generally entail a short presentation by a consultant, followed by a Q&A session where users bring in problems and ideas.

“We act as a facilitator for the group, but the users are the ones who make it successful,” comments Francis. They play an important role in selecting the content. He points out, “The content must be general enough so that every user gets something from the session.” Payroll, for example, might not be a good topic since so many nonprofits rely on outsourcing, whereas using MIP for audit preparation would have much wider appeal as a topic.

However, just as important in Francis’ view is the opportunity for users to network and discuss issues among themselves. “That’s information that’s really invaluable, and these are perspectives that we can’t provide,” he notes.

Francis is quite serious about training, and keeping up to speed with best practices. He is a charter member-and graduate-of the MIP chapter of Upstream Academy, founded by Sam Allred for advising consultants on how to improve their selling skills.

Francis describes attendance at Upstream as “a good way to network with our peers, who were facing the same issues we were,” such as staffing, adopting technology, and developing strategic plans. He continues to exchange ideas with those he met there, “although now more informally.”

Francis, who’s also a MIP Advantage Series authorized consultant and a MIP certified trainer, has attended sales training “boot camps” sponsored by MIP’s fairly new parent, Best Software, as well. He’s keen on the two-year-old arrangement. “With the acquisition [by Best], a whole new group of VARs became familiar with MIP,” he notes. These include MAS 90/200/500 and SalesLogix resellers who, for whatever reason, choose not to handle fund accounting software. “They can partner with us to provide a solution to [their nonprofit] clients,” says Francis.

NFP has offices in St. Louis; Tampa, Fla.; Chicago; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The San Juan office has a “great partnership” going with a local accounting firm, which “provides a certain comfort level” to NFP prospects, explains Francis. Besides, “The CPA firm might have a better understanding of the client’s needs” as a result of their shared business history.

The NFP Consultants installed base includes a mixture of municipalities, “quasi-government” organizations that provide job training and housing, health care clinics, economic development agencies, and health and human service organizations.

The product portfolio includes MIP Intro Nonprofit, Pro Series, and Advantage. “Having a growth path is incredibly important to customers,” notes Francis, as they find they have to move onto a Wide Area Network, or have sharply increased their number of daily transactions. By staying with MIP, no data conversion is necessary, “and they keep on going” with minimal disruption to their organization.

NFP also carries fund-raising software such as Paradigm and Millennium, as well as Best’s Abra HR and FAS packages.

Francis’ fondness for MIP goes back to when he was reviewing software at the United Way of Greater St. Louis for the membership. “MIP was the best fit in terms of functionality coupled with support. And they keep the product viable,” he adds. He cites the company’s early adoption of Windows, its scalability with the addition of a SQL edition, and its promptness in adding tools to facilitate FASB compliance.

The corporate Web site is chock full of information including a mission statement, product data, staff profiles, a calendar of events, and newsletter. There are even Web-exclusive discounts on software and training; these bargains change frequently to encourage return visits to the site. “The Web is an increasingly important aspect of our overall prospecting and existing-user communications,” notes Francis.

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