Here’s the thing – you can, in fact, run a nonprofit without computers, software, and technology.
But why would you?
The reality is, even the smallest nonprofit uses technology to help them get more work done. They have for years. From creating budgets to communicating with board members and donors, technology is a necessary tool that keeps nonprofits running.
But what if you want more than just the status quo? Today’s nonprofits have the tools available to them that let them streamline, automate, and expand the work they do with tech so that they can focus on the real, meaningful work they intend to do. Technology in nonprofits makes the back office work of running one easier, freeing time for helping others in the community, engendering greater outreach, and connecting with more people who are aligned with your goals.
So, what can technology do for your nonprofit that can help advance your mission instead of just keeping it moving along? Here are three areas where technology can accelerate growth and create better experiences.
Enabling greater outreach
The internet has changed the way nonprofits communicate with donors, board members, and even those they serve. With the web it’s easier for those in need to apply for assistance, even at public computers at libraries and other locations. Creating awareness and buzz is steamlined with social media, where donors and the interested public can like, share, and even contribute right from sites like Facebook. And, of course, email makes keeping in front of people, from your board to the broader community, cost-effective and simple.
However, outreach can go far beyond communication with technology solutions for nonprofits. Registration and donations can be handled easily with mobile apps on tablets and phones that volunteers can carry with them to events. At the same time, payments can be integrated in with these apps for on the spot credit card transactions that mirror what is available on a nonprofit’s website.
It’s also possible to use technology to involve more of the community. For instance, the Philadelphia Foundation recently used a custom web application that allowed the community to vote for organizations that should receive specialized grants. The Key to the Community grants both celebrated the foundation’s centennial while making it clear that they were embracing what modern technology could offer nonprofits.
The less nonprofits spend on running the organization, the more money is available to meet the mission. Of course, nonprofits still need to keep the lights on and maintain core operations. But every opportunity that an organization can take to reduce costs is a welcome one.
Technology is a great enabler for cost savings. A surprising way that technology can enable cost savings is by creating visibility into areas that can be improved using data the organization already has.
Traditionally, business intelligence systems were reserved for high-profit Fortune 500 companies, but that’s no longer the case. Reporting and dashboards can be quickly created with readily available applications like Klipfolio. These BI tools make connecting with data sources straightforward, and create beautiful charts and graphs that board members and staff can use to understand trends or drill into to see the deeper data feeding the reports.
The key cost savings with applications like Klipfolio, and many other applications for modern nonprofits, is using the cloud. The use of SaaS applications means nonprofits can have fewer IT staff members dedicated to desktop support. At the same time, software needed to run the organization is available anywhere there is a computer and network access.
Cloud resources also mean a reduction in computer infrastructure costs. Vendors such as AWS can offer secure hosting of data and information, while Google’s suite of office applications removes the need for mail and file servers and the overhead to manage them.
A more holistic view of donors
Understanding donors can increase opportunities for donations. No longer do donors and potential donors need to be treated in a “one-size-fits-all” manner. Instead communication and donor management can be automated and personalized.
Using a customer relationship management (CRM) app gives a great view into activity a nonprofit has had with a single donor, from contact information to information on direct communication and campaigns they’ve been included in.
But utilizing the software with givers and those open to contributing can go well beyond what staff and volunteers have input into a CRM. With integrations to various applications, your CRM can become a customer 360 for donors.
Feeding data into the CRM from, say, finance, can help you understand when a donor contributes and what their donations look like over time, along with a single source of contact info and history.
If your nonprofit offers benefits and bonuses for contributing, your CRM can be integrated with order and fulfillment systems. If a contributor reaches out to ask about receiving benefits, staff and volunteers will have a single information source where they can verify shipments and addresses.
These are just a few of the readily available technology solutions that nonprofits can leverage to increase their donations, build awareness, and offer better experiences for donors, recipients, and the community as a whole. With minor customizations, nonprofit technology can provide solutions comparable to what larger corporations use, without breaking the bank or taking resources away from those that need it most.