Organizations of all types must embrace technology to stay competitive. In highly mission-driven organizations like nonprofits, however, it can be easy to overlook the long-term value of digital tools.
It’s true that adopting technology means investing time, resources and expertise that don’t always yield an immediate impact. But with the right digital approach, you can gradually transform your organization by empowering staff and stakeholders to deliver on your mission more effectively.
Even before COVID-19 made it difficult for funders to maintain contributions, nonprofit technology was quickly becoming essential for competing with other NPOs to attract new donors, volunteers, and in-house talent.
Now, in a landscape where more employees are working from home – and constituents remain wary of attending in-person events and group programs – nonprofit technology is more important than ever for adapting your organization’s daily operations.
Here are four ways to transform your nonprofit so you can stay responsive to ongoing challenges.
1. Move Toward Cloud-based Tools
Global pandemics aside, the world has been shifting toward cloud computing for some time. Cloud-based tools and software are ideal for maintaining operations in an agile environment and can help your nonprofit:
- Automate certain workflows (including accounting)
- Support teams working and collaborating remotely
- Streamline processes for greater efficiency while retaining their cost-effectiveness
While there’s a lot to consider when making your move to the cloud and the learning curve can be steep, it’s an investment that makes sense in the long run. Before you invest in cloud-based tools, however, you should think carefully about which software solutions are best for your organization.
Some open-source and out-of-the-box solutions, for example, may not meet your reporting needs. And while a customized technology solution looks great on paper, it can lead to unexpected costs.
Here are some examples of popular cloud-based tools that work well in the nonprofit sector:
- Accounting software: Quickbooks Online & Xero
- Donor management & fundraising software: Keela, Donor Perfect, Blackbaud
- Membership management system: Membee
- Video conferencing: Zoom (Bonus: at the time of writing, a nonprofit discount for Zoom was available through TechSoup)
If your organization already uses cloud-based tools, meanwhile, remember that software integrations may be available.
2. Leverage Social Media to Manage Donor & Volunteer Relationships
The world may have changed dramatically, but social networking fundamentals remain the same. Your nonprofit still needs to communicate with donors, run campaigns, and solicit feedback on products and services.
To make sure the people who support you fully understand their impact on your organization, you should communicate regularly through email updates or video calls.
You can also use social media to keep donors and volunteers in the loop by:
- Inviting them to like your Facebook page
- Posting updates about your organization’s upcoming plans
- Running fundraising campaigns
One of the most effective ways to keep your community active is by conducting polls on social media or running virtual town halls to discover what they’d like to see going forward. Take note of their feedback and implement their suggestions when and where it makes sense.
3. Create Digital Programs & Virtual Events
Given the new state of the world, embracing nonprofit technology is critical for reinventing your organization’s programs and events in a virtual format.
The key to adopting digital programming is to make sure you’re prepared:
Refresh your content. Because it can be harder for people to engage when they’re not with you in person, review your content carefully and think about how it will translate into a digital format.
Help staff and constituents get comfortable using digital tools. Take advantage of readily available webinars and online training. Think about the elements of your in-person meetings, like breaks or Q&A, and consider how these can be adopted for an online setting. Also be mindful that it's more difficult to ask a question or bring up an opinion in a video setting, so more facilitation may be required.
Anticipate technological challenges. Does your community have consistent access to technology? If not, you’ll need to be resourceful. If they lack regular Wi-Fi access but have mobile devices, for example, a range extender might allow your community to access your Wi-Fi from outside your office.
Have a back-up plan. Computers freeze and internet connections can be spotty – so make sure you plan for the inevitable. Many online meeting platforms have toll-free dial-in numbers that allow participants to use a phone instead of their computer.
Don’t overlook security. Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so be mindful about how you’re connecting with people and the confidential information you’re sharing. If you provide counselling or consulting services, for example, you’ll need to be extra careful about protecting user privacy.
As your digital programming unfolds, take time to solicit feedback from your community so you can make necessary adjustments along the way.
4. Gather and Use Data for Better Insight
One of the biggest benefits of adopting nonprofit technology is that it lets you collect and use data to run your organization more successfully.
For example, you can ramp up your fundraising efforts by:
- Automatically personalizing donor communications
- Clearly identifying which social media campaigns donors are connecting with
- Leveraging predictive analytics to increase the level of donor support
You can also use real-time data to gain greater visibility into your cash flow and improve your organization’s financial health.
Bringing Your Leadership Team on Board
It’s clear that a digital approach is the key to staying competitive, extending your nonprofit’s reach, and improving your operational efficiency.
Before you can benefit from nonprofit technology, however, your board and leadership team should agree on its long-term importance and support its adoption across your organization with dedicated resources.
If time or expertise are in short supply, consider hiring an outside technology professional or cloud service provider to help implement new solutions and train personnel.
At Enkel, we’ve helped many nonprofit organizations transition to cloud-based tools and accounting software that streamline their accounting processes.