Nonprofits have more options than ever when it comes to building their marketing technology stack—from email marketing services to relationship-mapping products to donor management software. And while choice is a good thing, the sheer number of new applications can be overwhelming, no matter how technologically sophisticated your organization is. That makes it all the more difficult to implement the right product or service for your business needs, without blowing your budget. Here are four common traps to avoid as you consider investing in new technology.
1. Improving for improvement's sake
Sure, we all love to get our hands on the shiniest new toys, but if your org already uses a CRM or marketing application, take a beat before shelling out for the latest and greatest. Talk to users on your team—are they getting what they need, when they need it? Every new piece of tech should be tied to a specific strategic goal at your organization. Unless this product will help you fulfill a defined business or fundraising need much faster or more efficiently, you may be able to go without it.
No two organizations are alike, and your needs might require a robust, expensive enterprise CRM or marketing platform. Or, they might not. It's tempting to take the upsell when it comes to new tech (see "shininess" above), but the fact is, there are plenty of a la carte options available to nonprofits that already have an established infrastructure. These include out-of-the-box, single-purpose applications as well as tools that can be integrated into your current platform via an API. The point is, you may not need to go soup-to-nuts, and that can save your organization precious resources.
3. Ignoring the human component
Before you make any investment in new tech, ask yourself, who will train on it and train others on it? Who has the capacity to deploy it efficiently and effectively and, if necessary, troubleshoot it? For orgs with small or nonexistent IT departments, does the vendor provide inexpensive support for bugs and user errors? Piling your tech stack high with new software is worthless if you don't have the human resources available to put it to use.
4. Thinking short-term
The lifespan of your average piece of tech has shrunken to fruitfly proportions. Some estimate it at six months. Avoid buying new tech just to watch it go functionally extinct within a year or two. Shop around for products with long shelf lives or easy upgrade options.
Technology is a vital component to the successful operation of an organization, but only if it aligns with a specific business goal and is scalable. Otherwise, your org is left with a burdensome tool that eats up resources with little ROI. By checking yourself against the scenarios above prior to purchase, you'll be more likely to find the right application for your particular organization.
The preceding is a guest post by Josh Mait, Chief Marketing Officer at Relationship Science LLC (RelSci), the leading relationship mapping company. His passion is building creatively-inspired, strategically-driven, successful organizations. Sign up for their weekly nonprofit newsletter, the RelSci 5.