At the heart of it, your nonprofit’s software solutions are in many ways the backbone of your organization’s fundraising strategy. Your technology tools power your team’s operations and make it easier to manage your data, monitor your campaigns, and stay in touch with donors and volunteers.
Since you rely on nonprofit software for so much, it’s important to periodically take inventory of your technology strategy to make sure you’re getting as much from your solutions as you can.
Unfortunately, many nonprofits aren’t even aware they have a nonprofit technology strategy, much less if they’re maximizing it!
To help organizations like yours hone their tech strategy and develop smarter processes around their software, we’ve got five easy-to-implement tips for building and deploying a killer nonprofit software strategy:
- Develop a comprehensive nonprofit technology system
- Don’t be afraid of custom nonprofit solutions
- Leverage your CRM data to design tailored engagement strategies
- Invest in technology training that works for your team
- Seek expert guidance from a nonprofit IT consultant
When you know the ways that technology can enable your efforts, you’ll be well on your way to achieving (and surpassing) your fundraising goals. Stick with us to learn how these tips can empower your technology strategy!
1. Develop a comprehensive nonprofit technology system
It goes without saying that the first step to cultivating a strategic approach to your software is having the nonprofit technology solutions you need on hand and ready to use.
As you’re shopping for new software or reassessing your setup, make sure your system provides all the tools you need. Your nonprofit software system should allow you to access and manage all of your donor and campaign data in one location.
After all, none of your departments exists in a vacuum. Quite the contrary, all the different areas of your nonprofit coexist to contribute to your central mission. It’s important that you can view how these efforts interact in one holistic software solution.
To connect the dots between different solutions, you might need to take one (or more) of the following paths:
- Sizing up to a new CRM (customer relationship management). Many nonprofit databases are designed with complex organizations in mind and offer features to cover virtually any aspect of a nonprofit’s work. These tools can come pre-stocked with fundraising, marketing, and event management tools (among many more features).
- Integrating multiple platforms. If you need to add a feature to your current CRM or fundraising solution, a software integration might solve your problem. Just make sure you understand what the integration process will entail (e.g., if the solution has an open API, if you’ll need a third-party connector app, etc).
- Re-configuring your software. Many large-scale solutions offer a wide array of configuration and customization options. If you’ve got a high level of IT confidence, check out how your solution is set up now—you may be able to extend your functionality through custom configuration or backend development.
Relying on piecemeal solutions or disconnected platforms won’t serve you well in the short or long term. Instead, work with your team to determine the best way to tie all of your efforts together for a complete, comprehensive view.
2. Don’t be afraid of custom nonprofit solutions
Sometimes a nonprofit needs to think outside the box in order to get everything they need from their technology.
While you might be able to build a complete software solution through integration or configuration, your unique fundraising needs may warrant an even more tailored approach. If that’s the case, a custom solution might have the flexibility you need.
With the help of a nonprofit solution provider or technology consultant, you can design and deploy an innovative software solution that adds on to your existing platform in a way that’s (quite literally) made for you.
In order to create a custom-fitted system, follow these steps first:
- Know what you need from your custom development. You obviously can’t develop a solution if you don’t have a problem to solve. Determine what goals your new system would help you accomplish in a perfect world, and work from there to establish a set of requirements. (This will help guide your project later on.)
- Outline a budget and timeline for your development. You likely won’t be building this solution yourself, so plan out what resources you can devote to hiring a developer, how much time you can spend on implementation, and what return on investment you’d need to make the customization worth your while.
- Find the right development partner. Search for an experienced nonprofit solution provider with insight into the product family you’re working with. For example, check out Blackbaud’s technology partners if you’re working in the Blackbaud suite, or look for Salesforce consultants if you’re hoping to expand your Salesforce CRM.
Once you know what you want from your solution and have the right team in place to implement it, you’ll be able to turn abstract goals into tangible, achievable objectives.
Looking for examples of how a custom solution can impact a nonprofit’s strategy? Check out the custom products offered by DNL OmniMedia. As Blackbaud solution experts, we offer customizable apps and solutions for Luminate, TeamRaiser, and more!
3. Leverage your CRM data to design tailored engagement strategies
As the powerhouse of your nonprofit tech system, your CRM stores all your most important donor data, campaign records, and fundraising reports. The benefit of that data? You get to learn who your donors are and how you should be engaging with them.
By drawing on the data already stored in your CRM, you can develop donor cultivation and engagement strategies that reflect your supporters’ goals, personalities, and relationships with your nonprofit.
Luckily, a data-driven approach doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply look to your database to discover:
- Which outreach channels to use. Not only can you see general success rates (i.e., email open and click-through rates), but you can also create targeted segments based on particular sets of donors who prefer one channel to another.
- What types of events to plan. In addition to pulling reports to compare one event’s gross revenue to another, you can also dig deeper to see metrics like on-site donations, peer-to-peer participants, new donors acquired per event, and more.
- Where to engage online with supporters. Which social platforms dominate your donors’ online lives? Compare followers per channel, impressions per post, engagement (e.g., likes or shares), and more to choose which platform to invest your resources in.
Don’t forget: We’ve mostly discussed ways to gain insight into the donor engagement process using CRM data, but these tips can easily be applied to membership management, volunteer engagement, or even prospect development.
No matter your audience, when your technology empowers you to be more confident in your engagement strategies, your supporters are sure to take notice and be excited to participate in your efforts.
4. Invest in technology training for your team
For nonprofits, there are a lot of situations where a DIY approach is perfectly appropriate. Learning how to use your technology isn’t one of them.
There are some lightweight solutions that require very little training, but for the most part, in order to learn the ins and outs of a fundraising or donor management solution, you’ll need some guidance.
You’ll have plenty of options for how you train your staff on a new product, so make sure you consider:
- Your training style. Is your team full of hands-on learners who’d prefer a traditional classroom setting? Or do you enjoy the convenience of on-demand videos? Preferences will vary, but consider the different training styles offered by your vendor or consultant to make sure you’re receiving lessons that work for you.
- Your training timeline. If you need to be up and running fast, you’ll probably need a more intensive training process than some vendors can offer. On the other hand, it may be hard to get your team in the same room for a weekend packed full of info sessions. Check with your training provider to ensure you can fit the process into your schedule.
- Your training needs. Know which members of your team will be using the software and what they need to know in order to thrive on it. Your vendor may offer role-based paths for different nonprofit departments, or you may need to work one-on-one with a consultant to create a curriculum that addresses your exact needs at your own speed.
If you’re on the fence about investing in training, keep this in mind: when your team understands the nuances of your new product, you can do more than just use it—you can reach the next level of fundraising thanks to it.
When you only have a cursory understanding of your software, you’ll spend more time overcoming basic hurdles than you will maximizing your solution’s best features. On the other hand, with a keen understanding of what your tools can do, you can focus on putting those skills to use to raise money for your cause!
5. Seek expert guidance from a nonprofit IT consultant
Want a tip for making all of the above ideas even easier to execute? You’re in luck—a skilled nonprofit IT consultant can help your team tackle even the most complex technology obstacles.
The greatest perk of a nonprofit technology consultant is that their services can be completely adapted to meet your needs and help power your unique goals.
For example, you might bring on a consulting firm to help you implement a new piece of software, leverage their development knowledge to build a custom add-on, and retain their expertise as you use that tool to launch a new fundraising campaign. With the right team, the options are truly limitless!
Here are just a few examples of services nonprofit IT consultants may offer:
- Technical strategy consulting
- Custom solution development
- Web development and design
- Google Analytics and AdWords consulting
- Campaign and project management
- Data maintenance, administration, and migration management
And so much more!
Before you seek out your nonprofit consultant, all you need is a working understanding of what your goals are as an organization and what resources you have to achieve them. Then, search for a consulting team with experience leading projects similar to yours for organizations who have similar audiences or capacities as your own.
If you’re looking to launch your technology project, check out Double the Donation’s favorite nonprofit IT consultants to see a sampling of what these top firms offer. TeamDNL tops their list!
There’s no denying that nonprofit technology can be an overwhelming topic. With so much to gain from your software solutions, there’s a lot of pressure to get your strategy right.
Keep our tips in mind as you map out your approach to tech-savvy fundraising, and you’ll be on your way to a pitch-perfect strategy. Good luck!
Carl Diesing co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As managing director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Charlie and Evelyn.