What is the biggest challenge facing your nonprofit right now? If you’re like most nonprofits, it probably has to do with managing people.
In a recent study that we conducted of 200 nonprofits, organizations routinely cited volunteer and donor management issues. Of course, technology can help alleviate many of these burdens; yet, trusting technology continues to be a hurdle.
In this post, we'll offer a review of these challenges and recommend some helpful tips for deploying reliable systems.
Inefficiency Plagues Many Nonprofits
One word threads itself throughout many of the responses we received: inefficient. In a world where nonprofits often need to do more with less, there simply isn’t room for workflows that are anything other than dynamic and streamlined. However, only 20 percent of those surveyed classify their donor management processes as “highly efficient.” The remaining 80 percent cite issues such as time-consuming methods and isolated data sets.
Let’s dive into the biggest problems cited by the 80 percent of respondents – and offer some potential remedies for becoming more efficient.
Problem: Donor tracking and engagement methods are outdated and inefficient.
If you can relate, you’re not alone. In fact, almost 20 percent of our survey respondents pointed to this as their biggest pain point.
What’s the main culprit? Surprisingly, 30 percent of nonprofits are still relying on spreadsheets or other documents to manage donors. In turn, this method depends heavily on manual entry and data uploads. Respondents say they struggle to keep paperwork and donor information current and are bogged down by the labor required to keep this type of system running.
Solution: Implement online management applications.
Staff time is already spread thin, so the available hours shouldn’t be spent on the mundane details. Instead of churning away at data entry, wouldn’t it be better to review an analysis of those numbers and create an action plan?
Online volunteer and donation management systems can do the heavy lifting for you, automating much of the work your staff is currently doing. Automating these tasks will free up your staff to instead implement new volunteer programs or donation campaigns – and deliver results.
Problem: Which donors are volunteers? Or vice versa?
Another common issue for nonprofits is connecting volunteer and donor information. Over one-third of the respondents say this is the largest challenge when it comes to managing information between the two groups.
Of those using a constituent relationship management system (CRM), 25 percent have problems linking their application to other systems. One respondent says, “We would like to cross reference our volunteers and donors without breaking everything down into multiple (manually made) spreadsheets.” Another commiserates, adding, “We have multiple pieces of information in multiple places…. [It’s] hard to have transparency around contact information as it relates to volunteers [and] donors.”
Solution: Do your homework when choosing software to manage donors and volunteers.
While you are shopping for a CRM, donation and volunteer management software, ask the right questions. In addition to making sure these systems do all you need them to do individually, find out if they have been designed to integrate with your other applications. Will your volunteer management system of choice automatically update your CRM? You need to find out before you make a purchasing decision.
Problem: Donor engagement is inconsistent.
Fourteen percent of our study’s participants pointed to this as their biggest donor management headache. Remembering to follow up with donors also surfaced in this category. “I'm the only employee so I have tons of stuff to do all the time,” explains one of our respondents. “I thank people through a letter immediately but should be doing more follow-ups with donors.” Another adds that one of his challenges is “engaging an increased number of donors and helping them stay up-to-date with our organization without overwhelming them with information.”
Solution: Leverage automation tools to help you get ahead of the curve.
Again, donor management software will solve much of this problem. And, when it comes to staying connected with donors, consider a monthly or quarterly newsletter. A newsletter targeted at both volunteers and donors is the perfect setting for sharing your successes. Telling the story of how your organization impacts the community is one of the most effective ways to keep supporters engaged. It’s also an important piece in converting individuals into “super supporters” - those who donate both their time and dollars to your worthy cause.
Problem: Staff and supporters have difficulties navigating an online system.
Management solutions are supposed to make life easier, but 30 percent of survey respondents say they have challenges with both staff training and user-related issues.
Solution: Partner with vendors who offer great customer support and training.
It’s all about doing your homework again. Not only should the management software you select have the features you need, but it should also have a gentle learning curve for your staff, volunteers, and donors. Look for and select only software that guides both your staff and supporters through donations and event registration intuitively. Inquire about the level of technical support the company offers for those times when you do need assistance.
Our hope is that these suggestions inspire you to move forward, trusting that technology can transform the way your organization operates. Armed with the solutions offered above, you are now ready to break away from the 80 percent of nonprofits needing a boost in their donor and volunteer management processes. Get ready to join the growing number of “highly efficient” nonprofits.
To access the executive summary report referenced in this article, click here.
The preceding is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. Corbit has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on LinkedIn. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.