Long gone are the days when nonprofits operated strictly from a binder with spreadsheets and mail-in donations. The advancement of technology has helped propel nonprofits forward and grow faster than ever.
Nowadays, technology is at the heart of many nonprofit operations. When used correctly, it can help nonprofits streamline internal operations for data collection, enhance fundraising campaigns, market opportunities for support, and track other important metrics and information.
However, it seems as if technology changes more and more each year and it’s hard for nonprofits to keep up!
That’s why nonprofits like yours need annual goals to help you stay up-to-date with your own technology.
When you have a concrete system to analyze and improve your technological strategy each year, your nonprofit will have more effective strategies, better security measures, and a more streamlined system of data collection and reporting.
The digital goals your nonprofit should accomplish in the coming year include:
1. Perform a technology audit.
2. Explore the functionality of your software.
3. Allocate for a software budget.
4. Fill in software gaps.
5. Optimize your online presence.
6. Expand your online presence.
7. Pay attention to emerging trends.
8. Prepare for the future.
An effective digital strategy is one that helps your nonprofit accomplish more, while taking into consideration the needs and desires of your nonprofit's constituents. This will help your nonprofit develop now and into the future.
1. Perform a technology audit
Auditing your current software systems allows your nonprofit to dive into the current state of your organization and understand the role software plays in the everyday processes of your organization.
It can also help you spot any instances or risks of fraud as you analyze the number of times money switches hands throughout its transfer through your elaborate technology ecosystem.
To perform this audit, gather a list of all the software you currently use, then ask yourself questions such as:
What tech solutions seem to be functioning as planned?
Where are there gaps in our strategy that could be filled with tech?
Are there any specific pain points in our current tech strategy?
Could we stand to lose, combine, or replace any of the software?
What needs improvement? And, what would those improvements entail?
In particular, make sure your core solutions are functioning properly. These include your CRM software and accounting software. Each of these solutions houses vital data for your nonprofit and each is looped into the majority of your nonprofit’s strategies.
2. Explore the functionality of your software
During your tech audit, it’s a good time to explore the full functionality of your nonprofit software. Nonprofits that don’t take the time to do this tend to make one of two mistakes:
They don’t take advantage of the full functionality of their current solutions.
They overpay by purchasing multiple solutions when a single solution could provide all the functionality they need.
Don’t make either of these mistakes!
During your tech audit, review the full functionality of your different software solutions. You may uncover some hidden features that you didn’t realize were available! You can also hire a nonprofit technology consultant to help your nonprofit perfect your strategy and take advantage of the full functionality of your software.
If you find that a lot of your technology only has single functionality, you may look for a more robust solution to replace those individual software solutions. For instance, look for an accounting solution that handles budgeting, salary payments, and reporting analytics instead of a separate solution for each function.
If you decide some of your nonprofit’s software could be replaced with a more robust solution, be sure to use comparison guides to analyze the best software solutions. Check out this nonprofit accounting software comparison by Community Brands as an example.
3. Allocate for a software budget
After your audit is complete, you’ll likely have some ideal next steps to take so you can get the most from your technology. However, these steps are not likely to be free. You’ll need to allocate a portion of your budget to accomplish your technology goals.
There are some important steps to establishing your nonprofit’s software budget:
Step 1: Write out your ideal goals. From there, you can use the data from your past software purchases and budgets to estimate the cost for your nonprofit to reach those goals.
Step 2: Prioritize the goals for your nonprofit. Pick out which of your tech goals will have the greatest impact on your nonprofit and prioritize them first. Then, you can create a calendar with a timeline by which you want to reach each goal.
Step 3: Choose which fund to allocate the software money from according to available funds in your nonprofit’s ledger. These funds will likely come from your unrestricted funds. You can do this directly from your accounting solution if you have access to a fund accounting specific software solution.
Step 4: Stick to your budget and keep records for the future of the ROI from your new software purchases, scaling up/down, and other investments.
Strategizing for your nonprofit software requires some funding, especially if you decide to make drastic changes after your technology audit. Don’t overspend! Keep yourself on track with a specific, goal-driven budget.
4. Fill in software gaps.
After you’ve specified your software budget, you can start reaching your goals by filling in the gaps in your technology strategy.
Let’s take, for example, a growing nonprofit. Growing nonprofits often run into the problem of outgrowing their originally chosen software solutions rather quickly. This means they’ll end up with gaps in their software strategy that need to be filled.
A growing nonprofit has a couple of different opportunities to expand its software systems to accommodate growth. The growing nonprofit can either:
Scale up an existing solution. If your software offers an option to scale up in price and functionality, your nonprofit may choose to invest in the next tier of software functionality. This eliminates the learning curve associated with purchasing a new solution, but also makes it more difficult to invest in a new solution in the future if you outgrow this one again.
Invest in new software. Investing in a new software solution requires extensive research, implementation costs, and additional training. However, all of these short-term costs may be worth it in the long run if your nonprofit gains access to a solution that will fit all of your needs and prepare you for the long-term future.
The better option for your nonprofit changes on a case-by-case basis. Scaling up is a great investment if the higher tiers offer the functionality you need and you’re happy with the software. If you’re unhappy with it or the upper tiers don’t offer the necessary functionality, you may consider instead starting to conduct research to find a new solution.
Start your research with referral guides like this one, ask other nonprofits about their solutions, and inquire about providers independently from their websites. From there, you’ll be ready to really dive deep into your software research.
5. Optimize your online presence.
Once you’ve completed your software audit and have access to all your important digital tools, your nonprofit should switch focus to your digital presence.
This presence is the outward display your nonprofit shares with supporters about your mission, services, and opportunities. You should be sure your nonprofit:
Has a comprehensive website design that’s appealing to supporters
Offers plenty of opportunities for supporters and community members to get involved
Actively posts to your social media accounts
Not only do you need to ensure your online presence has all of the right components, but you also need to be sure it will be found by supporters searching on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or other search engines.
Check out the Americaneagle.com guide to optimizing your online content for search engines to learn more about how you can ensure your site is found by supporters.
6. Expand your online presence.
Generally, a nonprofit’s online presence stems from its home website. Optimizing that site is a great annual goal. However, once you’ve done that, you should start considering ways to expand your digital presence past your website to accomplish more and broaden your target audience.
The most common way to expand your online presence is by leveraging social media. Make your presence known on those platforms, but ensure you can keep up with regular posting on each as to not let the platform go to waste. Budget the time and money you need to assign staff to your social media accounts and online digital presence.
Your ultimate goal when expanding your online network is to create an omnichannel experience for your supporters online. This means they can seamlessly transfer between your online platforms.
Even if you’re already present on all of your desired platforms, focus on connecting those platforms to encourage supporters to transfer from one to another without breaking concentration.
7. Pay attention to emerging trends
Your nonprofit’s digital presence should never remain stagnant. Online trends emerge and change each year. Pay attention to these trends to keep your online presence up-to-date.
For example, the predicted online marketing trends for 2019 include:
Increased video traffic
Further integrations of marketing channels
More personalized messaging
Take these emerging trends and others into consideration as you format your marketing, fundraising, and online strategies.
Plan ahead for the additional expense of incorporating new updates to your strategy. Allocate some of your budget for analyzing and incorporating these trends annually.
8. Prepare for the future
As we mentioned in the last section, your digital presence is ever-changing. This means this isn’t the first year you’ll set smart digital goals. Create a technology plan to prepare for future years of technology planning.
Your technology plan should help your nonprofit:
Allocate a technology budget.
Create a strategy to use your existing technology in smarter ways.
Write a roadmap to schedule future upgrades and purchases.
Make a contingency plan for emergencies or tech failures.
Once your digital plan is in place, you’ll be ready to tackle whatever lies ahead! Plus, after your first plan is created, it’ll be easier to plan for the future.
Nonprofit technology is an important asset for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. When you have a plan to reach your goals, you can maximize the potential of your tech solutions.
About the Author: Pia Simeoni
Pia Simeoni is Director of Marketing for Nonprofit Solutions at Community Brands. You can find Pia on LinkedIn and Twitter.Contact Us Today!