These days, there are a plethora of software tools available for nonprofits. From constituent relationship management (CRM) databases to marketing solutions and donor research platforms, nonprofits have their pick of advanced tools and resources. But how can you know if your organization is using the right tools and doing so effectively?
A nonprofit technology assessment can reveal where your organization stands in relation to your technology tools and usage. This check-up process reveals the successes and gaps in your tech strategy, ultimately allowing you to understand where there’s room for improvement.
Better technology usage can lead to a host of benefits for nonprofits, paving the way for more effective, intentional marketing and fundraising strategies. Use this guide to understand everything you need to know about nonprofit technology assessments, including:
- When Should You Conduct a Technology Assessment?
- Important Tech Tools to Prioritize
- Steps of a Technology Check-Up
- How a Tech Consultant Can Help
As DNL OmniMedia’s guide to nonprofit technology assessments states, this process determines “whether your nonprofit’s use of technology is lagging (behind the times), adapting (caught up, but not innovative), or maturing (ahead of the curve).” Your organization might fall anywhere along that continuum. A tech assessment can illuminate the next steps to take to ensure you’re using the best technology and strategies.
The reasons each organization decides to undergo a tech assessment are varied and unique, so let’s get started by exploring why your organization might want to take on this project.
When Should You Conduct a Technology Assessment?
While every nonprofit’s motivations and technology situation are unique, there are still several common triggers that encourage organizations to take a closer look at their technology.
It might be the right time to conduct a technology assessment if:
- You feel you could be seeing greater benefits from your current tech stack.
- You want to find areas to cut costs and simplify your technology investments.
- Your organization has reached a plateau with its fundraising or outreach efforts and wants to kickstart its progression again.
- You’ve seen similar organizations achieve greater results using their technology.
If you relate to any of these statements, you’re in a good position to jump into a technology assessment. Begin exploring the nonprofit resources available for carrying out this assessment. We’ll help you get a head start by exploring the top technology concerns and tools you should focus on throughout your assessment.
Important Tech Tools to Prioritize
As you conduct your nonprofit tech assessment, you’ll want to keep the common nonprofit tools that allow organizations to coordinate their daily operations, including fundraising, donor stewardship, and advocacy, in mind.
Here are the six most popular types of nonprofit software:
- Constituent relationship management (CRM) software: Your nonprofit CRM is the database you use to manage supporters and store information that allows you to develop donor relationships. Popular CRM solutions include Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT, Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack, EveryAction, and Bloomerang. Your CRM should be equipped with donor management features, customization options, integrations with other solutions, and automation features to quickly create reports and send follow-up communications.
- Virtual donation software: The ability to accept online donations is critical so that donors can give wherever and whenever they want. Your online donation platform should be able to accept a variety of payment options, be accessible on mobile devices, and allow you to customize your online donation page.
- Virtual events software: With the rise of remote operations and virtual communications, virtual events have become a central part of nonprofits’ outreach and fundraising efforts. Your virtual event platform should facilitate live streaming, fundraising, registration and ticketing, marketing, and technical support for your team.
- Matching gift software: Matching gifts are a highly impactful, but often overlooked source of nonprofit funding. In matching gift programs, corporations match donations their employees make to eligible nonprofits. Investing in a comprehensive matching gift database allows nonprofits to research which of their supporters are match-eligible to know who to reach out to with matching gift information.
- Accounting software: Nonprofits must keep track of their financial information to maintain transparency and accountability toward donors, grantors, the government, and the general public. Key accounting software features include the ability to track tax filing status, file documents with the IRS, and adjust user permissions so that confidential donor information is kept secure.
- Marketing software: As your nonprofit grows, you’ll need a centralized hub to keep track of your supporter communications and outreach campaign data. Marketing software such as an email platform and social media scheduling tool can provide the framework for organizing strategic communications. Ensure your marketing platforms can facilitate automated communications, supporter segmentation, and data analytics to measure the success of your campaigns.
All of these software tools should work together in harmony to support your organization’s fundraising and communication strategies. Recharity’s nonprofit fundraising strategy overview says it best: “Make technology work for you to improve your nonprofit’s fundraising activities.”
If one element of your tech stack doesn’t integrate seamlessly with the others, it could cause confusion or information gaps down the road. Luckily, a technology assessment can pinpoint any areas of discord so your organization can address and correct these issues.
Steps of a Technology Check-Up
Your organization has a few options for how you’d like to conduct your technology assessment:
- If your team has the proper resources and time, you can pursue an in-house assessment.
- If you’re looking for a third-party opinion and don’t have a tech expert on staff, you can partner with a nonprofit technology consultant to carry out the assessment.
For most organizations, partnering with a technology consultant is the more feasible option. A thorough nonprofit tech assessment can last anywhere from six to 12 weeks, and your staff members likely don’t have that kind of time on their hands. Plus, an impartial third party can provide the outside perspective your organization needs to fully diagnose its issues and understand which technology solutions and procedures are right for you.
If you choose to partner with a consultant, you’ll need to work with your team to complete the following steps before the assessment takes place:
- Determine your goals for the project. Are you looking to clean up your data, outline new tech procedures, or train your team on best practices? Is your aim to scale up your fundraising, eliminate tech barriers, or simply understand where you stand when it comes to technology? Entering the consultant relationship with defined goals in mind can help the consultant hit the ground running immediately.
- Create a budget for the project. Your budget should cover the cost of partnering with a technology consultant as well as funding for implementing any new software tools that the consultant recommends. You may also want to set aside funds for an ongoing consultant partnership.
- Choose a consultant. It’s strongly recommended that nonprofits working with powerful tools such as those created by Blackbaud and Salesforce should invest in the help of professionals to carry out their tech assessments. Tech consultants offer the background and experience necessary to pinpoint any gaps in your strategy and make recommendations for improvements.
We’ll dive into the specifics of what a tech consultant does throughout the assessment process in the next section. Once the consultant completes the assessment, your organization will want to take the following steps:
- Adjust your solutions and procedures according to the consultant’s advice. This might mean investing in new software tools or rewriting your technology procedures to align with best practices. For instance, you may decide to invest in a new software solution, such as a matching gift database. Or, you may need to build an integration between platforms or organize your supporter CRM.
- Train staff. Ensure your staff members are familiar with the new tools or processes by investing in staff training. Make sure the team members who will be using the new software tools the most have a thorough understanding of how they work and how they should be using them. Create a best-practices training guide for both long-time and new staff members to reference when they have questions.
By the end of the process, you should be left with a complete strategy for making the most of your technology tools. However, if you still need guidance for implementing your new tools and procedures, nonprofit consultants can offer ongoing training and support.
How a Tech Consultant Can Help
After you’ve partnered with a nonprofit tech consultant, they’ll go through a multistep process to learn about your nonprofit’s goals, assess your organization’s technology situation, and make recommendations based on their findings.
Here’s a general overview of what the technology consultant will actually do during the assessment:
- Sync with your organization. The consultant will ask questions to get to know your nonprofit and the issues you’re facing. They’ll ask about your mission, what led you to want to conduct an assessment, and your technology goals. This gives the consultant a starting point from which to build a new strategy.
- Analyze your tech stack and develop a new strategy. In this step, your tech consultant will lead your team through a series of surveys to understand your internal technology processes. Then, they’ll devise a strategy to meet your goals. The strategy will include the software tools you should focus on or invest in, new procedures you should implement, and recommendations for additional staff training.
- Document discoveries. The consultant will detail their findings in a series of reports or documents that tell your team exactly how you should proceed.
- Bring your team up to speed. Lastly, the consultant will sit down with your team to explain their recommendations and deliver any documentation your team needs. At this stage, they may also offer a quote for ongoing implementation services.
Beyond just technology, nonprofit consultants also offer services such as marketing guidance, website development, fundraising solutions, and more. You may discover room for growth in these areas after you’ve taken the time to optimize your technology use. If that’s the case, having a pre-existing relationship with a nonprofit consultant can be a big help.
If you haven’t conducted a technology check-up before, you might be missing out on innovative technology tools and strategies that can help you scale up your data management, marketing, or fundraising efforts. With the help of a nonprofit technology consultant, your organization can start taking advantage of the advanced tools and resources available to nonprofits.
This guest post was contributed by Carl Diesing of DNL OmniMedia.
Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with ongoing web development projects. DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations and assisted 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.