Leveraging digital platforms to enhance nonprofit efforts
INSIGHT ARTICLE |
Leveraging digital platforms to enhance nonprofit efforts
Technology is often a differentiator for successful nonprofits, increasing efficiency and productivity across all areas of the organization. Effective use of digital platforms can help nonprofit organizations in a number of ways, from increasing insight into constituent communications to enhancing fundraising efforts. Taking the time to implement the right solutions that align with your needs can result in significant process improvements and strengthen your efforts toward accomplishing your mission.
Several factors can signal the need for enhanced digital solutions within your organization. For example, you may be growing or downsizing, new leadership may be introduced, systems may be antiquated or not integrated, or you may have difficulty demonstrating value for money or defining performance measurements. While almost all organizations leverage digital platforms to a certain extent, you may not realize that solutions are available to help overcome these and many other challenges, no matter what your ultimate mission is.
Potential digital solutions for key operational areas
Online donations, crowdfunding and friendraising: A growing number of solutions are changing how you can raise funds, presenting efficient, easily sharable platforms to reach new audiences and quickly communicate your goals and needs. By accepting donations online, you allow donors to support your organization when it is convenient for them and you also reduce the cost of processing transactions.
Leverging friendraising, social media and crowd-funding platforms for walk-a-thons, marathons and new program initiatives is an effective way to engage constituents and raise money at low cost. Potential solutions include Network for Good, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, USEED, FirstGiving and Convio.
Fundraising, customer relationship management (CRM) and association and membership management: Several digital platforms provide enhanced capabilities to monitor member activities and donation information, helping to shape better communications strategies and campaigns, and steward donor relationships. Integration of offline and online fundraising should be considered while developing your digital strategy. Fundraising platforms today provide direct integration of donor records with their Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Common solutions include Blackbaud, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, iMIS and netFORUM.
Email marketing: Email is one of the most effective forms of communication with your constituents, and many modern digital platforms can help your organization create more effective campaigns. Such systems measure open rates, click through rates and other actions to allow marketers to better structure and target future communications. Prevalent platforms include MailChimp, Eloqua, Lyris, HubSpot and Constant Contact.
Finance and accounting: Implementing digital platforms for your finance and accounting functions can reduce reliance on manual processes, increase the accuracy of your finances and strengthen financial planning efforts. The trend towards the cloud is very evident in accounting systems. Common solutions for nonprofits include Microsoft Dynamics, Abila, Unit4, Intacct and NetSuite.
Procurement, accounts payable automation, and time and expense management: Several emerging technology solutions can help your organization track outgoing expenses and better manage the goods and services that your organization requires to be successful. These solutions are typically cloud-based and some support online and offline processing, making them well suited for international NGOs. Popular digital solutions for nonprofit organizations include Concur, Paramount Technologies, AvidXchange and ReQlogic.
Budgeting, corporate performance management (CPM), financial close: Implementing new technology can introduce more timely financial information through streamlined budgeting and close processes while improving decision-making and increasing accountability. CPM systems allow organizations to combine data from disparate systems into meaningful information. A sample of potential solutions includes Prophix, Adaptive Planning, Budget Maestro and Blackline Systems.
Social media: An effective social media strategy is imperative for successful nonprofit organizations, enabling quick communications with constituents and instant feedback on current and potential campaigns and mission efforts. Common platforms for nonprofit organizations include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Collaboration and communication: Digital solutions can help your organization maintain more frequent communication, and efficiently store, share and access critical information through document repositories and workflows. In today’s digital society, video has become a common communication medium. Leading solutions for nonprofits include Microsoft SharePoint and Cisco WebEx.
Business intelligence (BI): An effective BI strategy can help manage the mountains of data that flow through your organization, and increase reporting and analytics to make more effective decisions. Potential solutions for nonprofits include Microsoft Business Intelligence, BI360 and QlikView.
The above are representative digital platforms and are not meant as an endorsement of any particular solution. Your organization must assess its needs and select the solutions that best fit your business requirements and selection criteria.
Note: For more information on technology solutions that can benefit nonprofit organizations, read our recent white paper, The third platform: increasing insight and efficiency for nonprofits.
Determining your digital needs
A scorecard approach is an effective practice to determine where your organization stands with digital platforms, and whether you can benefit from enhanced technology (see image below). Rate the key operational areas above on a scale from low readiness to high readiness to determine the quality of your processes. Lower-rated areas are more reactive and challenging, while high-rated areas are more proactive with optimized costs and quality.
After developing the scorecard and gaining a greater understanding of your needs, you should develop a road map for implementing enhanced business applications. The road map plans out a timeline for integrating digital platforms, categorizing them by level of need and detailing estimated costs.
An external advisor may be an asset in developing the scorecard and road map, as an advisor will have more independence when assessing existing processes and insight to practices at peer organizations.
Emerging digital platforms can increase your efficiency, productivity and effectiveness across every key area of your organization. However, you must understand where you may currently be deficient and which specific platforms can bring the most immediate as well as long-term benefits. Developing the right digital strategy can be truly transformational, greatly enhancing your internal and external processes, and allowing you to more effectively accomplish your mission.