Guest post by Jenna Puckett.
Technology can help your organization achieve its mission by better enabling your staff to perform their job functions and complete important projects. But selecting and implementing the right software for your nonprofit is a difficult process, especially now that there are hundreds of vendors in the market.
Because nonprofit companies have a unique set of needs, software that targets these types of organizations— such as accounting, grant management, or volunteer management — is becoming more popular. However, many nonprofit organizations can also benefit from technology that falls outside this niche.
Solutions that are tailored to the nonprofit industry are valuable in their own right, but they aren’t the only type of systems that provide significant value. In fact, you may even be looking for help with a challenge that businesses of all types face— not just nonprofits.
To find the right system, you need to first explore your options. One recent study found that 60 percent of nonprofits and charities cite lack of knowledge as the single greatest barrier to new technology adoption. If you’re having trouble finding the right software, it might be time to expand your search outside the small realm of nonprofit solutions.
Let’s take a look at three types of business software that can help your organization more effectively fulfill its mission.
Customer Relationship Management Software
Securing repeat donations is a huge challenge— most organizations only retain 27.3 percent of their first-time donors. Because of this, nonprofits of all size should have a database system to help manage their donor interactions.
Software that helps nonprofits manage their donor database is usually branded as “donor management” software, and it can be a great help for maintaining connections, as well as forming new ones by using the information you’ve collected.
If you’ve found the choices for donor management vendors too limited, you might looking at commercial CRM software for a wider selection.
Historically speaking, comparing CRMs with donor management has been considered a fruitless “apples to oranges” situation. However, many CRM vendors now offer flexible solutions with features that support nonprofit endeavors. For example, Salesforce, a leading CRM vendor, has a nonprofit edition that is free for up to 10 users, as well as discounted for additional licenses.
Project Management Software
As the number of moving parts and stakeholders increase, managing projects becomes increasingly complex. To make things even more difficult, many nonprofits don’t retain a dedicated project manager. This can make finishing projects on time and within budget seem impossible.
If your nonprofit needs help planning projects, tracking and managing progress, and collaborating with others then consider using a project management tool. Though many people assume that only dedicated project managers use this kind of technology, the truth is that nearly any manager can benefit from it.
These solutions can be as simple (or complex) as you need. For example, some will have all of the features below, while others will excel at just a few:
- event scheduling and forecasting
- resource allocation
- time tracking and task management
- budgeting and expense tracking
- analysis and reports
- document sharing
- internal messaging
When choosing a solution, you may discover that you don’t need every functionality listed above. In order to find the right option for your nonprofit, make sure to focus on the features that will make your projects easier to manage, rather than choosing an elaborate system that while add unnecessary complexity.
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation (MA) provides organizations with a way to more effectively market and automate communications, like donor outreach. Organizations of all kinds can be hesitant to invest in MA software due to budget constraints or uncertainty about its ROI. However, this technology has huge potential to save companies money – and help them better engage their supporters.
The importance of marketing automation software is only accentuated when it comes to nonprofits, as automated marketing can save countless hours of work while simultaneously connecting your organization to supporters in unique ways, which results in better relationships and a steadier stream of donations. There are a lot of misconceptions about MA software, so be sure to thoroughly compare different marketing automation vendors before making a purchase. Many offer free trials, which can be a great way to test out the email and social features on a small sample of your donor database.
There’s no doubt that nonprofits face unique challenges. But the right technology can alleviate some budget-imposed restraints and help make up for a lack of manpower. It’s then possible to focus your efforts on direct services or strategic initiatives.
Despite the hundreds of solutions available, you don’t have to be overwhelmed. Simply expanding your knowledge of what’s available will help you pinpoint what you’re looking for. In the end, the software you use should be the one that helps your nonprofit achieve your mission and goals, regardless of rather it’s branded for charitable organizations or not.