A Roadmap to Selecting Your Next Nonprofit Technology
As organizations look for ways to innovate and keep up with their e-commerce counterparts, it’s becoming a necessity to evaluate their current nonprofit technology stack and invest in new digital tools that better fit their needs. After all, technology enables nonprofits to grow and scale their online fundraising programs.
The entire implementation of new technology can take anywhere from a matter of weeks up to six months, depending on how fast your organization is able to do its research and commit to the new technology. So, whether you’re building your fundraising technology stack for the first time or your team has decided it’s time for a complete digital makeover, there are four steps to follow.
While technology plays an important role in the success of your nonprofit, it’s not the end-all-be-all to your biggest problems. Every single technology investment needs to be paired with a long-term strategy in order for it to be effective. Doing so will save you time, money, and unnecessary stress in the future by avoiding investing in a new, fancy technology before understanding how it’ll impact your organization.
So, before considering adding any new solution to your growing technology stack, your nonprofit should first evaluate its needs and goals on a strategic level.
Ask yourselves the following questions:
- What are your nonprofit’s long-term goals? Perhaps you have a legacy all-in-one fundraising and CRM system that has non-customizable and outdated features (e.g., ineffective email automation or cumbersome donation form). Therefore, you’re looking to build a technology stack that streamlines and modernizes fundraising and donor outreach to increase donor conversion and retention.
- What is your budget? Get your budget approved by the board before shopping for a new technology tool. This prevents any time and effort wasted for both your team and any potential technology partner’s team and ensures a smooth implementation process.
- Who can take on the responsibility of a new technology solution? One thing you don’t want to run into when adopting a new technology is having no one on your team who has the skillset or bandwidth to be the key person managing and training your team on the technology.
Once you’ve established what type(s) of tools you want to add to your technology stack, it’s time to do market research. When you get to this step, you can either do this yourself or hire a consultant to help guide you through the rest of the way.
Finding where to begin researching might feel a little intimidating, but the good news is that there are resources available, like Cabinet M, to help you narrow down your search. When you’ve selected three to five different options to choose from, it’s time to schedule pre-demo discovery meetings with vendors to discuss your requirements. If those meetings go well, the next step is to set up product demos with no more than three companies.
In these demo meetings, you’ll want to include people on your team who will be key stakeholders — those who will work with the tool often and will need to be the first to get trained on the product. Having a diverse representation of your team will ensure the right questions are being asked and any notable concerns are being addressed. It’s a good idea to hold a debrief meeting with your team after each vendor meeting to talk through the pros and cons.
When you’ve completed all of the initial demos with technology providers you were considering, it’s time to sit down with your team to evaluate each to narrow your search down to the top one. During this process, it might be helpful to learn some red flags to avoid:
- Multi-year contracts. Your organization’s technology needs will evolve over time, so it’s best to have a provider that gives you the option to go either month to month or one that has no contract at all.
- Product transparency and limitations. You don’t want to find out after investing in a product that the technology you’ve been so excited about has limitations on what you want it to do (e.g., customization options in your automation workflow). At this stage, your prospective technology provider should have given you a full understanding of what the product can do and what it can’t.
- No information on implementation. You should have a good idea of how the new technology will get implemented into your organization. If there have been no conversations around implementation in your meetings with your prospective technology provider, it’s probably not a good sign.
- “It’s on the roadmap.” Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and make your decision based on the product roadmap because there’s a possibility that the exciting feature or product might not see the light of day due to a number of factors (e.g., technical issues, funding changes, etc.).
Once you’ve narrowed it down to which technology solution you want to move forward with, you’ll need to schedule a few more meetings to gain a better understanding of the product, allowing your team to visualize how it’ll fit within your organization. Make sure you receive a full implementation roadmap so you know what to expect every step of the way.
Before you move on to the next step of actually implementing the technology into your organization, it’s a good idea to designate an implementation team. This implementation team will be in charge of fully understanding how to use the new technology and how it will be rolled out to the rest of your organization.
You’ve done all the preparation, and now it’s time for the real work to begin. This final stage is phased into two parts: the physical implementation of the technology into your system and the rollout and training of the technology to your team members.
Your implementation team should have a training program in place for the rest of your team prior to this stage. Once training begins, keep in mind that change will be difficult and you’ll encounter roadblocks along the way (e.g., system glitches, frustrated employees). However, you’ll overcome these challenges once everyone has had time to learn and adapt to the new technology.
Over time, you’ll see the fruit of your efforts through improved processes, more efficiency, and a high return on your investment.
Fundraise Up can connect with a growing number of CRMs like Salesforce, Blackbaud, HubSpot, and Dynamics 365. On top of that, we’re able to send more than 100+ fundraising and marketing datapoints in real time to the apps in your tech stack.
Find out more about how Fundraise Up can work with your current tech stack by scheduling some time with one of our team members.