6 Steps for Getting Started with a Technology Plan for Your Nonprofit
When you think about the software technology that supports your nonprofit, it’s important to have a vision for how it all fits together to help your organization succeed. But, how do you approach your technology strategy? Do you have a five-year plan or some other strategic approach? How do you stay on top of the latest products as technology rapidly evolves? How do you decide when it’s time to move on from old technology or add new platforms and applications?
These questions might seem overwhelming. They might even seem so challenging that you’re tempted to push them aside to think about another day.
But the truth is that creating and executing on a technology strategy is achievable and necessary for every nonprofit.
Here are six steps to get you started:
1. Start with a list.
As with most projects, starting with a list can help organize your thoughts and plans for your technology strategy. Write down all of the technology your organization uses, including:
- Software your staff uses for daily tasks – such as collaboration tools (email, calendar, document sharing) and finance and operations tools (accounting, inventory)
- Software your staff uses to support your overall mission – such as website, CRM/donor database, email marketing, fundraising, event management, and volunteer software
2. Document your technology update schedule.
For each item on your technology list, add renewal dates for any contracts and (if applicable) the date the technology was purchased and your anticipated replacement/upgrade date. This documentation provides you with a simple schedule for making planned updates to your technology.
3. Align your technology budget.
Make sure your technology budget includes funds to allow for your software technology update plan. This should include funds for routine fees and upgrades as well as larger technology projects. For example:
- The average lifespan of a website is three years. Be sure to include budget for a website refresh or redesign (depending on your specific needs) on a regular schedule.
- Software vendors often upgrade their products on a regular basis, which might require you to adjust any integrations with other software systems or tweak any customizations you might have made to the product. Be sure to budget for any third-party assistance you might need to make these modifications.
- As your organization grows and evolves, your software, such as your CRM/donor database or fundraising software might not keep up, or you might need new software, such as peer-to-peer fundraising software, to support new initiatives. Be sure to look ahead and budget for the technology you’ll need to power your organization’s plans over the next few years.
4. Designate a tech team.
Your nonprofit might be large enough to have an entire IT team that oversees technology for your organization. But even if your nonprofit is small, you should have a team (maybe it’s just you) that reviews your technology plan regularly to consider the next one to three years of technology needs, including anticipated growth plans for your organization.
5. Get feedback.
As part of the regular technology review process, talk to your staff members and a few constituents to find out what’s working and what’s not. For example, get their feedback on things like:
- For staff members
- What software do they use most each day?
- Do they have any challenges with the software as they do their daily work?
- Are there any things they’d like to accomplish that the current software does not allow them to do?
- For constituents
- Can they easily find the information they need on your website?
- How easy/not easy do they find it to do things like make a donation online, update their donor information, or sign up for an event?
- What would make interacting with your organization easier for them?
6. Include training.
Training is a critically important part of any technology plan. If your staff is not comfortable using your organization’s technology, they are less likely to adopt it and use it properly. That can lead to issues such as inefficient processes, incorrect data inputs, and inaccurate reports.
Be sure to set aside time to train new staff members, train all staff members on new technology, and document your technology processes. This will help to ensure that all staff members are using your organization’s technology optimally.
Your nonprofit’s software technology plan won’t necessarily look like everyone else’s. It depends heavily on your overall strategy and your budget. But no matter how large or small your organization might be, having a technology plan in place will help your organization survive and thrive for years to come.
The tips in this article are just the beginning. If you’d like help assessing your nonprofit’s current technology, finding the right technology to meet your nonprofit’s needs, and implementing the solutions you choose, Cathexis Partners is ready to help. Contact us today to get started.