How to Make Smart Technology Choices for Your Nonprofit in Today’s Marketplace
Most nonprofit professionals recognize that their organization can’t grow and thrive without a solid technology foundation and strategy. A 2020 Nonprofit Trends Report by Salesforce shows that 85% of nonprofits agree that technology is key to their long-term success.
But here’s a catch: Today’s market includes an overwhelming number of vendors selling nonprofit technology. And the list of available options keeps growing and changing.
In a recent podcast for NonProfit PRO, I sat down with Watt Hamlett of Watt Hamlett Consulting to discuss this very topic. Like me, Watt has many years of technology experience in the nonprofit sector, and we’ve watched the nonprofit technology market evolve.
Something was very clear in our conversation: With the growing and changing options out there today, making smart technology choices for your organization and implementing them in a way that supports your short-term and long-term goals can seem challenging. Just looking at all of the choices might leave you wondering how you can even begin to choose the right technology for your nonprofit from the sea of options.
What to know about today’s nonprofit technology market
It can help to understand a few key points about today’s nonprofit technology market. Here are some important ideas to consider as you think about your organization’s technology choices:
1. The nonprofit technology landscape is changing fast.
As mentioned, there are more nonprofit technology choices now than ever before, and the options keep growing and shifting. For example:
- Salesforce and Microsoft now have multiple offerings for nonprofits. In the past two years alone, Salesforce.org developed six of their own products for nonprofits, including the Elevate online fundraising solution. Last year, Microsoft launched Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit, which includes functionality for fundraising, volunteer management, and program management.
- Mergers and acquisitions have heated up, leading to consolidation in the market. For example:
- Blackbaud purchased multiple companies over the past decade, including Convio and JustGiving. Today, you can find eight different categories of products on the company’s website.
- EveryAction – a fundraising software platform – acquired six companies between mid-2018 and mid-2021, including GiveGab and Salsa Labs. In August, 2021, EveryAction was merged with Social Solutions and CyberGrants after being purchased by a global investment firm. That same venture recently added Network for Good to the organization.
- About a year ago, Bloomerang, a vendor of cloud-based donor management and fundraising software, acquired Kindful, a nonprofit software platform.
- Mid-sized nonprofit technology companies continue to merge and change. In 2018, NeonCRM and Rallybound joined to form Neon One.The same year, OneCause acquired the Great Feats peer-to-peer fundraising product. Meanwhile other companies in this category that have been around for some time continue to evolve. For example, Virtuous CRM has increased the focus on integrations and expanding their nonprofit support footprint.
- New nonprofit software options are popping up every day. Some examples include Fundraise Up, Givebutter, and the Giving Block.
Use the how-to guide and interactive online tool in this free kit to help you find the right technology for your nonprofit: The Nonprofit Toolkit for Selecting Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Software
2. There are pros and cons to the changing nonprofit tech landscape.
On one hand, more choice in the marketplace is good for the consumer. Competition makes companies work harder to win business through stronger products and better pricing.
On the other hand, more choices make it harder to choose the right software products and use them effectively long term: Larger companies that have made multiple acquisitions might offer all of the products you need through one vendor, but those products don’t always integrate well, and you never know for sure if the company will continue to invest in all of the products they purchase. Newer, smaller software companies might be more innovative with their solutions because they can be focused and nimble in their software development, but they aren’t time-tested solutions, and they might end up being the next acquisition target.
3. Finding the right solution is not the same for every nonprofit.
Finding the right solution(s) is different for every nonprofit. It depends on multiple factors, including:
- Technology strategy – It’s important to start with your nonprofit’s overall technology strategy. For example, do you want an all-in-one solution, in which you purchase a single integrated solution from one vendor? Or, do you want a core customer relationship management (CRM) platform that you can add best-of-breed solutions and apps to as needed for various functionality?
- Functional needs – The solutions you choose must support your organization’s goals and help you accomplish what you need to do on a daily basis while supporting other factors, such as your organization’s current (and projected) number of constituent records and employees.
- Staff – Your technology solutions need to align with the level of technical expertise on your staff. This applies to the day-to-day users of the technology as well as your IT staff, who must maintain software updates and troubleshoot support issues.
- Budget/cost – The technology solutions you choose must fit within your budget. But keep in mind that the cost of the software doesn’t always end at the initial purchase. Be sure to consider the lifetime cost of software, including implementation fees, product upgrade costs, maintenance costs, and any costs from custom development you might need in the future.
The importance of a thoughtful nonprofit technology evaluation process
Considering all of these factors, it’s vital to use a thoughtful process to find the right software for your organization. Your choice of technology is just too important to your nonprofit’s long-term success to make a rushed decision or make up a strategy as you go along.
An effective nonprofit technology evaluation process includes:
- Creating a list of your organization’s requirements
- Identifying a list of possible software matches
- Lining up software vendor demos
You also need a way to research software options and see how they compare. This can be tough because, as mentioned, there are many options out there and the market is evolving rapidly. Plus, some products are so different in how they work that they do not lend themselves to apples-to-apples comparisons – you must understand the nuances in how they work to know if they’ll meet your needs.
Where do you go from here?
In today’s rapidly changing technology environment, it might seem like a tall order to choose the right combination of software for your nonprofit. But you don’t have to do it alone. The Cathexis Partners team is here to help.
We stay on top of what’s going on in the nonprofit technology space. We also work closely with nonprofits to help them use many of those technologies every day. So, we can give you the insights you need to make smarter tech decisions for your organization.
If you’re interested in learning more and talking through your organization’s needs, contact us at Cathexis Partners. We’re ready to help!