Using Technology to Adapt to Modern Fundraising Challenges

This article was originally posted on the NonProfit PRO Nonprofit Tech Matters blog.

Fundraising today can seem more challenging than ever. There are multiple ways to communicate with constituents – from text and social media to email and direct mail. People expect more personalized communications. And economic uncertainty might make you question if people will be giving as much in the coming year.

For your fundraising efforts to continue to be effective, your communications must not only reach the right people but also stand out from the vast number of communications people already receive.

The good news is that there is technology out there that can support your fundraising efforts in today’s challenging fundraising environment. Here are three tips to help you find and use the right technology to meet your nonprofit’s fundraising needs and in the future:

  1. Consider your technology needs.
    Of course, you can’t find the right technology for your fundraising needs if you don’t know what you need in the first place. Think about what your organization is trying to accomplish, and then consider what technology you need to reach donors through their preferred channels, with personalized messages, in an efficient way.
    Some technology to consider for supporting modern fundraising efforts:
    • Customer relationship management software (CRM) – Jumping between systems and spreadsheets when you’re trying to pull lists and send targeted communications is inefficient (and often inaccurate!). A robust CRM system will help you collect, store, and use detailed information about your donors and other supporters in your fundraising campaigns.
    • Multi-channel engagement tools – These tools might be included in the CRM system or might be separate tools that integrate with the CRM system. Either way, they help you to use the data you’ve collected to target constituents with personalized messages in their preferred communications channels, ultimately improving response to your fundraising campaigns.
    • Automation tools – These tools can help your development team save valuable time by automating communications to your constituents. These communications can still be targeted, as they can use data from the CRM system to send unique messages for different audiences based on each recipient’s specific interests and interactions with your organization.
  2. Make sure you’re using the technology you already have.
    Once you’ve assessed your technology needs, and before you start shopping for new software for your nonprofit, consider if you could be making better use of the software you already have.
    Here at Cathexis Partners, we often see that nonprofits aren’t fully using their technology. Maybe they don’t know that the software can do more. Or if they do, they might be afraid to “play” with the software to see what it can do. Or they might not feel as if they have the time to poke around in it to learn more.
    If any of this sounds familiar, consider these approaches:
    • Invest in technology training. Taking time to learn more about the software your nonprofit has already invested in can be well worth the effort and any dollars spent. You’ll be making better use of your organization’s resources, which in turn can help you drive more funds for your mission. As bonus, investing in technology training can have a positive impact on staff turnover and employee satisfaction.
    • Start trying new things. Have you ever been working in your software and thought, “I wonder what this button does.”? Or maybe you’ve heard that your software can do something that you’ve never tried. You’re much more likely to get greater results from your fundraising campaigns if you’re using your technology to the fullest. And one of the best ways to do that is to experiment: Try new things in your software, test them, and learn from them so that you can continue to improve your fundraising approaches.
    • Set up an innovation fund. You might be concerned that technology training, testing new approaches, or even expanding your technology with new tools isn’t the best use of your organization’s dollars. If so, consider asking your board to help you set up an “innovation fund”. These dollars can be earmarked for you to gain the training you need to try new things with your technology or acquire new tools to expand the use of your current technology.
  3. Make the case for using technology better.
    You might find it challenging to get your organization’s leadership and board of directors on board with a new technology purchase or taking the time to experiment with the technology you have. The answer: Use data to back up your proposal.
    For example, survey your donors and constituents to uncover their communications preferences. Use the responses (as well as any data you already have about your constituents) to demonstrate the need for tools that enable more personalized and multi-channel communications.
    Another example: Document a highly manual communications process that you’re using, and estimate how much time you could save if you were to automate those communications.

As nonprofit fundraising and marketing become more complex, having the right technology in place to support your efforts is vital to your success.  

Learn more
I recently sat down with Crystal Schanette from So Others Might Eat (SOME) and Kimberly O’Donnell from Bonterra to talk about how technology can help nonprofit fundraisers adapt to the changing donor landscape. We also talked about how technology has helped SOME send the right messages to the right donors at the right time to ultimately fund their mission. You can listen to our conversation in the NonProfit PRO podcast, Discover Ways to Become a More Efficient Fundraiser.

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