I admit I am new to the technology world of nonprofits, having come from enterprise solutions in the manufacturing and supply chain world for multi-billion-dollar organizations. Though nonprofit organizations tend to be much smaller, that does not seem to make their needs for certain technologies any different. The overall data model for back-office and front-office engagement and operations is unique in many ways, which makes the deployment of similar technologies that much more interesting to me.
One of the primary unique differences lies with their financial management requirements. Nonprofit organizations need very strong fund accounting and grant management support. Their HR capabilities need to include employee, payroll, and management of volunteers and members in certain associations. The donor management and engagement model for events and communication are very different than what one would expect from a normal CRM and marketing technology offering.
At the same time, the world is recovering (or not, depending on location) from the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, the landscape for essentially everything has been forever changed. The nonprofit industry has seen impacts in staffing levels, donor contributions, and event management to name a few. Federal programs, regional programs, and donor contributions have placed new policies and procedures on obtaining and reporting on new funding initiatives.
I dislike using a cliché term these days called “digital transformation,” but it is an accurate depiction of what we’ve seen occur in the last year. Nonprofit organizations are digitally transforming themselves to survive at faster rates than ever before. Donations have gone more mobile to grow the funds, collaboration, digital communities, and virtual events have become the norm. Cloud solutions are becoming the standard for back-office financial management operations and remote staff.
Let us explore some of these more in-depth.
Fundraising and donations for nonprofits are critical success factors. The ease and ability to accept payments during the pandemic from mobile devices and payment systems such as Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Zelle, now an everyday occurrence and growing rapidly. In 2020, mobile donations delivered 28% of all donations made to NPOs.
Mobile collaborative and social applications are making it easier for nonprofits to communicate and get feedback on topics, events, internal issues, scheduling, and hosting events. This new mobile engagement model has risen for communicating marketing efforts to a specific community and can quickly access what is working or not based on instant feedback on campaign programs.
Finally, many of the newer platforms for back-office financial management and decision support have been extended to support mobile. HR and payroll, along with billing and payments, have all gone mobile, which brings me to the need for cloud-based solutions.
Rise in Cloud Adoption
Remote work is now a new norm across all industries, and nonprofit organizations are no different. According to Forbes, 69% of NPOs are considering a shift to long-term remote work. This new work-life balance truly becomes cost-effective by adopting the cloud and comes with the financial advantages of moving from a traditional capital expenditure to an operating expense. Additionally, why pay for an IT infrastructure if it is not part of your core business? It is only removing critical funds that could be used to further the mission of the organization.
Though we all have a level of “Zoomitis,” the ability to collaborate, communicate, chat, share, and store relevant content from the cloud with operational applications has had a major contribution to how we communicate in this remote world both internally and externally. Tools such as Google Suite and Microsoft Teams with integration to front and back-office applications are only truly possible with cloud-based technologies.
Personalized Outreach Through AI and IoT
Can we use a traditional CRM and financial management system that runs on-premise these days? Sure, but why? The world has gone digital and that means we are all overloaded with messages of all types. Short brief messages all day long. Attention spans are growing shorter. We need personalized and relevant content to catch our eyes and ears.
Nonprofits are capitalizing on new technologies inherent in these new platforms for targeting messaging with personalized content using artificial intelligence (AI) to engage the possible donors, obtain grants, and communicate with constituents. Suites from Sage, Microsoft Business Central, Salesforce, and others are starting to embed AI to target and deliver personalized and tailor-made messages across multiple channels of email, text, social, with immediate or real-time feedback to their prospective donors. Bottom Line: maximum output at a minimal cost.
I may be new to the industry, but I quickly recognize technology needs. I value that nonprofit organizations are digitally transforming for the benefit of all. They pursue their mission statements of improving education, health services, community housing services, and others with an incredible passion that we at JMT Consulting have exclusively served for 30 years with our 2,000 strong family of clients.