Nonprofits Need a Technology Strategy: Here’s How to Build Yours

March 9, 2016
14 minutes

It’s no secret that technology has completely changed how work is done in the nonprofit sector. Whether you’re someone who thrills at the latest iPhone update or you’re a technophobe who can’t wait to power off, you’ll need to keep an eye on the latest and greatest technology if you want to grow your organization in this rapidly changing world.  

Since tech is so important these days, it stands to reason that you need a solid technology strategy. You can’t just buy a bunch of software and be good to go. Instead, you need to consider everything tech-related as your toolkit to accomplish and support your overall strategy—so you need to do some planning.

What exactly is a technology strategy plan?

The goal of a technology strategy is to ensure, as best you can, that your technology ecosystem is as centralized and as integrated as possible—within your budget. Your technology plan will also keep your tech stack operating efficiently and sustainably. If you understand what’s in your organization and whether it’s being utilized 100%, then you’ll prevent redundancy costs down the road and will be aware of any gaps right away.

Why do you need a technology strategy?

So glad you asked! Let’s look at a few scenarios in which having a technology strategy would be advantageous:

  • Your organization is kick-starting a big strategic initiative that you haven't attempted earlier. Maybe it’s a major push to reach new donors or a new capital campaign. If you want these big efforts to succeed, you need to have the right tech tools in place beforehand so you can track your efforts and measure your success.
  • It’s time to replace or make major upgrades to out-of-date systems. Having a solid strategy will ensure that the changes don’t impact donor-facing applications or data management software. (That could result in you losing valuable data, which is Theeee Worst.) 
  • Your nonprofit is making internal changes or improvements. Getting a new ED or adding a volunteer coordinator? That’s a prime opportunity to take a closer look at your technology, since structural updates are a part of any big change.

Keep in mind that a technology strategy is a necessity for nonprofits big and small. Even if you’re a tiny team of renaissance folks, with everyone doing everything, a technology strategy will ensure your tech grows along with your organization.

A good time to start is now. 

The sooner you make a plan, the better, so start ASAP. After your initial planning session, try to sit down and update your plan once a year. After your year-end giving campaigns is an ideal time to take a look at the year ahead.

How to get there

You know your own nonprofit, but there are a few general steps to take that will help guide your strategic technology plan.

Understand the purpose of your technology strategy

‍Why is it important to create or update your technology strategy? Why is it important to do it now? What’s your end vision? The more questions you answer, the better you can prepare for what lies ahead through technology.

Form a team

Since technology affects everyone in the organization, you want diverse perspectives in shaping your organization’s strategy. Key members who will work directly with the new applications should be involved to help you understand the challenges they’re facing and request features that would be useful going forward. 

Re-evaluate the existing technology ecosystem

‍Be sure to include everything tech. Take a look at both the daily tools used as well as those used infrequently or rarely. It may be helpful to work with a technology consultant with nonprofit sector experience.

Think about your priorities

‍Take a look at both your short- and long-term goals. Don't just keep it to technology; look at the overall mission statement and goals for the organization. Rank your technology to match the most critical goals in order.

Keep the money in mind

Before you get super amped about your technology strategy, be sure to think about the dollars. Drill down into the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the technology you've chosen by getting some quotes. See what you can bundle to save money, considering how each purchase will impact and interact with existing or new software. Good vendors will work with your budget and answer your every question. (That’s what we do here at Funraise, BTW.)

And there you have it: all the basics of creating a kick-ass tech strategy. If you’re ready to achieve technological glory, read on for all the deets.

Tech Tools That Save Nonprofits Time

A futuristic blue pencil on a dark blue background

A big part of your technology strategy are the specific tools you choose—and there are tons of tech tools out there designed to save you time and resources. Which ones are right for you, fundraising friend? We created a shortlist any busy nonprofit fundraiser will want to check out.

Donor CRM

Let's start with the best and one of your biggest potential timesavers: the right donor CRM. If you’re still keeping track of donor data in a spreadsheet, chances are you’re wasting a lot of time and potentially losing out on a lot of donations. Funraise makes all your donor management dreams come true with easy ways to communicate with your donors, handle social fundraising, and share reports. With the right donor CRM, you’ll have all the necessary integrations you could ever dream up and you’ll spend less time managing the tool itself.

Online scheduling tool

How much time do you spend each week trying to schedule meetings with people by email? Yeah, it’s a lot of time. Reduce the back-and-forth by setting up an online calendar that allows people to book a time that works for you and them. Popular online scheduling tools include Calendly and Acuity—most have a limited free version that you can try out, or you can upgrade to a paid account for a small monthly fee.

Group scheduling

Technically, Doodle is an online scheduling tool, but it’s really designed for group scheduling. No more endless email chains trying to find the right date and time for a fundraising committee meeting, a staff retreat, or even a planning day. Put together a Doodle with various time options and let folks vote on their availability. Done and done! 

Inbox management

If your organization uses Google Apps for email, you’ll want to try out Inbox Pause. Inbox Pause is a magical tool that allows you to hit the pause button on receiving emails. That means you can work with less email distractions or if you need to be in your inbox looking things up, you don’t have to worry about responding to new emails right away. Talk about some inbox sanity!

Social media scheduler

If your fundraising job overlaps with communications, the last thing you want to be doing is hopping on social randomly throughout the day to post updates. Streamline your social content by using a social media scheduler like Hootsuite, Buffer, CoSchedule or RecurPost. Some of these tools will even allow you to build out a library of content that you can automatically repost from time to time. With a social media scheduler, you can set a time once a week (or even once a month) to batch your content and schedule it in the tool. How cool is that?!

Productivity techniques

The Pomodoro Method is a productivity technique that has you work in blocks of 25 minutes followed by a short break. The idea behind it is that we can easily focus for short periods of time and by taking a quick break, we can refresh our attention and energy. If you want to try out the Pomodoro Method, there are lots of online timers like TomatoTimer that will automatically time you for 25 minutes.

Graphic design

If you need to whip up some on-brand designs for your next fundraising event or donor communications piece, Canva can save the day! They have thousands of pre-made templates that you can use as a starting point for your design. You can also upload all of your brand identity elements to quickly and easily customize designs for your nonprofit. Plus Canva for Work is free for nonprofits!

Getting back time in your work day for your biggest and most important projects is a major win in our book. We hope you’ll check out one or two of the tools on this list that you aren’t already using to reclaim your time to focus on the parts of your work that you heart the most!

Making the Case to Modernize Your Fundraising Technology

Colorful shapes sit on a dark blue background with copy that says, "34% of nonprofits don't send email appeals"

Sometimes, it can be tricky to get others on board with your genius plans. YOU know that you need to update your technology, but others just see dollar signs and endless trainings. Well, we’re here to help you use hard data to help your nonprofit forge ahead into the future. 

Our Global NGO Technology Report 2019 (created in partnership with Nonprofit Tech for Good) is filled to the brim with nonprofit technology data from nearly 6,000 NGOs across the globe. How is this supposed to help you? Well, you can't know where you're going unless you know where you've been—and how you measure up to your peers. This report underscores all the major technology trends affecting nonprofits worldwide. It's compiled to help you determine how you measure up and where the major technology gaps are for nonprofits so we start building bridges instead of roadblocks.

And we know times have changed a bit since 2019—something about a pandemic? If you’re looking for the latest numbers, just keep on readin’ to get your hands on that delightfully updated data. Either way, use these stats to help you make your fundraising tech dreams come true (didn't mean to rhyme, it just happens sometimes).

Global NGO 2019 Technology Data and Conclusions

61% of nonprofits still don't use peer-to-peer fundraising

Making the case: Peer-to-peer fundraising is on the up and up. Right now, nonprofits that can successfully leverage the social power of their supporters to launch peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns have the potential to raise bookoo bucks. If you're not sure how to start using peer-to-peer, begin with Giving Tuesday. In 2018, nonprofits raised $400 million on Giving Tuesday, so the fundraising potential is through the roof. There's also a ton of resources out there to help you launch a super successful campaign (like our ready-made Giving Tuesday Toolkit, toot, toot). 

If you need more convincing, check out how Funraise's customer Dressember uses peer-to-peer campaigns to exponentially boost their donations.

Only 13% of nonprofits currently use text-to-give in their fundraising strategy

Making the case: Oh, you thought texting was just for sending memes to your besties and cute kittens to Aunt Gertrude? While Text Engagement for nonprofits is relatively new, nonprofits that have adopted this strategy have seen great results when it comes to bringing in the donations. Especially if you're a nonprofit focused on disaster relief efforts. Right now is prime time to start developing a Text Engagement strategy. Want to stand out? Start texting your donors using these best practices.

36% of nonprofits still don't have a nonprofit CRM, and 15% have one but aren't happy with it

Chart with data: 36% of nonprofits don't have a nonprofit CRM, 15% have one but aren't happy with it.

Making the case: Life's too short to walk around managing donors in spreadsheets or being unsatisfied with your existing donor CRM. Your nonprofit deserves better—ask the 64% of nonprofits that currently use a CRM to manage their donors and donations. It's #facts that nonprofits thrive when they modernize their systems, so investing in a nonprofit CRM, or switching to a more user-friendly one, can take your online fundraising to new heights.

37% of nonprofits have a Facebook group, and 22% have a LinkedIn group

Chart data: 37% of nonprofits have a facebook group, 22% of nonprofits have a linkedin group

Making the case: Social media groups for nonprofits are on the rise. Why? Because they're built-in communities that allow you to keep a finger on the pulse of what's going on with your donor base. They also provide a safe space for your constituents to have meaningful conversations and are an amazing place to organically gather information to help you better serve your donors and supporters. Whether you want to start your own group or join existing groups, this is a great way for nonprofits to engage with their many audiences.

34% of nonprofits don't send email appeals

Making the case: We don't know about you all, but it's pretty shocking that in the year 2019, so many nonprofits are still not sending email fundraising appeals. Shocking🤯. 70% of nonprofits reported that sending email appeals is an effective fundraising tool, which is darn impressive. If you've got an fundraising tools that seamlessly integrate with your email marketing platform, implementing email appeals into your fundraising strategy is a no-brainer.

Only 21% of nonprofit websites are accessible to people with disabilities

Making the case: The fact that only 20% of nonprofits have an accessible website is mind-boggling. If your nonprofit wants to lead the charge, take the necessary steps to make your website accessible to those who are visually and physically impaired. Yeah, it can be a daunting task, but so is visiting a website of a cause you care about only to find out it doesn't cater to people who use the internet the way you do. The more that organizations make accessibility a priority and get on board with basic web accessibility guidelines, the better we can serve EVERYbody.

67% of nonprofit websites have event registration

Making the case: How many events does your nonprofit host a year? We're guessing at least a handful. If your nonprofit is one of the more than 30% that don't have event registration built into their website, then it may be time to revisit your web strategy. Having Events & Ticketing built into your donor CRM is the best way to gather supporter and donor data, sell tickets, collect donations, and promote your event. Sure, there are tons of third-party event sites out there, but none of them cater to the specific needs of nonprofits. And we're pretty sure none of them funnel all the event attendees into your CRM—meaning less headache when you follow up and cultivate new donors.

Global NGO 2021 Technology Data and Conclusions 

The year is 2021. The times are… complicated. Luckily, Tech for Good is still at it, surveying nonprofits on all things technology. Their 2021 report, published under the Open Data Project, reflects these turbulent times—and our increasingly digital world. Below, how things have changed since 2019.

Without Peers, Peer-to-peer Fundraising Suffers

61% of nonprofits weren’t using peer-to-peer fundraising in 2019; now, 66% aren’t. We’re sure P2P will bounce back, but in the meantime, you have a great opportunity to take advantage of that unused social power to do some major fundraising. After all, everyone’s online all the time anyway!

We’re All about the Text Engagement

Text engagement’s only getting more popular, with 22% of nonprofits using it in their fundraising strategy in 2021. That’s almost a 10% jump from just two years ago—and we have no doubt that trend will continue. Time to get texty with it!

CRM Use Is Growing … Slowly

33% of nonprofits still don’t have a CRM, so congratulations to the 3% who’ve started using one since 2019–it makes life much easier, doesn’t it? And here’s a fun tidbit: 15% utilize a CRM that uses artificial intelligence for donor prospecting. Consider our minds blown. 

Social Media Is Flourishing… but a Lot of Folks Are Burned Out

A whopping 96% of nonprofits use Facebook for marketing and fundraising (!), with Instagram running a close-ish second at 73%, followed by Twitter at 60%. But all this social media usage is not without its costs: Over half of nonprofits reported experiencing social media burnout within the last 12 months. Looks like we could all use an extra vacation day or 20.

Email Appeals Are on the Rise

Only 26% of nonprofits don't send email appeals in 2021—an increase of 8% in the past two years. Not a surprise now that in-person appeals are often off the table. And in case you were wondering, just 29% of nonprofit email marketing managers raised less money from their email appeals than they’d expected, a fairly low percentage compared to other fundraising tools.

A Long Way to Go on Accessibility

The year is 2021. We know that people can work remotely and get their work done. And yet, just 22% of nonprofits report ensuring that their web content works for those with visual and hearing disabilities—and just 20% have sites that are available in more than one language.

Online Events Are Here to Stay

47% of nonprofits now host snazzy virtual fundraising events, and 44% report that they’ve raised more money than expected. So what are you waiting for? Funraise has Events & Ticketing built in so that you can run super-successful online events, day or night.

COVID Has Changed Fundraising, for Better and for Worse

When asked how the pandemic has impacted their nonprofit’s online fundraising overall, 34% of organizations reported raising slightly more money, 22% slightly less money, and 16% significantly less money. 14% reported raising significantly more money, and another 14% experienced no change. 

As we’ve heard time and again, these are unprecedented times … that just keep going. But fear not: We’re here to help you forge ahead, with the tech you need to thrive. You can review all the data if you want to learn more as you make the case for modernizing your nonprofit: download the 2019 Global NGO Technology Report and peruse the 2021 Global NGO Technology Report.


All About Smart Fundraising Security

A neon-blue shield with a happy face in the middle sits on a dark blue background


The more tech-reliant we are, the more vital virtual security becomes. So now that you’re updating all your tech, it’s time to get informed. Happily, we have experts like Funraise CTO and Co-founder, Jason Swenski, to keep us in front of digital threats. 

In a sit-down conversation, Jason and Funraise CEO and Co-founder, Justin Wheeler, talk security and how being vigilant can result in unexpected benefits.

Some security stats you should keep in your back pocket:

  • $26 Billion was lost worldwide in 2018 due to payment card fraud
  • Online fraud is 81% more common than POS fraud
  • Payment card fraud increased by 18.4% in 2018... and it's still growing
  • Credit card fraud is the #1 type of identity theft fraud

And why nonprofits are particularly at risk for fraud:

Fraudsters verify stolen credit cards on nonprofit sites, which often have minimal payment barriers to encourage conversion. Because no goods are exchanged during an online donation and amounts are low, donation transactions make verifying stolen cards easier than purchases of goods.

Now, with those stats in mind, and knowing that nonprofits are the perfect testing grounds for payment card thieves, ensuring you've got the latest web security seems pretty urgent.

Good news! While you can't rely on your software alone, Funraise can help your nonprofit frustrate fraudsters.

Funraise's fraud approaches:

  • Gateway-Level Fraud
  • Obfuscation
  • Minimum Amounts
  • Human Monitoring
  • Rules-Based Filtering
  • Behavior/Puzzle CAPTCHA

What other benefits does broad website security bring to the table?

Today, most donors have been the victim of a breach—it's part of the collective experience for current generations. But because we've all been there, most donors are wary when making online payments; we trust technology we recognize.

And you know (you KNOW!) how it goes when those fraudsters push through a thousand $1 donations: penalties and fines and chargebacks. You end up paying for the fraudsters to do their testing. :/ Not to mention all the time you spend fixing everything. Big ol' security = little bitty resources expended.

It's pretty clear—taking security seriously is a great way to secure relationships and save money!

STATS FROM THESE SOURCES:

“2020 Fraud Management Trends.” Javelin, 3 Dec. 2019, www.javelinstrategy.com/coverage-area/2020-fraud-management-trends.

“Credit Card Fraud Statistics.” Shift Credit Card Processing, 15 Apr. 2020, shiftprocessing.com/credit-card-fraud-statistics/.

We could all use a few more hours in the day. After all, fundraising is a busy job that has you wearing all the hats and then some. While we can’t magically give you an extra hour or two in the day, we hope these tech-forward solutions will get back some of your time and put you on the path to finally getting through your to-do list.

Nonprofit Technology: Key Takeaways

  • Technology helps nonprofits with marketing, fundraising, reporting, and communications.
  • Even if your budget is tight, keep in mind that an effective technology strategy will ensure you have the digital tools to assess and increase your impact, innovate, and deliver value for donors, staff, and clients.
  • There are countless tech tools out there to meet your every need, but some of the most useful can help you schedule social media posts and emails, improve your brand, and, of course, manage your donors and donation process.
  • If you’re all about that tech, you need to be smart about protecting your data and your donors through solid site security.
Start For Free