From a nonprofit tech perspective, I'd like to share a story that I've seen play out countless times, and I challenge you to be honest about which description fits your organization.
Imagine two nonprofits—you probably already know them. They have similar sizes, budgets. Facing similar problems. Have similar pie-in-the-sky dreams.
They differ in their plans to achieve those dreams, though. Let's look at the paths of these so-close-yet-so-far organizations.
Nonprofit A launches a grassroots campaign today. They get out there, put boots on the ground, and rely on physical communications: in-person coffee meetings, foot-in-the door conversations, direct mail fundraisers. Their fired-up attitude makes them great at relationship-building, and they know it. They don't worry about sustainability, and as a result, their donor pool is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Nonprofit B launches their first exciting program today. They lay out a business plan and decide to invest in technologically advanced software and communications programs to support their eventual growth.
Nonprofit A is making serious strides. They've been recognized by the community and have gotten some local celebrities interested in their cause. As they've expanded their supporter base, though, they've had a few hiccups, mostly due to the manually updated lists of donors and donations and volunteers and pledges and handshakes and mailers and... let's just say that spreadsheets aren't Nonprofit A's friend.
Nonprofit B is seeing growth as expected. The journey isn't without frustrations, but they're holding steady to their vision, realizing the type of impact they're trying to implement is the result of a long-game strategy. To ramp up reach, Nonprofit B chooses to do something scary—they embark on their first peer-to-peer campaign, allowing their supporters to lead the fundraising charge. Nonprofit B's future budget is relying on the outcome of this campaign, but their trust in their fundraisers is well-placed, as the campaign succeeds beyond their expectations.
While their programs are successful, Nonprofit A's staff is starting to experience burnout. And along with all the disruptive effects that come with the sustained pressure of constant passionate performance—turnover, members left behind, faded luster of an always-out-of-reach vision—Nonprofit A is perilously, alarmingly behind on paperwork, constantly running from a teetering tower of tax documents, donor follow-ups, grant applications, and funder requests.
Nonprofit B's use of nonprofit-focused technology means that everyone in the organization can pitch in on tasks both big and small. During busy periods where most nonprofits are overwhelmed by results, recaps, and reworking, the team focuses on recurring donors. With a deep pool of donors that give regularly, Nonprofit B is able to predict future revenue, giving their staff peace of mind and making it easy to show sustained growth to attract additional funding.
With everything else that they have to focus on, Nonprofit A is unable to keep up the level of one-on-one donor relations and stewardship they've prided themselves on in the years since they launched. And as a more established nonprofit, their donors aren't giving them the benefit of the doubt when something falls through the cracks or events spiral out of whack. As a result, they're reliant on a dwindling pool of supporters.
Nonprofit B's digital reach is unmatched in their space: they host livestreaming events, rely on social fundraisers, and talk directly to potential donors through mobile communications, like text messaging. Nonprofit B's team develops skills crucial for hyperpersonalized outreach. Each message from Nonprofit B is customized to a micro-segment of donors based on a variety of data points analyzed through high-level reporting. Donors embrace Nonprofit B's events and messages with enthusiasm, infusing the organization with life and constant new growth.
The Pandemic Effect
Because they've always been reliant on in-person work, events, and impact, Nonprofit A is blindsided by the pandemic. Working from home, trying to fundraise through fuzzy Zoom calls, and unable to effect change to the same degree that they're used to, Nonprofit A is hit hard by the massive, sudden changes to their organization and struggles to keep their doors open and their team employed.
As the pandemic hits, Nonprofit B feels the same pain that Nonprofit A experienced. The difference is that they've invested significant resources in nonprofit-first technology, a team with deep expertise, and proven tactics for online giving and virtual events. So when some of their donor base has to step back, Nonprofit B already has levers in place that they can pull to expand their reach and increase donations.
Nonprofit A continues to make impact through their core programs, although they're seeing fewer and fewer faces walking through their doors. There will always be a need for their services and gratitude for their impact.
Nonprofit B is bursting with growth beyond their dreams, in directions and with partnerships they never imagined as they planned their first program. The team is tech-savvy and adventurous, always ready to test new features and strategies. Their impact has inspired others and they're viewed as experts in their space.
As nonprofiteers, there's no way you don't know both of these organizations. And while both of them are passionate, well-intentioned, and making impact, only one of them is truly looking at the big picture. Only Nonprofit B is furthering the case for charity. Only Nonprofit B regarded its staff as highly as its clients. Only Nonprofit B saw that reducing the cost of making impact could make their impact shine bigger and brighter.
All charitable organizations are worthy causes, deserving our support and encouragement. But organizations that hold themselves responsible for more than just end-result-impact will leave a farther-reaching, longer-lasting imprint on the world.
Whether you're Nonprofit A or B, Funraise can help you build your movement with user-friendly, cutting-edge tools. Talk to our team and see where technology can land your nonprofit.