Don’t Wait for New Technology to Start Making Improvements at Your Nonprofit
There is no doubt that technology misaligned with your nonprofit’s needs can impede organizational improvement. But often there are opportunities for making improvements at your nonprofit that aren’t dependent on getting new technology.
If there is going to be a delay in your organization’s ability to purchase and implement new technologies, here are a few options you have for making improvements that don’t need to wait on new technology.
Leadership Alignment and Data Governance
When Build Consulting performs a Technology Assessment and Roadmap project for an organization, it is common for us to recommend that the organization makes some improvements in leadership alignment and/or data governance.
Many organizations can benefit from some calibration to how their leadership perceives the role of technology within their organization, and how technology projects can benefit from their participation. Organizations oftentimes also lack a team that thinks specifically about how information is managed inside the organization, and how those practices can be improved to better support constituent journeys.
Improving leadership alignment and governance are two areas that you should address inside of your organization before undertaking any significant technology change efforts, and on which you can get started right away!
Operational Capacity Development
Nonprofit organizations often don’t take advantage of no/low-cost opportunities to improve their operations, particularly through having their staff engage in ongoing professional development. This is especially the case in organizations where many staff have long tenures and aren’t engaged in professional peer communities—this often results in a lack of up-to-date knowledge of operational best practices.
This means there are often abundant instances to improve your organization’s operational capacity simply by opening up more to the outside world. This may require a cultural mindset shift, but it will be worth it. Staff will learn better ways to perform specific operational functions, but also ways to improve internal project management, time management, change management, and performance management.
Process and Data Improvements
We often find situations in the nonprofit community where poorly defined or inconsistent processes are as much (or more) to blame as the technology when analyzing operational challenges. So we recommend that organizations make judicious efforts to improve their process definition and execution, while also adopting improved data quality practices.
This has several potential benefits. To start, there may be good opportunities for making processes and data more effective that do not need to wait for new technology. For example, if you are having difficulty reconciling your gift data in your fundraising CRM with data in your accounting system, making process changes in the areas of gift adjustments and posting gift data to the GL may provide some improvements.
But there are other benefits as well. Improving your current process and data management practices will help you develop clearer requirements for future technology systems—and help ensure you migrate good-quality data into those systems.
Understand the Technology You Have
Organizations sometimes have better technology than they realize. This might mean turning on a software module that the organization already pays for but doesn’t realize it has. It might mean improving a configuration setting to produce the desired process improvement. It might mean adding a low-cost app or plugin that can create some staff efficiencies while waiting for larger technology change.
Spend some time with the knowledge resources for your systems, to get better acquainted with what those systems can and can’t do. Find out which other organizations use your technology, and talk to them to learn how they are maximizing their investment. If you have a current relationship with an implementation partner for your software, see if they can offer some insight into positive changes you might make.
Some organizations have a deep understanding of what their current technology can and can’t do, but others have the functionality of which they are unaware. Into which category does your organization fall?
The bottom line: expand your viewpoint
All of these opportunities for improvement have two things in common: they don’t require major technology expense, but they do require broadening your viewpoint—bringing information from outside your organization to bear on making internal improvements. This will bring many positive changes to your organization and pave the way for success when you do have the ability to make larger technology changes.