4 Steps to Ensure Your Nonprofit Technology Investment Pays Off in Months, Not Years.
Andrew Shoaff manages Blackbaud’s Essentials with Go!™ program, a group consulting service that helps nonprofit organizations deepen constituent engagement and accelerate online fundraising. Prior to Blackbaud he was the acting CFO/COO of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington DC.
In a recent paper, Making the Pitch to Nonprofit Leadership: How to Convey and Sell the Need to Invest in Fundraising Technology, my colleague Danielle Johnson-Vermenton and I explored how nonprofit fundraisers can advocate for investments in online fundraising technology. As social, mobile and multichannel engagement strategies have redefined how we build relationships with constituents, having the right technology at your disposal is a vital.
But here’s the rub..
Making the case for and acquiring the software is the easy part. Knowing what to do with it and when to do it is much harder. New software can present an overwhelming array of functionality and there are more tactics and best practices for how to use that functionality than you can shake a stick at.
You can’t do it all overnight, so where do you start?
The first year after any new technology implementation is the most important. Success in that first year ensures not only the financial results and ROI you’re likely on the hook for, but also helps make sure the technology is fully adopted across the organization. So, start by developing a 12 month plan to roll out production functionality over time. Adding in new elements throughout the year ensures the functionality or campaign is executed properly, gives you and your staff time to learn the new system and generally eases the burden any new toolkit places on your fundraising staff.
There is no magic recipe for how to make that year a success, but here are 4 key things that will help put you on the right path.
1. Prioritize objectives.
Digital fundraising platforms help organizations accelerate things like fundraising growth, email file size, constituent engagement, mutli-channel campaign execution and a host of other critical objectives. But software isn’t a strategy in and of itself, and the very first step to developing a strategy is formalizing priorities.
As you implement a new piece of software, what are your key objective and how do you rank them?
Here’s a hint: you can only have 1 top priority.
Raising more money and increasing your file size, for example, can’t both be your #1 priority. Clearly articulating your priorities helps set expectations internally about what you are doing and keeps people focused on the right results. It can be a difficult process, but defining your priorities will help set the stage for everything you do in the first 12 months with your new system.
2. Define success metrics.
Before you do anything, define what success looks like. You’ve got a list of priorities, so for each item on that list spell out the goal or metric to which you are working. Make those goals as specific as humanly possible.
3. Establish authority and accountability.
Give people in your organization the authority to make decisions and hold them accountable for results. If every single decision has to be vetted or approved by the same person, say your Executive Director, then there will never be enough hours in the day to achieve the results you need. Your software is valuable when people are empowered to use it. Give the right level of controls to the right people and you’ll be in a position to take full advantage of your investment.
4. Sing to the rooftops.
Once you have priorities, objectives, and the plan for how you’ll put everything in motion, communicate it to the entire organization. Not just the fundraising staff or Executive Director, but everyone. This is a big deal and people will have questions, so put the info in front of them and be clear about why this is an important step and the how the results will benefit the org’s mission and everyone who is so committed to that pursuit. Even if your fundraising and / or IT teams own most of the work involved, support from colleagues in other departments or programs is critical.
None of this is particularly easy, mind you. But a thoughtful approach to the first 12 months post implementation of a new software tool is just as important as all the work that went into acquiring that new system. You want results – you’ve likely had to promise results. Laying out what’s important, how you will define success, building a plan and communicating that plan broadly within your org will go a long way to making those results a reality.