Jul 27 2021

How Nonprofits Should Be Using Automation

Strong data and a targeted approach can help nonprofits maximize their fundraising pitches and mobilize volunteers.

With budgets predicated on maximizing their missions with minimal resources, nonprofits are always looking for ways to do things more nimbly.

The story of nonprofits is often a tale of “less is more” — but what if you could do a lot more with a lot less? And what if it could not only strengthen your organization but also maximize your small team’s resources?

The secret is automation, one of the fastest-growing trends in the way organizations operate. A 2020 study from Gartner found that nearly 70 percent of routine work done by managers might be fully automated by 2024, cutting down on tasks such as filling out forms and updating frequently used information.

The nonprofit space in particular presents a lot of potential for automation to change the way these organizations work and improve their capabilities, expanding the reach of small teams trying to do outreach or execute on their missions.

The problem is that many nonprofits are not taking advantage of it, thanks to an array of complex and outdated systems. In findings reported this year by The NonProfit Times, more than a third of nonprofit leaders cite a lack of process automation as one of their biggest frustrations. Related issues such as manual reporting and a lack of real-time performance indicators are also among their pain points.

Automation’s Power in Fundraising and Marketing

Perhaps the most compelling case for nonprofit automation lies with the marketing team, which holds a lot of influence in many organizations because of its impact on the bottom line.

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Nonprofits are often looking for strong data to back up the messages they’re trying to sell to potential donors. Automation is an important way to get them there.

In the for-profit world, automation-driven artificial intelligence techniques such as machine learning are helping sculpt customized experiences for end users. Nonprofits are in a position to borrow from some of these tactics as they reach donors.

There are three general tiers of use cases for automation in marketing:

Basic: Scheduled messaging. This can be used in ways as small as prewriting your social media posts or as large as building a drip campaign strategy that automates individual outreach via email or SMS text messaging.

Intermediate: Donor targeting. Of course, there are ways to extend automation capabilities — for example, targeting your messaging based on location or demographics to increase the chances that it connects with donors. Simply by using your existing data capabilities and tools to reach people over email or social media, your message might hit a little closer to its target.

Advanced: Personalization. Targeting based on demographics does have limits. Organizations that have existing relationships with donors might have more success with messaging intended for specific recipients, leveraging their relationships to reach them with a message that resonates.

How Automation Improves Volunteer Management

Automation’s many benefits aren’t limited to donors, either. It can help small organizations maximize the capabilities of an army of volunteers to ensure their skills are being used effectively.

For example, part of your organization’s website could list volunteer opportunities tailored to a person’s interests, skills and location. The disaster response organization Team Rubicon does this with a volunteer management system powered by Microsoft’s Dynamics 365.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: What nonprofits can gain from a multicloud environment.

“We want to increase the awesomeness for people who engage with us,” Team Rubicon COO Art delaCruz told BizTech this year.

There are also opportunities to use AI and automation to help better train volunteers — say, by using chatbots. For example, the suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project recently collaborated with Google on an AI-driven training tool that simulates a crisis contact, giving volunteers an opportunity to learn essential skills in a training environment.

The Tools Nonprofits Need to Adopt Automation

Of course, automating processes requires a certain level of digital maturity so nonprofits can save time and expand their capabilities. It reflects a need to both  gather data and use it properly.

That may mean starting small before doing something more ambitious, perhaps with the help of no-code tools.

But you should still look into ways to bring more sophistication into your data analytics discipline — using tools such as Tableau or Splunk, for example — and then figure out how the data can properly integrate with the rest of your organization.

With the help of a service provider like CDW ServiceNow Solutions, your organization can turn a frustration into a strength.

It might take a while to get there, but with a little help, there’s a lot of potential to get things right.

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