If digital transformation can elevate businesses, it can do the same for nonprofits. But nonprofits face unique roadblocks, including limited resources and “choice paralysis” complicated by boards, both of which make the process more complicated than it is for companies in the private sector.
Larger nonprofits are learning to navigate these challenges, and smaller organizations can reap the same benefits: improved performance insights, operational optimization and fundraising support. It doesn’t have to happen all at once, but cloud-based solutions, data analytics and mobile fundraising platforms are just a few steps nonprofits can take to upgrade on a budget.
1. Invest in Cloud-Based Fundraising and Management Solutions
The core work of nonprofits is fundraising. Cloud-based software can support nonprofits by functioning as a donor management system, helping them track and understand donation patterns.
LEARN MORE: Bring your nonprofit one step closer to achieving its digital transformation goals.
Cloud-based software can also automate donor communications, manage staff and arrange volunteer shifts. Volunteers can sign in on an intuitive platform that contains relevant information for their reference and that can serve as a community forum where volunteers and staff can connect.
Such platforms can also help automate workflows and back-end processes, giving nonprofits more freedom to fulfill their missions and focus on strategic work.
Deploying cloud-based tools and AI — or any technology — still requires upfront investment, but the payoff can be worthwhile, with Goldman Sachs estimating that AI could eventually boost annual global gross domestic product by 7 percent. Nonprofits can be part of that change.
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2. Shift to Mobile Giving Platforms
Most nonprofits have already adopted mobile giving, whether it’s as simple as having a PayPal or Venmo payment option or as sophisticated as a mobile-optimized website equipped to handle sensitive information.
But nonprofits can advance their mobile giving efforts further, and they would be wise to do so.
It’s what donors expect now, and having seamless giving options can both affect the size of the gift and enable recurring donations.
3. Invest in Data Analytics to Draw Smarter Insights
Information is already a strength for most nonprofits. Data crystallizes that by giving leaders evidence they can use to optimize operations, leverage the fundraising tools at their disposal and ultimately support their mission.
Using data collection and analytics tools such as IBM’s SPPS Statistics, Microsoft Power BI, Tableau and Splunk can help nonprofits understand donation patterns, better segment and target the donors most likely to support their cause, and make more strategic use of the donations they receive. It can also help IT leaders perform A/B testing and determine which forms of outreach elicit the best result.
RELATED: Learn how one nonprofit turned to the cloud for data-driven solutions.
4. Embrace Virtual Fundraising and Community Events
In an era when non-dues revenue is the top challenge facing associations, according to the 2023 Association Benchmarking Report from Naylor, every dollar raised matters more than it would in a typical year. Nonprofits can draw significant revenue from fundraising events, but in-person gatherings come at a cost.
Source: gspublishing.com, “The Potentially Large Effects of Artificial Intelligence on Economic Growth,” March 26, 2023
Virtual events, however, can support fundraising goals and allow an organization to stay on budget. Virtual lectures and workshops require less overhead but can still build community, drawing on the familiarity with remote meetings that people acquired during the pandemic. The core investment is finding the right event management platform and videoconferencing tool.
5. Invest in Virtual and On-Demand Training for Volunteers
Nearly half of nonprofit leaders said that volunteer recruitment was a big problem for them in 2022 — this at a time when most nonprofits are reporting an increase in demand for their services, making volunteer labor critical to fulfilling nonprofits’ needs.
Virtual training platforms allow volunteers to train at their own pace. These digital platforms can also track and measure volunteers’ output and performance, and help them set goals.
Depending on the type of task, some volunteer work can even be performed virtually, such as “micro volunteering,” small tasks that can be done at the volunteer’s leisure. At a time when the national volunteer rate is stalled, virtual volunteering may be the right compromise to attract new volunteer to join the community and contribute support.
As nonprofits progress, IT leaders need to remember that starting small is OK. The phrase “digital transformation” sounds like an overhaul — and it is. But starting with something as small as deploying AI assistance for fundraising can help normalize that transformation, bringing nonprofits closer to their goals.