What you Should Invest in for 2018

GUEST POST from Claire Axelrad

We’re well into the second decade of the 21st century, yet many nonprofits still operate like it’s 1999. There’s a pervasive anti-technology bias that’s causing well-meaning organizations to shoot themselves in the foot.

Why? The reasons I’ve heard from nonprofits include:

  1. Technology is expensive.
  2. Our current staff don’t have technological expertise.
  3. We don’t have the resources to hire technologically-savvy staff.
  4. We’ve done quite well in the past without all this technology.
  5. We don’t want to chase shiny new objects.
  6. This is a fad. Tried-and-true techniques will win in the end.

While there may be a nugget of truth in all these excuses, they’re still just that.

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

You can either jump onto the technological rocket ship that’s taking everyone else into the future, or you can get left behind. You can embrace, or reject.

For 2018 Claire suggests beginning with a thorough analysis of what you really need, and what those things might cost you.

  • Begin with a user-friendly website. 82% of donors visit your website before they make a gift to you. Keep it up-dated, use visuals and stories, and have clear calls to action.
  • Facilitate online giving. It continues to grow at 7%/year, while overall giving remains flat, growing just 1 – 3%/year.
  • Find out what social media channels your constituents use, and prioritize those. Track engagement via your current channels, and consider eliminating those that are moribund. Even though your board member thought Snapchat or text-to-give would work like gangbusters for you, maybe that’s not the case.
  • Short videos, short online articles and short emails keep donors most engaged, informed and inspired to give.  Are you using these tools?

Based on the current zeitgeist, not investing in technology has a real cost!

Figure out what you need. Is it staff? Skills? Budget? Tools? What do you do every day, and what requires only periodic support? What are the areas of expertise of your current staff responsible for daily digital operations, and what skills do they lack? Make a list of “must have” vs. “would be nice.” Then determine whether you can train current staff in some of the missing areas, or whether there are some essential skills you’re missing.

Since often tech folks specialize in a particular area, small nonprofits might consider outsourcing some of these functions to a professional team that can assist you with skills you lack on staff. There are companies specializing in IT support, website management, online fundraising, digital marketing and other functions. Develop a budget so you can use your resources wisely.

Key things I recommend investing in (and you can get some of these for free):

  1. Cloud hosting to free you from the cost of on-site server maintenance.
  2. Web hosting to improve your professional appearance and give you room to grow.
  3. A CRM to help you build and maintain strong donor relationships.
  4. Email automation software to help you segment your lists, run segmented and automated campaigns and optimize delivery times.
  5. Social media content marketing tools that increase your efficiency and maximize use of limited resources (e.g., BufferHootsuite).
  6. List building tools so you collect contact information from website visitors (e.g., Hello BarSumo).
  7. Graphic design tools to improve branding, grab greater attention and increase engagement (e.g., CanvaPicMonkeyPablo).

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