Conducting a Nonprofit Technology Assessment in 4 Steps

Conducting a Nonprofit Technology Assessment in 4 Steps

By Carl Diesing, Managing Director of DNL Omnimedia

by Ro

Conducting a Nonprofit Technology Assessment in 4 Steps

By Carl Diesing, Managing Director of DNL Omnimedia

by Ro

by Ro

Your nonprofit’s technology shapes how your organization operates.

From using fundraising solutions to help you fulfill your strategic plan, utilizing meeting platforms for Board discussions, or diving into your donor database to build and cultivate constituent relationships, your technology can have a vast impact on how your organization runs.

To ensure your technology empowers you to fulfill your mission, it may be necessary to conduct a technology assessment. This process involves evaluating all or part of your technology stack to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. These improvements may involve implementing a new strategy, refining your current strategy, or exploring new platforms to ensure your technology supports your organization’s long-term goals.

You can conduct an organized and efficient nonprofit technology assessment by following these four steps. 

1. Determine your goals. 

Before beginning your technology assessment, establish what you hope to accomplish by conducting it. These goals will help shape your assessment’s scope. For example, if your nonprofit isn’t finding success with its current digital marketing strategy, your technology assessment may focus on the function of your current suite of digital marketing tools to determine whether those tools can be enhanced to support your organization’s goals or if another tool is better suited to fulfill your strategic vision. 

Follow these steps to help your nonprofit outline a clear goal for your assessment:

          • Identify gaps in your strategy. Meet with staff members across different departments to discuss how they are currently using your software. Ask if there are any routine tasks where your current technology falls short or even blocks productivity. Additionally, ask if there are any situations staff members believe could be improved or automated by technology.  
          • Analyze metrics. Where possible, analyze data related to your technology’s effectiveness and impact on fundraising or operational performance. For example, you might discover there has been a drop in email open rates since switching to a new communication tool. Use this data to determine next steps and build your strategy.  
          • Consider long-term priorities. While a technology assessment may uncover a few areas that can be improved quickly, make sure these fixes align with your organization’s long-term goals rather than acting as a band-aid solution. For example, you might find that you regularly reach the maximum number of messages your mailing tool allows you to send in a month. While this may not be an immediate issue, nonprofits with long-term growth goals should consider investing in a platform that can grow with them.

Having a clear goal in mind will help your organization get the most value out of a technology assessment. Establish a timeline and create a meeting schedule well in advance to ensure all members of your team are providing useful data and feedback on your current platforms in a timely manner.  

2. Assess your technology.

The assessment process determines each software solution’s purpose and how well they are meeting your expectations. You may learn this information by meeting with team members, asking staff to submit surveys highlighting specific technology issues, and analyzing metrics. 

The assessment process will vary depending on your specific technology. Many nonprofits have the following platforms: 

          • CRM. Your CRM or donor database should enable you to collect donor data and connect with supporters. Determine whether your CRM allows you to create highly detailed donor profiles and if it can track a constituent’s involvement and history with your organization. Check that your CRM can produce custom reports. These reports will be useful in analyzing donor data, which can then help to refine your organization’s overall outreach strategy. Additionally, consider opportunities for automation, customization, and integrations with other platforms you use or want to use.  
          • CMS. Your CMS or website builder should facilitate a user-friendly experience for supporters navigating your website. It should also be easy for your team to update, provide necessary accessibility features, and have strong security perimeters. 
          • External fundraising solutions. If your nonprofit uses other fundraising software, such as crowdfunding or peer-to-peer platforms, include these solutions in your assessment. Determine if they work well with your core technologies, like your CRM, and are helping you hit your fundraising goals. This means assessing them for their efficiency, user experience, range of features, and scalability. 

Nonprofits that leverage multiple platforms may benefit from partnering with a technology consultant to conduct their assessment. An external consultant will bring in an unbiased perspective formed by the experience of working with multiple nonprofits. Consultants who are familiar with your specific technology will also be able to offer advice on new strategies you can implement or compatible add-ons that may be worth investing in.

3. Identify constraints.  

Determine what factors are currently preventing you from achieving your technology-related goals. For most nonprofits, their primary constraints are budget, expertise, and buy-in. Here is a breakdown of these three factors:

          • Budget. Does your nonprofit have the funds to invest in new technology and resources? Budgetary issues can also impact or exacerbate buy-in challenges. For example, your nonprofit may benefit from working with a consultant to improve your donor data management practices. However, your Board may feel that expense is too costly. During your assessment, determine what funds can be used to improve your technology. Be ready to research and create a presentation demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) of your proposed budget allocations for improving your technology. Keep in mind ways you can save costs, such as partnering with an external consultant to assist with your new technical strategy rather than hiring a new full-time employee. 
          • Expertise. Does your staff have the knowledge to use your technology effectively? If you identify gaps in their expertise, consider hiring a technology consultant to hold training sessions. Ask your consultant to put together documentation from these training sessions that can be used to help onboard future employees. This documentation will also be helpful in establishing policies and procedures that can help your team create consistency in their marketing and data-collecting efforts. If you have recurring complex technical needs, find a consultant you can form a long-term partnership with or one that offers a yearly service package. This way your consultant can use their existing knowledge of your organization for future projects and act as an extension of your team. 
          • Buy-in. Do your staff, Board, and leadership agree with your technology assessment’s findings? In some cases, leadership may agree that a new technological strategy is needed but isn’t a main priority. If you have buy-in challenges, work with stakeholders to understand where their concerns are coming from. 

4. Recommend next steps.

Use what you’ve uncovered during your technology assessment to create a plan of action that will help guide you toward your goals. For example, if your goal was to reduce time spent on administrative tasks, your next steps may be researching platforms with automation features. If budget is an issue, your plan of action could also be finding ways to amplify your current technology and customize it to better serve your organization. 

Determine if your plan involves obtaining buy-in from key stakeholders. Organizations often need Board approval for changes that would require significant spending, such as implementing a new CRM. Be certain to research your proposed solution, estimate the costs and potential ROI, and create a proposal you can share with your stakeholders. Be sure to include a timeline, determine if your team will need ongoing training, and share how the proposed actions will help achieve both your organization’s short and long-term goals.

If your assessment uncovered that your organization’s goals would be better supported by a new CRM, use this time to chart out the next steps to evaluating new platforms. Keep in mind that the purchasing process can span several months and that implementation and customization can be lengthy as well. 

If you partnered with a consultant during your technology assessment, they should provide a list of recommendations and next steps. Consultants should offer insight into how to tailor your technology strategy to suit your organizational goals and can recommend new platforms or additions to integrate with your current technology. For instance, if your nonprofit is looking to grow, your consultant might suggest scalable tools, help create an implementation plan, and provide advice on how to measure your growth using the new platform. 

This post was written by Carl Diesing, Managing Director and co-founder of DNL OmniMedia. DNL was established in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with ongoing web development projects. DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.

Additionally, check out the following Successful Nonprofits® resources if this post was helpful:

Blog: Our 10 Favorite Productivity Tools

Podcast: The Secret Sauce to CRM Transitions with Maureen Wallbeoff

Podcast: Everyone Must Get On Board the Tech Train…or It’s Not Leaving the Station: A Conversation with Peter Gross

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