Working in the nonprofit sector often requires you to wear different hats from the ones that are specifically outlined in your official job description. This is especially true for fundraising professionals, who are increasingly having to act as technology managers as well as fundraising leaders. Indeed, the proliferation of digital fundraising tools has firmly placed the selection and management of technology in the hands of fundraising professionals.
Yet despite the growing opportunity that new online fundraising capabilities present, launching new digital tools is often uncomfortable territory for development professionals. Nonprofit fundraisers prefer to describe themselves as relationship builders and inspirational storytellers. As a result, pursuing new digital fundraising capabilities and systems may not be their preferred domain of expertise.
However, as a fundraiser, you do not also need to be a software engineer to ensure your nonprofit maintains pace with peers and enjoys the benefits of new technological capabilities. Hiring an external vendor to implement a desired new technology is an excellent use of your time and resources, and more fundraisers should look for this outside help to optimize the timely impact of new digital solutions.
Yet before you engage a vendor to integrate a new technology into your fundraising program, there is something critical you need: clarity on your desired outcomes.
In other words, you must know exactly what you need and want of a technology before the right one can be selected and adopted.
Here are three key questions you should answer before saying “yes” to a new technical capability:
Why are you seeking a new service or software solution, and what impact is it expected to have on your day-to-day work?
You should not adopt a new technology for its own sake. Rather, you should have a clear reason for adopting a product, and that purpose should complement your nonprofit’s larger fundraising and strategic plans.
Moreover, invest the time to identify and understand how introducing a new technical capability will change the performance or impact of your existing processes, systems, and staff. How will the technology change your team’s day-to-day work? Consider reaching out to customer references from your prospective vendors to hear their experiences of how their work evolved after the technology was implemented.
How will you define success?
After you’ve identified the strategic purpose and implications of a new technology, now do the work of identifying its success metrics. Do you expect to see a specific increase in donation revenue? A minimum amount of cost savings? An increase in productivity? Do not be afraid to be quantify the specific details about what the technology must deliver for your organization to realize value.
As you focus on your success indicators, work with your vendor to develop a realistic timeline to meet those metrics. This timeline should integrate both your needs and the vendor’s capabilities so that neither of you finds yourself disappointed.
How will you hold your vendor accountable?
Just as relationship-building with donors is crucial to fundraising, so too is managing a regular and transparent relationship with your technology vendor. As your new technical capability goes live, be sure to set pre-scheduled check-in meetings with your vendors to monitor progress against your defined success metrics. Be ready to partner with your vendor to ensure you realize the targeted outcomes if things aren’t going according to plan. You should expect a clear answer to the question, “If we don’t see X return, how do you plan to fix it?”
Managing technology as a fundraiser does not have to be an uncomfortable and unwelcome responsibility. By enlisting professional help, approaching the process with clarity on your desired outcomes, and holding your vendor accountable, you can enjoy technology that works to further your mission, not against it.