In today’s digital world, leveraging technology effectively can make or break any company. This fact rings true from Fortune 500 companies to mom and pop shops, and even not-for-profit organizations (NPOs). We know there are major differences between large corporations and nonprofit organizations, but access to quality technology shouldn’t be one of them.
The sad reality, however, is that only 11% of nonprofits report feeling their approach to technology is highly effective, according to NetChange. That means almost 9 out of every 10 nonprofit institutions are left feeling unsure, underwhelmed, or underprepared when it comes to implementing technology. In lay terms, nonprofits are acting on their mission with makeshift and obsolete tools.
Now hold on a second and really let that sink in. Not-for-profit, philanthropic, community-building, food-donating, volunteer-providing operations are accomplishing all of these amazing things whilst being held back by their technology, as opposed to empowered by it.
For reference, imagine trying to travel cross-country in a horse and buggy versus flying in a commercial jet. Technically both methods are acting on the same mission, but one is vastly more effective and efficient than the other. The “jet” for nonprofits is technology. That’s where Computers In Ministry (CIM) enters the conversation.
We know that nonprofits aren’t to blame for this lack of tech savvy. There’s not an unwillingness to learn, or unwavering allegiance to the analog age. There are all sorts of barriers or reasons why picking up new technology can be difficult. Without further ado, let’s take a moment and really delve into technology services for nonprofits and how technology can take your NPO to the next level. In particular we look at what software nonprofits use, what software nonprofits need, free software for nonprofits, and more!
Nonprofit organizations have a variety of needs that technology can help solve. For example, they may need to keep track of things like:
The list goes on. Basically, like any business there are all sorts of opportunities to use technology to improve the impact and operation of a nonprofit organization. While there are several applications and software platforms that can help nonprofits thrive (more on these later), they all mostly fall into a category called database software.
A database is essentially a collection of data, stored electronically in a computer system. Database software is used to create, edit, and maintain files and records. This means any data, like donor information, accounting records, timesheets, and more can be tracked and accessed through software.
Database software platforms also enable easier data entry, data editing, file creation, communication, information updating, and reporting. In fact, sometimes these processes can even be automated. Database software also stores data, handles backup and reporting, and allows for multiple users to access data simultaneously. It can even aid in data security.
Essentially, nonprofit database software takes the hassle out of data management by enabling users to store and access data seamlessly. For NPOs, this is a big deal, especially when you consider all of the data they accumulate.
It might seem like we are really getting into the weeds a bit here, so let’s answer some questions that might still be on your mind.
Nonprofits can be overrun with data, files, records and other information. Instead of trying to keep up with all of these records manually, a database can store everything neatly in one place and allow for efficient access. For example, say someone in your organization wanted to look up the amount of money a certain donor gave over the last ten years. If you rely on tangible files, it might take you hours to track down all of their donation information. With a database, you can conduct a targeted search and find exactly what you need quickly and easily. This is just one of the numerous examples of how a nonprofit might benefit from a database.
The truth is there are several different databases and softwares that nonprofits can use. Every nonprofit will have varying database needs to a certain degree. Taking that into consideration however, there are some operations that all nonprofits tend to have in common. Some of the key ones include:
Before we break down some of the details on these database software platforms, it’s important to have a little more context. As we mentioned earlier, each nonprofit has varying needs, pain points, or limitations. With that in mind, one major factor that tends to be relevant for all nonprofits is price. Many not-for-profit institutions can find themselves trying to get the most for their money, meaning discounted, freemium, or free software is far more appealing than paying sticker price for something. So, now that we have a good foundation, we are going to look at the database examples from the list above with an emphasis on free software for nonprofit organizations.
Fundraising is the real backbone of a nonprofit organization. Let’s take a look at several fundraising softwares that have free versions or trials.
What’s more, Auctria also helps with websites for virtual fundraising and integrates seamlessly with social media accounts. That means better and easier marketing for all of your fundraising campaigns. Auctria even offers around the clock support and mobile apps for access anywhere, anytime. This platform is available in both a freemium version as well as a free trial. Upgraded versions come at a flat annual cost.
With Bloomerang, you can also create, schedule, and email newsletters. Not only that but you can track the analytics of your email campaigns to better understand their impact. You can use this software to better assess donor engagement and even qualify it by donation size or donor location.
Another exciting feature Bloomerang offers is their integration with social media. Not only does it measure your social media presence and impact, it can also match online posts with donors already in your database. The really cool part though, is that it can actually identify individuals who are posting about your organization or event that are not in your database, and recommend them as potential new donors. Bloomerang also offers mobile apps and is available in free trial and freemium packages with a low monthly cost to upgrade.
One of the best scheduling software platforms available to nonprofit organizations is ScheduleBase.
ScheduleBase is designed to help you schedule and communicate with your employees anywhere, anytime. All you have to do is invite your staff to the platform, enter schedule information like shifts, notes, or jobs, and then just click “post” and voila, your team can see the whole plan. There is even a mobile app to seamlessly provide access on the go, in case there are any last second changes or checks that need to be made.
While it’s not totally free, ScheduleBase’s freemium model offers a free month-long trial, followed up with the option to buy once your trial is over. One of the perks of Schedule base is that you only pay for what you need—, i.e., your price per month is based on how many employees you have. For anywhere from 1-20 employees, the monthly rate is as low as ten dollars, with steadily increasing rates after that.
In the nonprofit sector, CRM software denotes “constituent relationship management” as opposed to the “customer relationship management” meaning of corporations. That being said, the goal of CRM software in either case is to track and manage relationships. If that sounds like something we have already discussed, that’s because it is. Many CRM softwares are combined with other tools to offer a more complete relationship picture. For example, Bloomerang, Auctria, and BiddingOwl all have CRM components to them, like donor tracking. Let’s add a couple more examples to the list.
Accounting software is a critical component to a smooth nonprofit operation. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find completely free software. There are, however, some freemium or budget-friendly options on the market. Let’s look at a couple of them.
At CIM we know IT can feel overwhelming, complicated, or even otherworldly. We are here to help. Our mission is to power your mission through technology. Together, as your trusted partner, we find the right tools for you to match your needs and empower your day-to-day work. We know it can be daunting sharing your data or embracing change. That’s why we take pride in fully understanding your operation and becoming a part of your NPO family. Ready to take the next step? Contact us today to change the world tomorrow. We’d love to work with you.