For nonprofits—new or established, large or small—everything is driven by the mission. You work to build an online presence and increase awareness, create dynamic campaigns to generate support and fundraise, and keep communication lines open with supporters, community leaders, and donors—all in order to advance mission and make the world a little better place.

Just like for-profit organizations, modern nonprofits benefit from using technology to help achieve their objectives. With so many different types of technology available it can feel overwhelming to figure out where to start.

That’s not to say nonprofits aren’t trying. While many may just be realizing the need for at least some sort of technology-based upgrade for their organizations, around 75% of nonprofits’ digital teams have expanded or been restructured within the last 3 years. According to the same survey, though, a mere 11% of nonprofits consider their own approaches to digital technology to be “highly effective.” 

The impact of this is simple (and avoidable!): “nonprofits are leaving significant impact on the table,” according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR). In many cases, these nonprofits see better results if they develop a better plan going into technology adoption and more robust plans for implementation and maintenance—in other words, they may just be missing one crucial piece of the puzzle. And that missing piece, in many cases, may simply be helpdesk technology.

In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at what nonprofits need to know about technology by answering the following questions:

  • In what ways can technology transform the nonprofit sector?

  • How does technology help nonprofit organizations?

  • What is nonprofit help desk technology?

  • How do nonprofits implement helpdesk or other new technologies?

  • How does Computers In Ministry support nonprofit technology needs?

In What Ways Can Technology Transform the Nonprofit Sector?

When it comes to their technology needs, nonprofits aren’t that different from for-profit businesses. Just like retail or ecommerce companies, for example, nonprofit employees need modern tools to manage donor and supporter communication and relationships, help with any website questions or issues, and so on.

What Are Nonprofit Technology Trends for 2022 and Beyond?

According to the Forbes Nonprofit Council, some more of the biggest nonprofit technology trends expected in 2022 and beyond include:

  • Multimedia storytelling to motivate and connect with supporters

  • Data-back audience and message targeting

  • Migration to the cloud

  • Transition to a managed IT services model

  • Increased use of social media and mobile giving platforms

  • Introduction of hybrid and virtual fundraising and events

  • Integration of AI tools to better understand donor behaviors and trends

  • Measurement and evaluation of digital outreach and engagement channels

While there are a lot of exciting innovations happening right now, the good news is that it’s never too late to start your journey toward a more connected, confident, and future-ready digital presence.

According to SSIR research, it turns out that nonprofits are actively trying to ramp up their helpdesk and other technological offerings…but they’re having trouble getting it just right. It’s not surprising that some nonprofits struggle to figure out exactly how to find and implement the right technology for their needs. Even giant corporations can struggle with this.

What about nonprofit tech support? Just like for-profit companies, nonprofits struggle to figure out how to structure their organizational chart as far as tech support goes. According to the Stanford study, within the last three years, three-quarters of digital teams have undergone restructuring at least once—though only half of those organizations were able to confidently say their new structures work at least “somewhat well.”

As a result, many of these organizations experience persistent struggles with donor engagement. For example, 43% of organizations report having no staff dedicated to donor engagement. Further, 75% aren’t able to accurately and consistently track engagement metrics, and 64% report that they simply don’t have enough funds to meaningfully impact engagement.

While better helpdesk technology may not provide an immediate answer to all of these problems, it certainly doesn’t hurt. If a supporter or potential donor runs into glitches on your website, it can erode their trust and prevent them from feeling comfortable working with or donating to your cause. On the other hand, providing responsive and timely support helps develop better, more trusting relationships.

You’re probably wondering where to start. That’s exactly what you should be thinking! We don’t recommend trying to take on all of these trends at once, but to be methodical and prioritize according to your specific needs and objectives.

Next, we’ll walk you through some of the main ways technology helps modern nonprofits.

How Does Technology Help Nonprofit Organizations?

Among the technology tools most commonly identified as instrumental in helping nonprofit organizations engage with donors and advance their mission include technical support (e.g., helpdesk and/or service desk platforms), content management systems (CMS), customer/client relationship management (CRM) systems, donation/fundraising software, email marketing software, social media management tools, and more.

  • Content management system (CMS): A reliable CMS empowers employees to create effective content and a dynamic website to drive interest and engagement. Developing a blog with educational and inspiring content helps potential and current donors better understand the cause, why they should support it, and how they can get involved.

  • Customer/client relationship management (CRM): Usually discussed in the context of a for-profit business, a CRM system is also a virtual must-have for nonprofit organizations. The primary objective of a CRM platform is to connect customers or donors to the business and create positive, lasting relationships. A CRM helps with this by providing an all-in-one platform to provide multiple communication channels, manage donor histories, and track relevant engagement metrics.

  • Donation/fundraising software: This is a technology consideration that’s unique to nonprofits. Simply put, a nonprofit’s mission is likely to fail without effective fundraising efforts. Today’s nonprofits are seeing online giving continue to grow, most recently by 12.1% over the 2021 calendar year. Online fundraising platforms make creating and promoting campaigns a relatively straightforward affair, significantly expanding outreach and increasing awareness of the mission. And fundraising software doesn’t have to be complicated; if it can embed a custom form into your website, accept donations in multiple currencies, and accept recurring donations, you’re on the right track.

  • Email marketing: Email marketing is an effective way to generate awareness and excitement around a fundraising campaign or event, keep loyal donors in the loop and engaged with the mission, and drive further donation efforts. Email marketing software makes it easy to set up automated campaigns, modernizing the workflow and freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on other aspects of the organization.

  • Social media management: In many ways, social media management is similar to email marketing (as discussed above). Nonprofit organizations increasingly rely on social media campaigns to connect with modern donors. Social media management platforms can help nonprofits optimize their processes by scheduling content posts and tracking in-platform analytics to better understand the types of posts or posting strategies that drive the most engagement.

  • Technical support: Modern nonprofit organizations require modern technical support. Otherwise, even the best-selected technology platforms are going to deliver limited benefits. Especially in organizations with tight budgets, any system downtime can cause problems with donor or volunteer coordination and management. Technical support like helpdesk and service deck platforms helps to keep systems optimized and operational, also serving a vital role in supporting the rollout of the above technologies.

What Is Nonprofit Technology Helpdesk Software?

For a nonprofit organization, a helpdesk software platform provides the necessary tools to keep donors, volunteers, community members, employees, and other stakeholders connected and focused on the nonprofit’s mission. By leveraging the right combination of tools and principles, these organizations can create systems and processes that simplify operations and minimize downtime or disruption to key services.

What Is the Difference Between a Help Desk and a Service Desk?

Even though these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are a few key differences between service desk and help desk software. When most people talk about “helpdesk” functions, they’re thinking of enterprise/business-related tech support. In a business context, the helpdesk is responsible for fielding questions and solving problems for customers. Helpdesk employees might field inquiries from any number of communication channels—phone, email, text, or web chat, for example. Businesses might also have an internal help desk, responsible for solving any tech issues employees might encounter.

Through fielding their customers’ inquiries, a help desk serves as a single point of contact (SPOC) for customers. Whether they’re having trouble placing an online order, scheduling an appointment, or finding information they need, they can simply reach out to the help desk and be routed to the right department or individual to assist them. The features of helpdesk software for nonprofit organizations can be categorized into two buckets: general communication and help/support.

  • Communication: Whether a prospective new donor is having difficulty understanding how to navigate your website, make a donation, or volunteer with your organization, establishing a reliable help desk makes it easy for people to get in contact. As the organization grows or changes, individual communication channels can be added to the mix.

  • Help/support: In addition to answering basic questions, helpdesk personnel are also tasked with incident reporting and management. When website users encounter bugs or major issues with online services, helpdesk technology provides a system for reporting those issues, tracking their progress, escalating when necessary, and documenting solutions. Many helpdesk platforms include tools to help build a self-service knowledge base to answer the most common questions.

By contrast, a service desk serves a broader purpose than helpdesk technology, aligning less with IT support and more with overarching IT strategy. To that end, service desk responsibilities can also include items such as:

  • Evaluating, selecting, and implementing technology

  • Developing integrations between key technologies

  • Automating routine processes and workflows

  • Maintaining a knowledge base of self-service content

  • Ensuring that service level agreements (SLAs) are met

  • Making recommendations around IT strategy, resources, and support

Again, while there may be some overlap between helpdesk and service desk responsibilities, they are technically not synonymous with each other. In some cases, though—especially within smaller organizations and nonprofits—the helpdesk can be considered a subcategory of the service desk.

Is all of this sounding like a lot? We understand. If that’s the case, you might consider a managed services approach. In the next section, we’ll examine two different ways to address nonprofit helpdesk technology systems and support—a do-it-yourself approach and a managed services approach.

How Do Nonprofits Implement Helpdesk or Other New Technologies?

While they’re not the only options, the DIY and managed services models represent two of the most common approaches. In reality, some organizations will want to mix and match the approaches. For example, if you already have a well-established CRM with accurate and complete data, you might not find value in moving all of that data to a new platform. You don’t have to! Whether you take the DIY or managed services route, you can keep what you like and just round out your tech stack with the tools you still need.

Option 1: “D-I-Y” IT

This approach entails assessing and addressing your own IT needs, through gap analysis and researching solutions. This approach makes sense if you have specific, relatively straightforward needs and know exactly what kinds of features and technology you’re looking for.

First Steps of the DIY Approach

The do-it-yourself approach to helpdesk technology requires three main steps: evaluating your specific needs, researching solutions, and then implementing the chosen technology.

  • Evaluate needs: You can begin by soliciting feedback from internal employees as well as external contacts. Ideally, you’ll be able to figure out and prioritize two categories of need: (1) helpdesk and related features and functions that will better enable employees to work with the different technology systems the nonprofit uses and (2) those features that will enable better relationship-building between the nonprofit and its supporters.

  • Research solutions: Next, stakeholders would need to discuss and prioritize their identified needs and begin researching available solutions. As different platforms are evaluated, you can identify those that stand to offer the most value—those that provide the most-needed features without a lot of bloat (and extra cost). Websites like G2 and Capterra offer reviews of helpdesk (and other) software platforms.

  • Implement and monitor: Depending on the extent to which new technologies are being identified and leveraged, implementation may be relatively simple—or it may require intensive change management. Migrating to new technologies can be overwhelming, even with a solid plan, but it can be done. If you choose the DIY approach, we would recommend following a change management plan, which typically includes the following stages:

  • Auditing the present-state and identifying needs

  • Generating buy-in by weighing the benefits against the risk or cost

  • Developing a vision and plan for integrating new tools and technology

  • Removing obstacles to change

  • Creating short-term wins and milestones to build momentum

  • Developing and implementing best practices specific to the solution(s) chosen

That can sound like a lot, especially for smaller, newer organizations. If that describes your nonprofit, then you’re an ideal candidate for the managed IT services approach.

What Are Managed IT Services for Nonprofits?

For organizations interested in significantly ramping up their technological know-how quickly, the “managed IT services” model is the better approach. By partnering with a managed IT service company, you can rely on trustworthy, professional advice and implementation help. Managed services models include on-going support as well, making it an ideal solution for organizations that expect imminent growth.

What is a managed IT service company? Here’s how Gartner defines it:

A managed service provider (MSP) delivers services, such as network, application, infrastructure and security, via ongoing and regular support and active administration on customers’ premises, in their MSP’s data center (hosting), or in a third-party data center.

What’s in it for nonprofits? Benefits of the managed IT services model include:

  • Increased flexibility and scalability: The future is neither wholly random nor wholly predictable. Seasonality, world events, and other factors are likely to impact an organization’s specific needs. This means it’s important for organizations to find tech solutions that not only meet their needs now, but are designed to adapt and scale on the fly. Whether donations and engagement are high, lagging, or somewhere in between, a managed services provider will help determine how your IT services can be optimized to current conditions.

  • Comprehensive support with quick response times: The last thing you want is for one small technological or technical problem to turn into major disruption or downtime. With managed IT services, you don’t necessarily need an internal expert to diagnose and remedy issues that arise. This is especially true for smaller nonprofits, where many team members already wear multiple hats—a strategy that minimizes IT costs, but doesn’t necessarily provide speedy resolution. When you partner with a managed services provider like Computers In Ministry, there’s one central point of contact for both internal issues (like website performance or technology that’s not working like it should) as well as external (issues donors or supporters are encountering).

  • Cost controls and budgeting insights: Considering the number of technology options available for nonprofit organizations of all sizes, it can be difficult to determine the best solutions to invest in. And once a solution’s been implemented, quantifying its impact can be equally tricky. When you work with a managed services provider, you can delegate many of these tactical decisions to experts in the industry. A managed services provider can help you sort out what exactly you need, how help desk pricing works, and the results you can achieve. They’ll be able to keep an eye on the bigger picture, so that even when things might go wrong, your technology costs can remain manageable and consistent.

  • Donor management and security: Online and mobile fundraising are vital to modern nonprofits. In 2021 alone, online and mobile donations increased by 23%—marking the 6th straight year of significant increase. Unfortunately, scammers and other nefarious agents create unease among many would-be donors. This highlights the importance of leveraging sophisticated systems that can prevent fraud and keep donors’ personal information secure. Help desk software can help prevent phishing attacks, data breaches, and other malware threats.

  • Customized solutions and implementation processes: Many nonprofit organizations are just realizing that they’ve outgrown their ability to keep up with all things IT. If you’re among these growing organizations and in the early stages of determining your IT needs, you might seek out nonprofit technology consulting companies or consider working with a managed service provider who can help you figure out where to start. They’ll help prioritize your needs, assess your current state, and find the right platforms and processes to optimize your operations.

How Does CIM Support Nonprofit Technology Needs?

For over 25 years, Computers in Ministry has worked with nonprofit organizations who have a strong mission but could use a little extra help with managing their IT needs. Whether you just need to chat with a nonprofit consultant or are looking for a managed services provider to take the lead on all things IT, we’re here to help.

Who Do We Help?

Our mission is to form productive, long-term partnerships with nonprofit organizations. As you can guess based on our name, we love working with community churches and Christian nonprofits, but we’re equally passionate about higher education institutions and other mission-driven organizations. Learn more about how we help each of these groups.

What Do We Help Them With?

We are not a typical tech vendor. We prefer to think of ourselves as a ministry partner—an extension of your organization. In other words, your mission and goals become our mission and goals, and they guide our strategy. Whether you just need helpdesk or other individual services or holistic IT solutions and management, we can help. Our main services fall into four categories:

  • Strategy and consulting services: e.g., technology adoption roadmapping, gap assessment, software evaluation, and project management.

  • Security and risk management: e.g., security planning, IT security monitoring, backup, and risk assessment.

  • Technology services: e.g., architecture and administration (servers, networks, etc.), unified collaboration, CRM support, and cloud migration.

  • User services: e.g., desktop support, helpdesk, self-help, and training.

How Do We Help?

Wherever you’re at in your tech journey, we’re ready to help at any stage. Our basic process is straightforward and designed around understanding your needs and helping you select and implement the best solutions for your nonprofit. To do this, we let strategy, service, and stewardship power our mission. Here’s how partnering with CIM works:

Step 1: Schedule a Consultation

We want to know your nonprofit inside and out. What’s your mission? What are the main ways you work toward that mission? What are your biggest challenges? What solutions have you tried?

Step 2: Align Technology to the Mission

Once we’ve gotten to know your organization and determined a fit, we’ll collaborate with you to create a Technology Roadmap that aligns with your mission and will enable you to achieve your goals.

Step 3: Deliver the Roadmap

Once we’ve collected the insight we need from Steps 1 and 2, we’ll dig in and get to work. We’ll help you find and implement the helpdesk or other technology services you need most, with plenty of support along the way.

Step 4: Continuous Support and Improvement

Once we’re underway with the implementation plan, we remain committed to understanding how it’s going. We’ll be available for support whenever you need it, and will continuously assess how well the technology is working for you, what questions you’re running into, how your needs may change over time, and more. In other words, we’re a partner you can rely on from start to finish.

Is Nonprofit Tech Training Included?

At CIM, our User Services category includes Helpdesk software configuration and use, as well as self-help resources and even tech training programs to help ensure a smooth transition to any new tools you decide to implement. This way, whether you opt for a managed services model or just want to enlist our help and support as needed, you won’t have to worry about ever being stuck with technology or processes you don’t fully understand.

Whether you need helpdesk support or are interested in managed IT services, we’re here to serve. Reach out today to start the conversation!