Is technology driving your mission, or is your mission driven by the technology you have available? If you’re like most nonprofits, the answer is probably the latter.
According to a 2018 survey by NetChange, only 11% of nonprofit organizations view their approach to digital technologies and efforts as highly effective. That leaves the other 89% of organizations at least somewhat unsure about how well their approach to tech is actually working. At Computers in Ministry (CIM), we’re here to change that.
Now, first things first. We know it’s not because nonprofits are unwilling to adapt to new technologies. Quite the opposite, actually! It’s because they’re laser-focused on their core mission: helping their communities, providing food and care to people in need, or offering other support programs that make the world around us a better place for everyone. And that’s not a bad thing. We’re in awe of the work our partners do day in and day out.
However, as technology has gotten more advanced over the past several decades, it’s given us more than memes and TikTok videos. It's opened up a lot of doors to help businesses—including nonprofits—do their work better and more efficiently. And according to Henry Timms, executive director of the 92nd street Y, “How we manage and harness technology for the good of mankind is the key issue of our time.” Technology is integral to the work of nonprofits, and harnessing the right tech can take your mission to new heights… if you know where to look.
If you’re a nonprofit and you’re not sure how to get started with tech—be it organizational software, security, advanced CRMs, or just basic help desk and training support—an IT shared services partner like Computers in Ministry can help you take advantage of the tech that can truly support your work. But before we dive into the kinds of things we can help with, let’s explore some common topics in technology services for nonprofits, including nonprofit technology needs, software for nonprofit organizations, nonprofit tech security, and more.
What are the Needs of Nonprofit Organizations?
When we think about the building blocks of a nonprofit, often things like mission, tax-exempt status, and a board of directors come to mind. Now, don’t get us wrong. These are mission-critical for nonprofits and the important work they do.
But there are other building blocks too: strategic plans, funding structures, and human capital. How can technology help nonprofits with these responsibilities? Let’s dive in.
A Strategic Plan: A strategic plan acts as a guidepost for the future—typically the next three to five years. These documents provide an overarching direction and should include clear, measurable goals that can be tracked and evaluated over the next few years. Working smarter, not harder, by using digital software tools to define and regularly monitor achievements can make it quicker and easier for organizations to track their strategic plan and create year-end documents to communicate progress to stakeholders. But you have to develop a technology roadmap to implement these tools.
Fundraising Capabilities: Most nonprofits agree that fundraising is absolutely essential. From the smallest to the largest donor, every cent makes a difference. The easiest way to take fundraising to the next level? Technology. From digital #GivingTuesday campaigns to advanced CRMs that can make it easier than ever to communicate with funders, technology can make this responsibility easier and more effective.
Grant Solicitation and Management: In addition to fundraising, grants are one of the other primary revenue streams for nonprofits. But grant management has only gotten more complex, and there are a lot of moving pieces. Digital software like CRMs and program management tools can help track grant requirements so everyone can make sense of the requirements and stay on the same page.
Human Capital: At the end of the day, the work of nonprofits comes down to the employees who work tirelessly day in and day out to advance a mission. For a lot of nonprofit employees, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. With the right technology, a lot of tasks can be automated, freeing up time for your employees to do human work like talking to donors, interfacing with clients, and other tasks that require the unique spark a human brings.
With the right tools, technology is more than memes and viral dance videos. It can actually underscore the work you do and drive your mission further than you thought possible.
How Do Nonprofits Use Technology?
So we discussed nonprofit needs in relation to technology. But how can nonprofits actually use their tech to meet these needs? At the risk of sounding difficult or vague, it all depends on the organization.
Every organization has their own unique needs, and developing an action plan to drive those needs with technology is equally as unique. There just isn’t an out of the box solution that’s going to work for everyone all the time. And, to be fully transparent, there are a lot of tools out there that just might not drive the work you do.
For example, a small non-profit working behind the scenes to support food scarcity may not have a need for a robust volunteer management system. A food pantry that’s open five or six days a week, however, could really benefit from a volunteer management system that allows for automations that can cut back on the manpower behind scheduling and training.
Knowing what you need and what you don’t, when it comes to tech, can save you time, money, and headaches further down the line. So before adopting any new tech, organizations should make a list of their goals, in relation to their day-to-day operations, to really hone in on the kinds of tools and resources that can really drive their overall mission. Here are the main categories of tech that you may or may not find useful in advancing your mission.
Hardware includes the physical parts of a computer and other technology devices. This means laptops and desktops, internal parts like motherboards and graphics cards, phones, printers, monitors, keyboards, and more. Some organizations may provide these resources while others may adopt a BYO (bring your own) device policy.
Volunteer Management System
Volunteer management software helps organizations track the entire volunteer lifecycle, from recruiting to training to scheduling to communicating. While much of this can be completed with a basic Excel spreadsheet and an email system, organizations with large quantities of volunteers have much better luck getting everything done in an organized manner with a dedicated system.
Donor Management Software
Donor management software helps nonprofit organizations maximize their donor relationships and organize data all in one central location. The best donor management software tracks incoming funds, organizes data, identifies trends, and even recommends moves to increase donations.
In the for-profit world, CRM stands for customer relationship manager. However, you may also hear it referred to as a constituent relationship manager in the nonprofit world. You might be wondering, “Do nonprofits need a CRM?” Probably, and here’s why. CRMs can be used for a variety of important tasks, from tracking donations to managing events and volunteers. Nonprofits that interface directly with the public may also use CRMs to track those interactions. CRMs are considered to be one of the most important digital tools a nonprofit can adopt.
Project Management and Evaluation
From basic spreadsheets to data collection surveys, project management and evaluation tools can act as a repository for all the kinds of data that nonprofits need to track and report on, and they can keep everyone on the same page when it comes to deadlines and key responsibilities. If you’re still operating on to-do lists and dry erase boards, a project management program can really improve your day-to-day operations. There are even a lot of free options out there!
Human Resources (HR) and Accounting
Tracking finances, including cash inflows and outflows, and maintaining HR compliance are all things that a good piece of software can make easier. While many nonprofits have adopted HR and accounting software, they’re not all created equally. It’s important to find the right programs that work for your specific organization’s needs.
Since the onset of #GivingTuesday about 10 years ago, nonprofits of all sizes have realized how important marketing efforts and social media can be to their donor engagement. Specially-designed software programs can help your marketing team develop these efforts and generally spread the word about the amazing work your nonprofit does every day.
Since early 2020, we’ve all learned about the importance of good digital communication tools. From video conferencing to messaging systems like Slack and Microsoft Teams, communication and collaboration tools have become a cornerstone of businesses everywhere. As we all adjust to a new normal, it’s become increasingly clear that the desire for flexible work environments isn’t going away, so these kinds of communication tools will be important for the foreseeable future. What’s more, these kinds of tools can connect your paid employees with your volunteers, adding an additional touchpoint to keep in contact with them.
How Can Managed IT Services for Nonprofits Help?
Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of technology that’s available for you as a nonprofit? You’re not alone. The good news is, not every nonprofit needs every type of technology listed above. What’s more, free versions and discounts are available for a lot of nonprofits if you know where to look.
But one of the primary technology challenges for nonprofits is knowing how to find all this information. Afterall, you’re not a tech company, and innovative solutions are coming out every year.
That’s part of the reason why working with a nonprofit technology consultant like Computers in Ministry is so important. For the past 25 years, we’ve worked with nonprofits to help them find the right technology solutions, services, and support that’ll make the most impact while still protecting your bottom line. Technology can drive your mission to new heights with the right partner.
So how can managed IT nonprofit service providers help? Generally, our services can be broken down into four categories:
Organizational and Consulting Services
The best shared service partners are just that: your partners. They can integrate into your organization to fully understand your operations and your needs to develop a comprehensive technology roadmap. This might include:
A gap assessment to identify technology needs.
IT policy development to put your technology policies in writing.
Software evaluation and selection to help identify the right solutions for your organization.
Data planning to help you make the most of the robust amount of data you have.
Project management to organize each of these services.
At CIM, we’ll come to your board meetings, meet your employees, and do what we can to join your work family and support your mission.
Security and Risk Management
Every year we hear about more bad actors on the web. Data security isn’t just for the private sector. Developing a data security policy for nonprofits is an important part of keeping your organization, your clients, your donors, and your employees’ information safe and secure.
Shared service partners are experienced in security planning and monitoring, risk assessments to identify your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to IT security, data backups to ensure your information is secure, and incident response and disaster recovery should any threats make it through. Things happen, but your ability to respond to security and risk management issues can make or break the situation.
Technology services include the nuts and bolts of adopting, implementing, and maintaining software and tools. A shared services provider can assist nonprofits in server, network, and wireless architecture administration, Office 365 migration and ongoing maintenance, CRM migration and maintenance, cloud solution integrations, and the management of other kinds of software applications.
Essentially, from finding a new tool to implementing it to running the day-to-day operations, a shared services partner can support it all.
Finally, a shared services provider is here to help your people and their technology by providing device support on desktops and laptops, nonprofit help desk support to troubleshoot issues, and self-help and training to ensure your team has the necessary information to use software and tools to their full capability.
This one is important. You can adopt all the best tech and tools in the world, but if your team doesn’t know how to use the tools, they just can’t drive your mission.
What Is the Best Software for Nonprofits?
Whether or not you work with a shared services provider, you likely have questions about what kinds of software solutions and tools can best help your organization. The truth is, it depends on your daily activities, your goals, your budget, and more. And that’s why working with a shared services partner can truly help you choose the best software for your unique situation.
With that said, we’ve compiled a short list of frequently asked questions when it comes to nonprofit software to help you begin your research and develop some ideas or expectations around what you may be interested in.
Does Apple Offer Discounts for Nonprofits?
When it comes to discounts, Apple tends to stick with education discounts, government employee discounts, and military discounts. However, Apple does honor tax-exempt status. If you’re making a purchase from Apple, you’ll want to bring in all of your tax-exempt paperwork to save on sales tax. What’s more, Apple’s refurbished device program can be a great way to purchase refurbished, like-new Apple products for your staff at a discounted rate.
Does QuickBooks offer Discounts for Nonprofits?
Yes, QuickBooks offers discounts to nonprofits and other organizations who are signing up for QuickBooks for the first time. In fact, Computers in Ministry has channel partnerships to ensure you’re getting the best prices available.
QuickBooks can help nonprofits track donations, in addition to managing bookkeeping, invoicing, and accounting needs. It also has features to support things like reporting and IRS compliance. QuickBooks is also compatible with applications like NeonCRM, DonorPath, and Kindful. When choosing software solutions and tools, you should check to ensure the programs are compatible. This will make it easier for everyone involved to access and use the tools. Pricing information for non-profits is listed on their website.
Does Microsoft Offer Discounts for Nonprofits?
Yes, Microsoft does offer discounts for nonprofits, including cloud services like Microsoft 365, Azure, and Dynamics 365. They also offer discounts on Microsoft Surface hardware and on-premise software. Microsoft is dedicated to providing transparency in pricing for their discounts. As such, they state that they offer up to a 75% discount on core products for cloud and on-premise products and up to a 60% discount on premium products. CIM has an on-going partnership with Microsoft to ensure that our partners get the best pricing available.
To be eligible to receive a discount through Microsoft, organizations must first register. To qualify, organizations must be a nonprofit with a recognized 501(c)(3) status.
Which CRM Is Best for Nonprofits?
CRMs are one of the most important tools at a nonprofit’s disposal, so it’s not surprising that we get a lot of questions about finding the right CRM for charities or nonprofits. At the risk of saying this too much... it honestly depends on what you want to get out of your CRM. Some CRMs focus heavily on donor management, while others integrate functionalities that can handle membership management, client case files, event planning, and more.
So, when determining which CRM is best for you, make a list of all the functionalities you want or need and start your search there. A managed services partner can help you find the option that’s just right for you. But to get you started, here is some information about some of the best CRM options for nonprofits.
NeonCRM: NeonCRM can handle fundraising, donor management, communications, membership management, event registration, and comprehensive reporting. Pricing ranges from $99 to $299 a month, depending upon the services you need.
Salsa: Salsa provides capabilities for creating donor profiles, tracking donations, fundraising by mail, reporting, grant management, and more. They also offer a number of app integrations for ease of use. Salsa’s pricing is based on an organization’s specific uses and needs.
Donor Perfect: Donor Perfect can handle tasks like donation processing, online form integration, donor engagement, event management, and custom reporting. Pricing ranges from $99 to $799 per month, depending upon features and the amount of records you have.
Kindful: Kindful offers tools like fundraising, donor management, communications, tracking and reporting, in addition to a number of integrations for additional capabilities. Pricing for Kindful ranges from $100 to $700 or more a month, depending upon the number of contacts.
Breeze: Breeze is a church management CRM that offers tools for organizing and managing databases, creating groups, scheduling and sending communications, tracking donations and contributions, maintaining volunteer groups, and managing events. Nonprofits that use Breeze can expect to pay $50 a month.
Virtuous: Virtuous is a fundraising CRM that focuses primarily on donor management and relationship building. It also has capabilities for marketing and communications, donor development, volunteer management, and automation to give staff members more of their time back. Virtuous has plans that start at $350 a month.
Blackbaud eTapestry: eTapestry is a comprehensive CRM that provides the following functionalities: contact and donor management, marketing and communications, website integrations, custom reporting, and data analytics and quality assurance. Pricing for eTapestry is personalized and a quote can be requested on their website.
How Much Do Nonprofits Spend on Technology?
The amount of money nonprofits spend on technology depends on a variety of factors. To start, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how much nonprofits can spend on technology and other administrative costs. So how much you spend on technology is up to you, although it may be helpful to understand what others are spending.
According to NTEN’s 10th annual nonprofit technology staffing and investment report, the average nonprofit spends about 5.7% of their operating budget on technology. This amount varies quite a bit based on organization size, however. For example, small nonprofits report spending just over 13% of their operating budget on technology, while very large nonprofits report spending only 1.5% of their budget on tech. The fact is that nonprofits, like any company, have to figure out a way to balance their technology spend with all other aspects of their organization.
When calculating how much you want to spend on technology and developing a budget moving forward, organizations should consider the following factors:
How important technology is to your day-to-day operations. Additionally, think through whether or not it can automate or ease any of your tasks, freeing up employee time for additional responsibilities.
How important technology is to your engagement with the public, including donors, volunteers, and clients. For nonprofits that deal with the public daily, investing money in technology upfront can make work easier and more effective in the long run.
How quickly you’re growing and whether you have the technology to support that growth. For organizations experiencing growth, anticipating the technology needs that may come up in the immediate future can help develop an accurate budget.
What Can Help Nonprofits Save Money on Technology?
We get it. At the end of the day, you want the majority of your budget going to things that directly support your mission. And while tech certainly can do that, cutting costs and eliminating frivolous tech spends can do that. For nonprofit organizations looking to cut costs, there are a number of steps they can take to minimize costs while still maximizing the impact that technology can deliver.
Work with a Shared Services IT Partner
We know this might sound biased coming from a shared services IT partner, but one of the goals of a good shared services partner is to help you maximize your tech spend. Shared services partners can help provide round-the-clock monitoring and maintenance, in addition to providing as-needed support when issues arise. This can provide a cost-effective and flexible solution to your IT needs.
Develop a Data Backup and Recovery Policy
When it comes to data, there’s nothing more expensive or costly than losing it. That’s why developing a data backup and recovery policy is so important to protecting your information and safeguarding it against potential incidents. Losing data can result in lost donors or a bad reputation—something no nonprofit wants. Additionally, losing data could set programs back by days, weeks, or months… resulting in lost time and money. Spending some money upfront developing a data backup policy is worth it.
Create a Comprehensive Security Policy
Data breaches and security attacks are increasingly common, so safeguarding your information and your network against unauthorized users is crucial. But how can this actually save you money? By ensuring that your network is safe from cyberattacks, you can ensure your organization continues to operate at full capacity. And, when you’re doing the kind of work that nonprofits do, that’s important. We need you at full capacity making our communities better. Developing a cybersecurity technology policy for nonprofits can ensure this happens.
Computers in Ministry: IT Shared Services You Can Count On
At Computers in Ministry, we pride ourselves on being different from other kinds of IT help for nonprofits. We don’t want to be a distant vendor providing services from afar. We strive to be a partner, supporting you in the important work you do daily. Think of CIM as an extension of your team, helping you to achieve your goals and make the most of your technology investment. We truly want to be a part of your work family.
How do we accomplish this? Through a four-step process that helps us get to know your needs, implement new services, and provide ongoing support. When you partner with us, you can expect to:
- Experience a consultation where we’ll get to know your organization, goals, and establish whether or not we’re a good fit for you.
Work with us to align your technology to your mission, determining what kind of software, solutions, and support are needed to make it happen.
Receive a roadmap, which is a clear path forward through implementation.
Have continuous support and improvement to ensure that your evolving technology needs are consistently being met.
With CIM by your side, your technology can truly drive your mission. Ready to learn more and get started? Reach out to us today. We’d love a chance to chat!