Topics: The Modern Nonprofit
Ever played that team building game, “All Aboard”? You’re in a group and you are given say, a hand towel or a telephone book (showing my age here, I know), and the goal is to get everybody on board without anyone having a foot touching the ground. Depending on the variation or the prop used, the boat may get smaller (e.g. towel is folded in half) or your group may get bigger — and still you need to get everyone on board without any feet touching the ground.
Often, working at a nonprofit organization can feel that way. You’re trying to serve the same number of people with fewer resources, or serve more people with the same amount of resources. This metaphor is not only apropos to programming, but to fundraising as well. You’re trying to raise funds from more supporters (get more people on board) with the same number of staff or resources. And yet, the more you raise, the more people (donors and clients) you can get on board.
It does not need to be an endless game of chicken, egg, chicken, egg.
That’s why you focus on major gifts and/or grants, right? We know it’s important to respect donors at all levels, but in terms of where we spend our fundraising resources (time, budget, attention), it is clear that we prioritize funders who can give large gifts. But it’s easy to take those smaller dollar annual gifts for granted — just send or share it out to enough people and build our lists and followers because it is a small percentage of volume, volume, volume.
Or is it?
When you don’t have the resources of a large organization behind you, being creative and adapting quickly is even more critical to making the most of what you have.
Good news is that technology keeps making it easier to fail fast and pivot quickly without risking huge investments of time or money. Regardless of where your organization is in terms of technological maturity (or how aligned your use of technology is with your mission), there are strategies you can implement at any stage.
1. Choose platforms that provide a solid start
If you want to leverage technology creatively, choose an online fundraising platform that provides a solid default along with the ability to customize the look and feel on your own. What does this look like for online fundraising? It means the product is designed with thoughtful consideration for the defaults—both how they support your mission-driven organization and a delightful donor experience.
Most of the time, we don’t give a ton of consideration to our defaults. Like when we reach out to our social networks (and only our social networks) when we need to staff up for a project and miss out on great talent who never knew there was an opportunity.
So take time when choosing a platform because that will be your launch pad.
As a nonprofit organization, particularly if you’re a small to mid-sized organization, it is probably important that…
- your systems can talk to each other so you can work efficiently,
- you have control over a donor’s giving experience and your branding,
- you can customize, manage and maintain this without having a full IT team in-house,
- you can test and evaluate your efforts,
- and, if you don’t have the time to, you know the system was designed based on rigorous testing of what is most effective.
Even if you are not looking for a new system right now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t look for new opportunities to optimize your current platforms or try new approaches.
Companies release updates and enhance functionality all the time. Even if you unsubscribed from the product updates, your vendor probably has a blog where you can check out any helpful new features you might have missed and get ideas for using them. Maybe you can even reach out to the vendor’s team and discuss what current features could help you accomplish X better! Or, if you’re looking to strategize across multiple channels (and potentially multiple platforms or systems), consider if it’s worth brainstorming with an outside team of strategy and design experts to figure out how to leverage them together to advance your mission.