OneTenth Consulting
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Thoughts & Musings

Is Your Nonprofit Putting the Cart Before the Horse?


This post was written by OneTenth Consulting CEO, Rubin Singh, and originally published on roundCorner's blog.

Technology Problem Where?

As a consultant in the nonprofit technology space, customers and prospects have called me in hundreds of times to solve application problems. In general, the solution is prescribed to me, and I am asked to execute–“We need your help! Can you solve X by doing Y?”

But as I start analyzing the problem, asking questions, and peeling back the layers, it’s not uncommon to find…there’s actually no application problem at all.

Fundraising Problems In Disguise

“If it’s not the technology, then what’s the problem?” Sometimes, well-meaning staff have inherited inefficient processes from their predecessors. In other cases, limitations to legacy systems have forced workers into convoluted processes.

However, the most common “technology” challenge in the nonprofit space is a misalignment between the organization’s technology decisions and their fundraising strategy. Even further, there are cases where there is no fundraising strategy at all, which makes any application seem ineffective.

Leading with Data versus Fundraising Strategy

When it comes to fundraising goals, some organizations rely solely on past performance, letting the data tell them what to do. These nonprofits may run standard fundraising reports (SYBUNT, LYBUNT, etc.) and adjust the sails accordingly. This reaction to the data becomes their fundraising strategy by default.

For some, this method works. Still, I ask, is that not putting the cart before the horse?

Put Fundraising Strategy First

In my experience, the organizations that are most successful at integrating technology have lead with their fundraising strategy. While analyzing past performance can always provide insight, it is also wise to step back and reflect on broader questions:

  1. What impact are we trying to achieve?
  2. Why are we most qualified to achieve it?
  3. Who will our mission most resonate with?
  4. What matters most to them?
  5. How can we best engage with them?
  6. What types of engagement would most likely retain them after they give?

These are just some of the questions that organizations can ask themselves to explore a meaningful fundraising strategy. In addition, it’s critical that all stakeholders (IT, Development, Executive Leadership, etc.) have a seat at the table for this discussion. Once defined, it is then a matter of translating these answers into tangible goals:

  1. Setting targets for new donors
  2. Increasing the number of donor visits
  3. Starting a monthly giving program
  4. Converting a certain number of mid-level donors to major donors
  5. Increasing the number of touchpoints for planned giving prospects

Gallop Toward Your Goals with Technology

Only when such goals are defined can you truly leverage technology to achieve them. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to customize a CRM system is pointless if it’s not helping you execute your strategy in a measurable way. In fact, if you invest in a nonprofit-focused CRM, you’ll find that much of what’s above is provided “out of the box” with minimal customization, leaving most of the heavy lifting for data migration and integrations.

When fundraising strategy is the driving force leading your system processes, your organization will be better positioned to leverage all your technology has to offer…and keep you galloping toward your goals!