This article originally appeared on npENGAGE.
For many, the term “automation” conjures up images of Rosie from The Jetsons or computers coming to steal our jobs. In reality, automation just means integrating your cloud apps and is an efficient way to simplify complex tasks and business processes that would otherwise require tedious human effort. For nonprofits, automation offers specific benefits in terms of transparency and efficiency. It can simplify your administrative work, allow for 360 degree view of your organization, and even help you raise more money.
Here are four reasons your nonprofit should consider integrating your apps:
1. More time for your mission
You work at a nonprofit because you want to provoke social change, but you spend most of your workday reconciling invoices in your account app. Sound familiar? A nonprofit isn’t a business, but it does need to accomplish basic business tasks such as accounting, record keeping, and reporting. Frequently, nonprofits dread these tasks because it means devoting less time to work that directly relates to their missions. With automation, however, you don’t need to worry about checking tedious, repetitive tasks off of your to-do list. Rather than focusing on tasks that keep your organization running day-to-day, you can focus on tasks that push your organization further towards its goals. B Lab, the nonprofit org that helps create a healthier earth by certifying businesses who meet social and environmental standards as a B Corp, saves 40 hours a month and $70K in labor costs through automation by creating a bi-directional sync between their CRM and Accounting apps. That’s 40 more hours to focus on their mission.
2. Improved reporting and greater transparency
Running a nonprofit involves making strategic choices about your goals. These decisions are more difficult to make when you have inaccurate or inadequate information about your programs or campaigns. In addition to this information block, we already know that nonprofits often face unrealistic expectations as written by The Stanford Social Innovation Review:
“The cycle starts with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much running a nonprofit costs, and results in nonprofits’ misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems—acts that feed funders’ skewed beliefs.”
Automation, however, makes aggregating the information nonprofits need to make high level decisions simple by syncing it between otherwise separate apps. This gives you an instant view of your donations and leads in one place. Automation means you can make better high-level decisions about your goals, because at any moment you can view a 360 degree snapshot of the entire organization.
This 360 degree reporting also means that you can be more transparent with your donors and leadership. By connecting your CRM with your accounting program, it’s much easier to account for every penny spent.
3. Lower cost; higher ROI
Another distinct challenge for nonprofits is that, though they aren’t profit-driven, they still need to run efficiently. Donors expect organizations to spend as much of their funding on the mission as possible, minimizing other costs. Nonprofits are always looking for ways to be both leaner and more efficient – automation can help you accomplish both. Cherrice Browne of Houston, TX based nonprofit The R.O.C.K. explains: “The point of having everything integrated and working together is to cut down on the time we spend on activities that don’t help us grow. For example, updating sales reports by hand – it doesn’t make money and it leaves room for error.”
Automation takes tasks that would otherwise require human labor and does them more quickly, more accurately, and more reliably. Instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars per year for a dedicated administrative staff, you can automate many repetitive tasks and allocate resources to new initiatives. By lowering your spending on grunt work and using those funds on higher level tasks, an increase in donations and hitting your KPI’s are sure to follow.
4. More efficient donation campaigns
Nonprofits rely heavily on online fundraising campaigns, but raising money can sometimes feel like throwing things at a wall and trying to see what sticks. With automation, you can make sure all your donor information is stored in one place. When you can access donor information more easily, you can craft targeted emails and campaigns that are more likely to result in a donation. This is key for increasing campaign efficiency, as personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates.
For example, let’s say an annual donor recently attended a fundraising event for a particular cause. Knowing that she attended the event is valuable information; because she demonstrated interest in that particular cause, she’s more likely to respond to a campaign about it. With automation, this insight is immediately available in your CRM or Marketing automation tool, and you can use to to craft tailored email campaigns that target donors based on their past behaviors. Additionally, automation enables you to interact with donors at otherwise disparate touchpoints, such as event attendance, membership renewal, and even birthdays.
Automation isn’t just the future of labor; it offers distinct advantages for nonprofit organizations. It allows you a 360 degree view of your entire organization from accounting to lead generation, and frees up staff to focus more on your mission and less on administrative work. If you want to run a leaner, more efficient, more accountable organization, automation is worth considering.