11 Expert Tips for Nonprofits to Embrace Technology for Even Greater Impact

March 28, 2017 Madeline Turner

This article was originally published on npENGAGE.

Last week I had the privilege of networking with over 2000 nonprofit experts and professionals at NTEN‘s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). This conference brings together some of the top minds in nptech and gives attendees a chance to discuss what’s happening across the industry and share best practices for how to work smarter and create bigger, lasting impact with technology.

I used this as an opportunity to ask  nonprofit experts and thought leaders a simple but important question: what’s the most important thing nonprofits should know when it comes to embracing technology to advance their mission?

The responses ranged from focuses on big data and understanding supporter networks to doing more with less and being ready to disrupt. Here are the top 11 tips for nonprofits to embrace technology for even greater impact.

1. Map your needs to a strategic plan:

Leading indicators in our tech investment research that points to an org’s level of effectiveness is whether you can point to the need for tech in their strategic plan.” The importance of being able to articulate the need for tech to achieve their mission. You have to tie the need for technology up to all of your strategic goals.Amy Sample Ward, CEO, NTEN

2. Focus on the science of fundraising (not just the art):

Successful organizations have found a way to weave data into their stories—their data is the proof point of all the  good they’re doing in the world. Make the data visible and use it to tell your story. There is a lot of good to be done in the world, and data can help accelerate the pace of change.Steve MacLaughlin, Vice President of Data and Analytics at Blackbaud and author of Data Driven Nonprofits

3. Build a culture of wellness:

It all starts with the “Three P’s”: Planning (look ahead), People (put a statute of limiattions), Priorities (how you prioritize your time), and being Present (avoid techno-ference). Be explicit that technology should contribute  to the overall wellness and productivity of the organization, not take away from it.Beth Kanter, Master Trainer, Speaker, and Author of The Happy Healthy Nonprofit

4. Get online:

Embrace the internet with enthusiasm. If you’re not online today, you don’t exist. Embrace it, use it, explore different platforms, and, as a nonprofit organization, understand that you have a unique role to play. How you use technology is critical to connecting with donors.Brian Cute, CEO, Public Interest Registry

5. Think outside the box: 

On a day when a story or crisis is breaking, technology—specifically mobile—is propelling giving like we’ve never seen before. Nonprofits must be ready to embrace mobile and digital payments in order to meet supporters where they are. Tech is vast and wide and varied, but we still have a lot to learn about reaching supporters outside of our bubble.Heather Mansfield, Founder, Nonprofit Tech for Good

6. Tell better stories: 

In the digital age, anyone can be a storyteller. This means that it’s about more than just brands telling their stories. It’s about the diverse voices that make up our organizations—donors, volunteers, and those we serve. We have to use digital channels to bring people these people in and let them have a voice.Michael Hoffman, CEO, See3 Communications

7. Find your social influencers:

As organizers, understand how people want to get involved and provide them with opportunities to do more. Tools like Attentive.ly can help you find your everyday social media influencers. Invite them into the conversation and invite them to speak out on behalf of your cause.Jeanette Russell, Senior Product Marketer, Social & Advocacy Solutions, Blackbaud

8. Understand what works for you and your supporters:

Do less, better. Focus the time that you have on the 2-3 channels where your supporters want to engage with you. Don’t always chase the shiny new object. Do your research, find out where your supporters want to be, and be there in a deep way. And study the tools you’re using—they’re changing all the time—and incorporate those findings into your communication strategies.Farra Trompeter, Vice President, Big Duck

9. Be willing to disrupt:

Sometimes there isn’t always an answer for the problem you’re trying to solve. Go find solutions to fix these problems. Be curious, don’t wait for permission, and do things that scare you. – Justin Dillon, Founder of Made in a Free World and author of A Selfish Plan to Save the World

10. Collaborate with your networks:

Understand what’s possible when you bring people together for a single goal. Together, we have access to data to tell bigger, smarter stories—which brings together smarter solutions.Jenny Lawson, President of Networks at Points of Light

11. Take advantage of the cloud:

Allow the cloud to do the heavy lifting for you so that you can hardness the power of data and analytics to make smarter decisions and spend more time on your mission.Mary Beth Westmoreland, CTO, Blackbaud


Your turn! What advice would you add to the list?


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