Why Operational Efficiency is the New ROI

June 24, 2019 Chelsea Edwards

When thinking about a potential investment, whether it be in software, infrastructure, facilities, or personnel, organizations often think about the million-dollar question: How long will it take to see a return on our investment in X, Y, or Z? 

For some organizations, this may translate into dollars raised or new supporters acquired. But for grantmaking organizations that are not traditionally fundraising like many of their nonprofit partners, what does ROI look like? One major consideration is operational efficiencies gained. 

Grant applicants spend an average of 20 hours applying for one grant, equaling an average of $400 per grant. If we think about this in terms of balancing administrative work with programmatic advancement, this means that grant seekers might spend half of their 40-hour work week applying for a single grant, that may or may not result in funding. 

With 11 million+ grants reported, totaling over $250 billion in funding (and counting), that gets to be a lot of hours spent on grant applications. And for funders, the administrative burden or the grants process can be just as significant. 

Perhaps this is why the one thing we hear consistently from foundations is the need to eliminate time spent on administrative activities in order to focus more time on achieving goals, connecting with grantee partners, and making strategic decisions. When the goal is to affect real change for the causes and communities you support, you should be spending the least amount of time possible on paperwork. 

So where does technology come in? From working with your applicants and reviewing proposals to making awards, tracking progress, and more, look for a solution that can streamline and simplify your business processes. Having a technology plan that strategically encourages automation and promotes collaboration among staff and stakeholders can be the catalyst you need to allocate your time back to mission advancement. 

Blackbaud customer Jacquie Klotzbach, Director of Systems Administration at The Community Foundation Herkimer & Oneida Counties, speaks to how operational efficiencies gained have empowered them to shift their time and energy solely back to serving their community: “Being able to leverage our technology and use it to its fullest potential, we’ll create operational efficiencies and effectiveness that allows our frontline staff to return to the community. We don’t want our team behind their desks doing data entry and manual processes. The more time that we can have them in the community meeting with the constituents and our stakeholders, learning about the needs of our community and our donors, the more successful we’re going to be.” 

The Foundation is seeing the following benefits after implementing a connected cloud software solution: 

  • Their flexible work culture is better supported since employees can log into their databases from anywhere 
  • In 2018, they ran a campaign that processed nearly 4,000 gifts in a single month, which previously would have taken two or three years to process 
  • The time they are saving on operational efficiencies is allowing the Foundation to play a greater role in convening organizations and building partnerships to have a greater impact on the communities it serves 

When foundations can shift their time and focus back to program advancement, they are able to make a greater impact and advance their missions further. This is the ultimate ROI to be able to communicate back to their boards, stakeholders, and community partners. 

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