Looking to 2013

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This is the time of year that many individuals donate to nonprofit organizations, but will that be enough? A new survey report entitled Non-Profit 2013 Financial Outlook, Reporting, & Systems reveals the top priorities and challenges facing nonprofits in 2013. According to Shereen Mahoney, CEO of Brittenford Systems “2013 will likely require non-profits to rethink revenue model and income strategies, while improving strategic planning and program results.”

There are a number of aspects affecting the challenges nonprofits are facing including, reduced government funds, a drop in charitable donations, consolidations, increased competition, increased demand for services, and the list goes on and on.

But, without nonprofits so many needs will go unmet. Nonprofits are also job creators. In fact, during the recessions of 1990-1 and 2001-2, nonprofits actually increased their number of employees by 2.38 percent a year while for-profit jobs declined at an annualized rate of 2.2 percent. And, while many people are not aware of it, the nonprofit community is an enormous contributor to the American economy: It provides 5.5% of the nation’s entire GDP or $751 billion worth of output.

So, what can be done?

The key to turning things around for nonprofits is… TECHNOLOGY. Okay, you’re not surprised to hear that from the Marketing Director of a technology company, but, it is true! Technology can help tremendously in three key areas: creating awareness, reducing costs, and increasing donations.

First, creating awareness.  In order to be considered for donations, the public must be aware that your nonprofit even exists.  Awareness can be established through many channels, but for the sake of this post we will focus on the value of technology and social.   As you can see below, the growth continues to increase year over year, and while it may not directly tie to increased revenue.  Social does tie to increased awareness.Edison-research-graph

Second, reducing costs. You have probably already seen your new budgets and my guess is they call for flat expenses or reduced expenses and increased donations.  How are you supposed to do that?  Well, a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system and a proper fund accounting system can help your staff achieve much more with less. Automating financial functions through an integrated accounting system where the donor’s details have to be entered only once and are accessible to all staff makes good business sense.  It can help you with audits, reporting, and even bringing in more donations.

Plus, fundraisers all understand the value of building relationships.   A CRM will allow you to more easily recognize and reward your donors, track the actions of your donors, and even organize the relationship you have with your donors. And the value of all of this is of course; my favorite topic, donor loyalty.

If that is not enough, the cost of quality software as really become more affordable with subscription offerings.  For example, you can get a complete end-to-end solution with Sage starting at $249 a month.  That price point puts technology in the hands of nonprofits that were not able to afford it before.

Finally, increasing donations.  I spoke to nonprofits all year-long and surprisingly the vast majority are still not doing online donations.  It is a must!  I am not a proponent of getting rid of direct mail campaigns; I love direct mail.   I am a proponent of integrating all of your marketing channels to drive to one call to action.  Donate!  And, increasingly, your younger donors expect the convenience of visiting your website or Facebook page and clicking a link that drives them directly to an easy to donate to, fully integrated form.

Plus, online donation technology allows you to create peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, simplify event fundraising, and so much more.  All of which could increase donations, and allow you to find new prospective donors.

Take-away: For the sake of the economy, take a look at technology this year.  If you are already using technology learn something new about it, attend a training class, or get with a peer group.  As with all things technology is unendingly  changing and improving.  Learn more to do more, and have a great 2013.  Happy New Year!

Ten Reasons Your Nonprofit Should be Web-Based

Web-Based or cloud applications are all the rage right now, you hear about them everywhere.  You are probably wondering how they can benefit your nonprofit, and what if any of them are a good fit for you. There are so many types of cloud services today it can be a bit of a daunting question to ponder.

We are going to keep things very simple.   Here are ten reasons you should learn more about web-based services in general, and how they can potentially benefit you and your nonprofit.

  1. Save Time: Running a nonprofit is like having two or three full-time jobs. Because there are so many things that we could be doing–time–is one of the most valuable assets you have. Web-based services typically equate to a substantial time savings.  From on the go email to no longer having to install software updates, web services can really make an impact on efficiency.
  2. Share and Empower: I have found that having key applications in the cloud makes it much easier to share information and skills among my team.  This means my team is more empowered to do things that only I used to be able to do. That is a win/win.
  3. Work from Anywhere: I spend a lot of time traveling, so being able to work, in addition to accessing my full email and calendar from my mobile device is critical.  This allows me to be productive when I am waiting in lines, at restaurants, and anywhere really.  The thing I love most is that when I am in the office; I am not playing as much catch up.
  4. Keep in Touch: When I am traveling I like to keep in touch with my family via mobile video calling, but I also use it to stay in touch with donors and my team.   Video calling adds a face to face interaction (which I am a huge fan of) in a very convenient way.
  5. Stay Safe: Your data is your lively hood.  Backing it up in a secure environment is essential. 
  6. Learn More:  Take time this summer to use a web-based survey tool to learn more about your donors.  The information you gather can be used to build a more successful year-end campaign.  I recommend Survey Monkey because it is easy to use and the base product is free!
  7. Build Awareness:  I meet nonprofits all of the time that have not yet started an email marketing program.  There are a multitude of web-based email solutions that will really make getting started easy.  Consistent communication is key to building awareness for your organization.  So, what are you waiting for? 
  8. Network Online: Social is another blog post all together, but becoming social and networking online is critical to your nonprofits future.  Make it your goal to join the top 3 by the end of summer.  (FYI Start with Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In.)
  9. Collect Donations: My new favorite web-based service is mobile payment processing. Check out my last blog to see why I love it so much!
  10. Get Current: Summer is a great time to consider moving your old solutions to the cloud.  Many of you close your year in June, so it’s a great time to start fresh.  Think about how your organization might benefit from moving your accounting, fundraising, and/or grant management solutions to the cloud.  Contact your solution provider and make it happen. 

Take-away:  Cloud or web-based solutions can really make your life easier, increase productivity, and most importantly enhance your fundraising efforts.  This summer if you aren’t already using web-based services, give them a try to see how impactful they can be.