Why Powerful Tools Are Important to Your Nonprofit

The word “Powerful” is one of the more popular words in the software lexicon. It sounds impressive, and it gets people excited because they want to know that their software is going to do something great for them. Unfortunately, it’s also hard to quantify, which leaves some people unclear. How can you know what kind of transformation to expect from your software tools? What exactly are powerful nonprofit resources?

When we talk about powerful nonprofit resources on this blog, we mean tools that transform your daily work and help you achieve the goals in front you better, faster, smarter. For example, take a look at this video comparing the speed of a pit crew in 1981 to one in 2019. 

The difference in execution is remarkable.The 2019 crew uses tools designed to make each person faster and more effective. The 1981 team literally cannot keep up with the other team based on the resources they have. That’s what powerful tools should do for your nonprofit. The resources you use, especially for your marketing and development efforts, should make it impossible for others to keep up. 

The Competitive Landscape

In 2018, nonprofits delivered an average of 59 emails per subscriber; an 8% increase in volume from 2017. Each individual received the kind of high-touch engagement that’s supposed to deliver results. However, donations made by individuals decreased by 1.1% (3.4% if you adjust for inflation). 

On social media platforms, nonprofits grew their following as much as 34%, posting as much as 5 times a day. But engagement rates remained low, around .3% and for every $100 that came from direct online donations, only $1.77 came from social.

Nonprofit marketing teams are working harder to produce more than ever, without seeing a positive impact. So, what’s happening? 

Actually, a number of things were going on:

  • The competition for people’s attention got much more intense. 
  • Inboxes filled with more emails from more organizations than ever before. 
  • Social media algorithms are making it more difficult to see organizations who don’t pay to promote themselves.
  • Yet, despite the flood of opportunities to support nonprofits, people tended to be less motivated this year to take the same actions as last year. 

Even when your messaging is shown to your most engaged audiences, it doesn’t stand out because donors aren’t connected to what you’re saying. The information they read was irrelevant. They may have heard more from you, but they did not feel any more connected.

As with the racing video, it’s not that your team is worse than they were last year. More likely, their competition is using better, more powerful tools to grab people’s attention in their inbox. It’s impossible to keep up if you are using outdated tools that don’t prioritize the donor’s experience.

Expectations for Your Powerful Nonprofit Resources

To help contextualize what powerful should mean to your nonprofit, we put together a quick checklist of qualities to look for. These traits can scale based on the size and sophistication of your marketing and fundraising operations, but they are universal. If you’re considering a tool that doesn’t lead with these, it might be a good idea to keep searching.

Innovative Spirit towards the Entire System

In the video, it’s obvious that the tools available to the 2019 pit crew are better and more efficient than those in 1981. What might not be as obvious are the changes made the the actual car itself. The car is lowered further to the ground, saving valuable time when jacking it up. The nuts and bolts used to assemble the various parts of the car are different. In other words, they weren’t just innovating the tools. They were innovating the whole system. 

We know that the fundraising tactics that have always worked in the past aren’t as effective now. Donors expect a complete, personalized experience no matter their donation amount. You have to reinvent your entire donor engagement strategy, and you need a tool dedicated to innovating for the future. 

A regular tool will save you a few minutes here and there. A powerful tool will change the way your day looks. It will provide entirely new ways to engage your donors. And it will continue to grow and evolve as your donors demand changes. Innovation is a continued process that your nonprofit resources should be dedicated to. 

Thoughtful User Experience 

There is one major characteristic that sets powerful tools apart from others: the user experience. That is, how you feel as you’re using the software day in and day out. Is it frustrating? Does it neglect obvious steps? Does it anticipate exactly what you’ll need? 

Most legacy software companies simply focus on the user interface, or, the way the program is displayed on your monitor. The problem with simply reskinning an old solution is, of course, it doesn’t add any value or efficiency. It just looks better. 

Powerful nonprofit resources understand your daily responsibilities and how to design their solutions around them. They anticipate the information you’ll need and how you’ll leverage that information to engage your donors. Plus, they open themselves up to collaboration and feedback to make sure your experience is excellent not just today, but tomorrow too. 

Comprehensive Suite of Features

As a result of understanding your needs, powerful nonprofit resources also provide a comprehensive suite of features for you. Outdated tools tend to provide “workarounds” for functions they can’t complete. It usually involves downloading some kind of file, uploading it into another program and doing quite a bit of manual data entry. 

That’s not going to work for you in 2019 and beyond. You need a single platform where you can execute donor engagement workflows without needing to bother your accounting team, for example. The right software that can help you in a powerful way gives you access to the beginning, middle and end stages of all your most important tasks, so you don’t have to jump from program to program. 

Dynamic Reporting

Speaking of the end stages, reporting is an essential part of any powerful nonprofit resource, especially for the marketing and development teams. As you deploy new strategies and test new tactics, you need an easy, reliable way to understand your performance. 

Technologies that don’t provide native reporting dashboards force you to input data yourself or pull files from other programs and upload the data manually. No matter how careful your team is, the more steps required to create a report, the more opportunities for inaccurate data. As you know, inaccurate data leads to unfounded assumptions and under-performing campaigns. 

While considering a nonprofit resource for your team, make a list of the kinds of reports and metrics you need to know. Ask the software team if they provide those metrics and have them show you how those reports are made. Don’t sign up for a tool that won’t give you an accurate path to optimization and success. 

Helpful Automation

Last, but certainly not least, you need a powerful nonprofit resource that automates your tasks. We don’t mean that you should automate your job — just the opposite, in fact. When you leverage powerful tools to automate the tasks that suck up precious hours in your day, you can spend your time doing your actual job. Use automation to give yourself more time to call donors and meet with them or brainstorm creative marketing campaigns for your nonprofit. 

The unique perspective and ideas you bring to your nonprofit is the most valuable. That brain power should not be wasted entering data or creating reminders. You should be working on the big ideas, instead. A powerful tool that focuses on automation acts almost as your personal assistant, freeing up hours in your day. It will create and execute the tasks, collect the data and provide predictive analytics, giving you the freedom to dream up the next big idea for building relationships with your donors and doing more good. 

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

Take a self-guided tour of Virtuous, where you can explore the platform at your own pace and see if Virtuous is right for you. 

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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