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My Tips on Using Technology in Fundraising

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

Technology is a huge topic, and there are countless ways that nonprofits can use it. Today, we are just scratching the surface of some of the more basic components of how nonprofits use technology, but I encourage you to take a look at the resources at the end of this post for more.

Remember: just because a technology exists doesn’t mean you have to use it. Be thoughtful about what technology you choose – choose things that make your work more efficient or that enhance your donors’ experience.

As far as raising money goes, direct mail is still king for most nonprofits, but electronic communications are also important as they are an important component of relationship building.

Before we get into revenue generating activities, let’s talk about something super important: donor databases.

Donor Databases

Donor databases are important because they help you manage relationships. It’s a system where you can create a record of every donor to your organization and their donation history, and can contain a notes section where you can share and track other information. So, if you win the lottery tomorrow, your replacement will be up to speed on the relationships the nonprofit has with its donors.

It’s also a good checks & balances system to compare with your financial books – so it’s a good way to manage and steward donors’ money.

There is a huge variety of databases, so choose wisely! Do adequate research before you select the one you want. Think about what you might use the database for… the very basic functionality will be to record donors and their donations (including details like amount, date, method, and what appeal they respond to). But, there are other functionalities that you can also have. Do you want robust reporting, to track volunteer hours, manage your events, track campaigns and/or moves management? Think about all of your potential needs and find something that works with all of it.

Once you’ve found your ideal database, follow some best practices. Make sure you have standard data entry rules where consistency is the main focus. Do annual maintenance checks of things like duplicate checks and blank addresses – this will save you time in the long run.

Electronic Communications

Websites

Everyone has a website (I hope!), so we don’t need to talk about why to have one, but let’s talk about some things to make sure you have. Try to consider everyone who might be looking at your website: clients, donors, media, the general public. Do a delicate dance of addressing the needs of everyone. Make sure to have a Donate button in the top banner of every page on your website, that links directly to the transaction, not another website. Make it very easy to donate on your website.

E-newsletters

Much like donor databases, there are a wide variety of e-newsletter vendors available, so try out a few and see what you like. Many of them have built in analytics, so take a close look at those and use them to your advantage, doing A/B tests with subject lines and content to see what your audience responds to. This is especially helpful with fundraising emails, as you can see what resonates with your audience

Social media

Get on channels that your audience is on, not everything. Have a playful voice that rings true to your organization, but also feels authentic. Interact with people and make it feel like a conversation, acknowledge comments. But don’t stay on everything all the time, as that gets overwhelming. Try to check in daily.

As I mentioned up top, there are tons of ways you can use technology, and I encourage you to use the web as a resource. Check out the Nonprofit Technology Network (www.nten.org) and their spectacular conference, or participate in online webinars through places like Foundation Center (www.foundationcenter.org). Many tools will also have online communities and blogs that you can interact with.

And of course, if you want more in depth help looking at your technology (especially your use of your donor database – one of my specialties!), you can always hit me up.

-N.C.

I’m On a Podcast!

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I’m very excited to share that I was recently interviewed as a guest on a podcast about social entrepreneurship! Check out the recording here. I had a great time chatting with Nathan about fundraising, the nonprofit sector, and other career hacks on his show, Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster.

Being on the podcast was a wonderful experience because it allowed me to reflect on some of the key moments of my life that have led me to where I am today. I got to share about how my mom shaped my approach to helping others. I talked about my experience interning at San Diego Grantmakers when I was in college, which opened my eyes to the path of fundraising for nonprofits. And I got to share the importance of one on one networking for long term success – that’s been such a huge part of my journey!

In addition to chatting about my path, it was fun to share tips I’ve learned along the way (resources I tap into and how I achieve my goals), my tendency according to Gretchen Rubin (I’m an obliger!), and even my love of The Real Housewives.

Take a listen and please share with anyone you think might benefit from what we chat about!

-N.C.

The Importance of Technology, In the Words of a Busy Millennial

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Today is my third and final day at the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), an annual conference hosted by Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). It’s being hosted in San Francisco this year, and someone recommended that I attend, so the stars were aligned. And let me tell you – it’s awesome!! I signed up for the conference thinking it would be good for me to be connected to the latest and greatest ideas in technology, as I work with my work’s donor database and other online platforms. Little did I know that the conference wouldn’t just show me techie tools, but instead lead me to evaluate the role technology plays in our organization and how it can have a role in furthering our mission… or any nonprofit activity, for that matter!

Beyond the nonprofit organization aspect, these past couple of days have reminded me of the importance of technology in general. We all know that technology is important because of the computers on our desk. But I’m here to bring a different perspective to the table – that of a busy millennial.

Here are a few of the reasons technology is important to me.

  • It helps me refine my voice. As I’ve mentioned before, blogging has really helped me develop my thoughts regarding the nonprofit sector, millennial issues, and so much more. But beyond that, having an online presence has given me a new part of my identity to craft. I have spent most of the breakout sessions I’ve participated in at NTC live tweeting the content (check out mytimeline here to read some of the great stuff I’ve been learning). This is reinforcing the ideas I’m learning and helps solidify them in my mind, and gives me ownership of the content I agree on. It’s now a part of me, which I love.
  • The things I need are anywhere I need them (with Wifi, of course). Being a busy millennial, I try to minimize my time doing extraneous activities. Organizing is one of those things. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some list making, but that takes time, and I don’t have a lot of that. Technology has allowed for sharing, collaborating, and housing documents in the cloud, so that I don’t have to worry about putting things on a flash drive or – gasp – a CD. It’s all at my fingertips.
  • It’s green. Remember the days of paper planners? CDs, tapes, and even DVDs? Address books (OK I still need to transition my old one)? At the NTC there is a QR code for each session’s evaluation. No more stacks of paper and trash. Same for the paperwork I need – I don’t have extra things to keep track of. Technology is doing some amazing things to green our world, and for that, we should be thankful.

I must say that after experiencing the NTC I am hooked and really hope I can continue to go each year. I highly recommend it to you, too! Look into a membership for NTEN – it’s very affordable for students, including Masters students – and join! It’s an amazing resource, and it’s not just for IT staff!

-N.C.