Your nonprofit’s mission is likely the same as it was when your organization began; to make an impact and to effect change, whether locally, nationally or globally.   The challenge then is to stay true to your mission while taking the steps needed to keep pace in a changing industry.  Successfully embracing change isn’t just about going with the flow; it’s about leading the pack.  It’s staying on top of new ideas and technology in an increasingly wired world and matching donor expectations accordingly.

So what’s holding your organization back from making internal changes? 

If the answer is “it’s always been done that way,” listen up.  Arguably the biggest hindrance of change is the notion that nothing needs to be changed because it’s always been done a certain way.  What are some ways to shake up the status quo in your office?  Fear not and be open to new technologies, connect with your peers and never stop learning.

Fear Not

Don’t let fear of change hold your organization back from making much needed technology upgrades.  Be pro-active and constantly evaluate your processes, so you can stop playing “hurry up and implement!” with new technology without a game plan.

As our Internet connections have become increasingly faster and more reliable, the concept of “cloud” hosting has become a popular way for nonprofits to change how they store and access their data.  If you have a small or non-existent IT department, moving your data to the cloud may be for you.  You’ll be able to free up internal resources and worry less about what to do if disaster strikes when a server dies.  That said, if you’re happy and confident with your on-site server and your IT department can deploy patches, schedule backups and can handle disaster recovery without issue, you’re probably okay to stay the course.

If you’re on the fence about purchasing a new piece of software, ask your vendor to put you in contact with a current user.  You will be able to ask more direct questions and gain insight into their daily processes.

Connect

Are you interested in starting a #GivingTuesday appeal but don’t know where to start?  Is your department confused over the many online giving vendors out there? Network with your industry peers and see what they’re saying.  There is a wealth of knowledge and honest feedback available from many sources, most of them free.  Join a user group on LinkedIn or Facebook, locate a local user group, subscribe to a list serve, or join a professional association.  You can stay up-to-date on the latest non-profit technology trends AND learn something new.

If you’ve hit a wall, don’t be afraid of hiring a consulting professional.  The thought may initially conjure up images from the 1999 movie Office Space but don’t let that dissuade you.  Use your connections to scout out a consultant that will fit your needs.   A good consultant is clued into the industry and knows his or her stuff.   Speak with past clients and get their feedback.  Above all, do not use a consultant as a Band-Aid.  Be specific with what you would like to accomplish, and don’t become dependent on that person for any one job – ever.   A consultant is a tool to inspire change and foster new processes.

Learn

Technology and training go hand in hand.  One of the biggest ways in which you can inspire change in your office is with training.  Poorly trained staff hurts every aspect of your organization from moral to how you interact with your donors.  Despite all of the positives that training can provide, two excuses often pop up:  Time and money.

  • Don’t have time for training?  Make the time.
  • If you or your staff spends several hours creating a mailing list that should take less than 20 minutes, how is that fair your organization?   It’s not. 
  • Don’t have training in your budget?    Don’t write off training as a luxury.

Technology alone will not successfully run your organization, your staff will.   Training is an investment in both you and your organization’s future.  Take advantage of the many free and low-cost resources out there.  Youtube has basic “how to” videos for many types of CRMs.   Blackbaud’s Knowledgebase is included in your yearly maintenance fee and full of how-to videos and step-by-step guides.  Many vendors have webinars and white papers available, and even if you’re not ready to buy, the information itself is worth your time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rochelle Toomer, bCRE (formally Rochelle Sweeney) is the Database Administrator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in Upstate NY.   She is part of a three-person Development team that manages the Bishop’s Appeal, a 7.3 million dollar annual fund.  In addition, she manages the Diocesan Catholic High Schools’ alumni database and online giving through NetCommunity Spark.  She has worn many hats in the non-profit world and has a passion for how non-profit organizations can successfully integrate with technology.

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