technology

Is your head in the clouds? It should be: Cloud Technology & Data Drive Success for Nonprofits

posted by
Victoria Michelson
Communications Specialist
Wild Apricot

Nonprofits are organized around data. Whether for membership and volunteer management, communications, promotion, or revenue tracking, the information we collect comprises one of our most critical assets and is central to realizing our missions. Not all data is created equal, however. This is the explanation behind many organizations’ resistance to data collection and management, which is seen as an investment of time and resources that yields little or no return.

 There is an important distinction between more data and better data. What is better data? Information that allows nonprofits to create actionable changes to their workflow and structure.

 Of course, data is only as good as the database used to manage it. Think of your database as your “institutional memory.” Having an excellent memory enables you to measure progress, identify new objectives, and demonstrate results to prospective donors. Data that is difficult to retrieve, stored in multiple places, and very likely to contain errors is relatively meaningless. Accurate and accessible data, however, allows organizations to quantify the effectiveness of their initiatives and adjust their methodology accordingly. It also allows you to do more with less, something a majority of nonprofits are regularly challenged to do.

Salesforce and your nonprofit

posted by
Travis Butterfield,
Project Coordinator,
Marketing/Communications
ASU Lodestar Center

Whatever your nonprofit experience level and situation, you probably have to keep track of donors and other key constituents. Many of you have probably relied on multiple Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and maybe a Microsoft Access database at some point in your professional life. But, as an organization’s needs grow, this kind of system becomes burdensome and labor-intensive. Contacts begin to slip through the cracks, and it becomes harder and harder to juggle all of the data.

The solution to this dilemma is a customer relations management (CRM) system (sometimes called a donor management system in the nonprofit arena). There are dozens of CRMs out there that cater specifically to nonprofit needs. A great resource for finding your best fit is NTEN’s Consumer’s Guide to Donor Management Software.

One resource you will inevitably hear about while researching CRMs is Salesforce. My purpose here is not to try to “sell” this product, nor is it to discourage people from implementing Salesforce in their organizations. Rather, my primary motive with this blog post is to share a bit about the ASU Lodestar Center’s recent experience in implementing Salesforce as a CRM solution. My hope is that I can provide insight and experience that will be helpful for other nonprofits who currently use, or are thinking of implementing, Salesforce as their primary database.

Many of our readers may not be aware of the fact that Salesforce has created something called the Power of Us program. The essence of this program is that Salesforce donates 10 free Enterprise Edition licenses to qualifying 501(c)3 nonprofit institutions and other organizations. It also provides deep discounts on additional licenses, products, and services. This “free” price tag makes Salesforce a service that should seriously be considered by any small to medium nonprofit. It can be a great resource for those looking for a CRM solution.

Research Friday: Resources to Close the Nonprofit Technology Gap

posted by
Travis Butterfield,
Project Coordinator,
Marketing/Communications
ASU Lodestar Center


Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

A year ago, Johns Hopkins University's Center for Civil Society Studies published a document titled, "The Nonprofit Technology Gap - Myth or Reality." The authors of the publication were curious to find out how accurately the widely held assumption that nonprofits are at a technological disadvantage reflects reality. Their findings were somewhat mixed. They reported that the majority of nonprofits rely quite heavily on technological solutions in their day-to-day operations. However, despite the fact that nonprofits seem to utilize technology more than may be expected, the majority of respondents expressed a discontent with their technological status. An official press release for the study reads: