Nonprofit Technology Landscape: From donor management to relationship mapping software

By Haylin Belay
The Brief
The nonprofit sector is awash with nonprofit technology, from email marketing services to relationship mapping software. But with so many options, it’s hard to tell the difference between “the new hot thing” and real, lasting solutions. Here are three questions to ask yourself before making the leap.
Relationship Mapping Software


The nonprofit sector is awash with nonprofit technology, from email marketing services to relationship mapping software. But with so many options, it’s hard to tell the difference between “the new hot thing” and real, lasting solutions. How do you avoid investing in an application or platform that is far more than you need or is going to be defunct in a year? In other words, how do you know when it’s worth it to make that big tech purchase? Here are three questions you can ask yourself to start:

1. Is it tied to a specific goal?

The most useful tools are those that solve specific problems—like tracking how effective your current marketing strategy is, or understanding how donors engage with your outreach campaigns. These technologies don’t just tell you what you’re doing wrong; they also help your organization understand what it’s doing right. Figure out your organization’s biggest goals and roadblocks, and seek out technology that will fill those specific gaps. There is tech that does it all, but it’s going to cost you, and it may be unnecessary. 

2. Will it be a burden for your human resources?

One of the biggest challenges for nonprofits implementing new technology is finding the human resources to staff, manage and “own” the new tech workflow. An enterprise system is useless if there’s no one there to run it effectively. Conversely, there are an increasing number of low-cost tools that can dramatically decrease the human hours spent logging data into spreadsheets and going back-and-forth in convoluted email chains. It comes down to efficiency—which system will spur your human resources to work more effectively and in less time?


“The most useful tools are those that solve specific problems.”


3. Where does data fit in?

Data goes to the heart of most of this new functionality, so before you invest, make sure you have the data available–robust, clean data—to take advantage of the communication and analytics applications available in your new toy. It’s a little upfront work, but you’ll be better able to understand your donor relationships, interests, priorities, engagement and charitable history, which may just revolutionize the way you connect with current and future donors.

Understanding the tech landscape is the first step to bringing your organization into the digital age. For more information on strategically implementing these technologies and choosing the tech strategy that best fits your organization, be sure to download RelSci’s latest whitepaper, “The nonprofit technology landscape.”
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Haylin Belay is a freelance writer and blogger based in New York City. She is a frequent contributor to the RelSci blog.

RelSci is a technology solutions company that helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. Download the full white paper on the nonprofit technology landscape. 

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