Tools That Play Nicely Together
There are different approaches to building out organizational technology, from single applications that solve specific needs to best-of-breed ecosystems connected through a powerful foundational layer with ever-growing libraries of applications and programs that are built to integrate.
Decisions about the digital tools that will fold into your overall tech stack are critical. Every interaction shapes how people relate to your organization’s brand. While they do not see the systems behind the scenes that deploy the email or post to social media, it is up to you to ensure a smooth and seamless experience. Having a strategy that guides your tech stack and implementing your digital tools so that they play nicely with your organization’s existing technologies will help you achieve this. Our advice is to carefully consider upfront how the different technologies will connect to exchange information.
Here are some commonly used functionalities in the nonprofit technology space that would influence digital tool decisions:
- A foundational platform layer that allows organizations to connect a variety of functional areas through pre-built applications, API connections, and custom configurations. For example, Salesforce has a robust AppExchange full of applications that integrate with the Salesforce platform. Microsoft has the Nonprofit Common Data Model that allows tools built for nonprofits to better interact with one another.
- Fundraising tools that allow nonprofits to process contributions using a variety of payment types (credit cards, PayPal, ApplePay, and others) and handle necessary receipting.
- Email marketing tools capable of supporting conditional content and segmentation.
- Nimble marketing automation tools to create cross-functional journeys to nurture constituents across channels.
- Peer-to-peer tools that allow participants to set up and manage their fundraising efforts around fundraising events like walks and DIY fundraisers.
- Volunteer management technologies that connect volunteers to relevant opportunities.
- Online communities or portals where users can interact in meaningful ways with the organization and each other.
- A variety of tools that help organizations bring information together for different purposes: data storage and management, reporting, dashboards, analytics, business intelligence, and much more.
Heller Consulting serves nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions that want to accelerate growth through technology-focused business transformation.
The Next Big Thing: Customer Data Platforms
Constituent relationships with organizations often span multiple areas like advocacy, fundraising, volunteering, and events. Organizations have multiple software systems to support these various functional areas and as a result constituents’ data is scattered among those different systems. A customer data platform (CDP) is software that aggregates data across systems to create a unified profile of an individual so that marketers can use this information to engage supporters more effectively and efficiently across the entire technology ecosystem. This approach is emerging as a trend with Salesforce and Microsoft introducing CDPs as a part of their platform offerings and other major tech players purchasing CDPs to help their clients optimize user experience.
A customer data platform:
- Brings together data related to a person’s identity in a single place.
- Unifies all the information your organization knows about the constituent.
- Makes all of the data about that constituent available to other systems in real time so that you can personalize marketing and fundraising experiences.
CDPs bear similarities to both customer relationship management (CRM) systems and data warehouses, but there are some key differences. While a unified profile to manage relationships and interactions with constituents was once part of the vision of CRM systems, the reality is that many organizations use multiple software systems. CRMs are becoming bogged down by storing and processing the growing volume of data. Data warehouses are typically focused on long-term data storage that is not immediately accessible. CDPs are focused on unifying information about individuals from an organization’s different systems to support segmentation and communications, and making information available in real-time for highly personalized marketing and support.
Growing Trend: Online Communities and Portals
Interest in online communities is growing and nonprofits are beginning to view online communities and portals as an essential part of how they do business to help them deliver services, connect with volunteers, build communities, and conduct donor prospecting.
An online community or portal that is part of or connected to your customer relationship management (CRM) system offers the benefit of being able to expose some of the data to your constituents to allow them to securely manage their donations information, sign up for relevant volunteer opportunities, and more. In a community, it’s also common for supporters to interact with each other and your organization. An example here might be a community of leadership volunteers who are planning and executing a large event so that they can collaborate on marketing collateral and event logistics. In the higher education space, an example is communities connecting alumni with college classmates.
Journeys: Are you maximizing the value of marketing automation?
Marketing automation opens up incredible possibilities for nonprofits to meet many objectives across organizational functions to engage stakeholders in a variety of ways. Nonprofits are starting to recognize opportunities and putting powerful systems in place to support automations, but too often these digital tools are woefully underutilized. To maximize the value from your marketing automation technology system, it is important to have a sound technology strategy, a coordinated system design, and strong data integrations between the systems so that you can deploy relevant communications reflective of your donors’ past engagement or giving history.