The primer below is meant as a guide for techies and non-techies alike and lists technology basics with strategic objectives. Remember that hiking into the Canyonlands is not a trip for beginners. This list builds our basic understanding and competencies and will grow in complexity and challenge as our organization evolves.

 Technology should be seen as an enabler, allowing us to better perform and impact a cause.  Vinay Bhagat, former Founder of Convio, Inc, reiterated this premise:

“If well designed, technology should empower and build capacity.  It should not be overly complex, nor difficult to use. When properly implemented, technology is pervasive enough for everybody to access, creating an amplifying effect in terms of organizational efficiency.” 

 As you review the primer, consider whether these technology tools motivate and amplify effectiveness at your organization.

1. The Absolutely Important Social CRM

Every organization needs to track its constituents including donors, volunteers, clients, advocates, and partners. This is more than just a depository of information. Rather, if used strategically, your Social CRM facilitates specific interactions for finding and retaining donors. You can use your Social CRM to identify the benchmarks of a loyal donor. The “Social” in CRM allows your organization to extend its knowledge of the more anonymous donor by tracking and measuring social media engagement.

2. The Excellent Website

Supporters will visit your website not only for information but also to make a donation to your non-profit. Is the “Donate” button easy to find and in more than on place on the Home page. Pay attention to the donation page- make sure it connects with your key messaging and overall website presentation, especially if tied to a specific campaign. Offer multiple gift options, including honorary and memorial donations, monthly repeat gifts and the ability to direct funds. There should be no limits on handling large transactions. Some Major Donors will make online gifts over $5000. Make sure to have automated pre-selected “ask strings” based on a supporter’s prior history.

3. EMail

Email should enable personal communication with donors as well as complement online and offline outreach. The database should be segmented so that relevant information is sent versus a blanket message. There should also be capabilities to automate responses such as for a gift receipt or a reminder about an event.

4. Social Media

Social Media allows all constituents to have a voice and encourages conversations outside of a nonprofit’s initial circle of influence.  Communication can be about a range of topics and not just focused on the Ask. Survey supporters on an issue and/or their vote for an idea, to encourage conversation. Conversation is a two-way street on social media.

5. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising success is based in large part on social media. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising works because friends like to hear about family members and friends’ philanthropic efforts. In addition to raising money, Peer-to-Peer outreach through social media has a secondary benefit of bringing in new donors to the organization. Do you have peer-to-peer capabilities at your nonprofit?

Start your technology journey by being excellent with the basic tools. While funding and education varies for each item, commit to learning as much as possible to create a strategic advantage for your organization. It will be easier to wander even more into the technology wilderness if you cover the basics first!

Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer who uncovers success in the non-profit market.