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Should You Conduct a Nonprofit Technology Assessment?

At this point, your nonprofit has just wrapped up year-end fundraising. But what about after the year-end fundraising season ends? In the first month or two of the year, you’re likely not conducting any major fundraising campaigns to avoid inducing donor fatigue. Instead, you’re retroactively examining your year-end fundraising campaign to discover which strategies worked, and which didn’t.

That time of decreased engagement and increased scrutiny is ideal for conducting a nonprofit technology assessment— also known as a comprehensive review of all of your nonprofit’s software solutions, through which you discover opportunities for improvement.

As a modern nonprofit, you’re juggling a number of solutions, from your website, to your constituent relationship management (CRM) solution, to your online fundraising software. Due to the sheer complexity of your solutions, the prospect of a nonprofit technology assessment may feel overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve created this guide, which will cover a crash course about nonprofit technology assessments through the following points:

  • 3 Signs It’s Time to Conduct an Assessment
  • How To Conduct A Nonprofit Technology Assessment
  • Tips for a Successful Assessment

The data generated from your nonprofit’s year-end giving campaign will be invaluable as you head into your nonprofit technology assessment in the new year. By familiarizing yourself with the technology assessment process now, you can approach the effort with an observant eye that will position you for success.

Let’s get started.

3 Signs It’s Time to Conduct an Assessment

Before we discuss how to conduct a nonprofit technology assessment, let’s first determine whether your nonprofit would benefit from the effort.

DNL OmniMedia’s guide to nonprofit technology assessments cites three main signifiers that your organization might benefit from an evaluation:

You’re not seeing expected benefits from your technology.

Nonprofits invest in new technology for a number of reasons. They may invest in automation tools to make outreach more efficient or digital fundraising software to provide new opportunities for members to give back.

Regardless, there is a stated need prior to making the investment, and the solution is chosen because it has promised to fulfill that need. A nonprofit technology assessment can reveal instances where your solutions aren’t leading to the anticipated benefit.

For example, let’s say you invest in email automation software with the goal of adding efficiency to your outreach. But, for some reason, it’s taking team members significantly longer to create and send campaigns than you had anticipated. An assessment will discover the gaps in your process and give you actionable next steps for elevating your technology and reaching your desired goal— whether improving team training, investing in new tech, or optimizing the tools you already have.

You’re looking to simplify your tech stack and cut costs.

If your nonprofit’s software lineup has grown unwieldy and ineffective, a nonprofit technology assessment will help you discover which solutions are actually benefiting your organization and which are not. From there, you can invest in and divest from solutions accordingly; ideally, this will involve robust solutions that bring multiple functionalities under one umbrella.

After the past two years of industry disruption, it’s highly likely that your nonprofit has encountered this particular signifier.

Consider the quick pivot to virtual and hybrid fundraising, for example. This adjustment involved investing in new event software for many nonprofits and, in some instances, testing out multiple solutions before discovering which worked best for an organization’s unique event needs. It’s worthwhile to revisit those quick investments to ensure they’re still serving your nonprofit well.

Your nonprofit’s strategy has stagnated.

Your organization’s goal is to continue growing fundraising year over year, which will empower you to make a larger impact over time. Suppose your nonprofit is achieving the same fundraising and engagement success year after year, with little growth in either metric. In that case, that’s a sign that your nonprofit’s technology is no longer serving you.

A nonprofit technology assessment will reveal areas where your tech stack can be optimized, whether to save time or funding or expand your offerings (such as with engaging new virtual fundraising opportunities). You’ll have a roadmap of improvements and opportunities to bring your technology to its highest potential, so it will support you in the effort of increasing fundraising or engagement.

How To Conduct A Nonprofit Technology Assessment

When it’s time to actually conduct your nonprofit technology assessment, you’ll partner with a consultant to carry out the effort. This consultant will bring both expertise and an unbiased opinion to the effort. According to DNL OmniMedia’s guide to nonprofit consulting firms, there are a variety of partners that specialize in different areas of your nonprofit’s efforts— from fundraising to marketing to specific campaigns.

During the assessment itself, your consulting partner will generally complete four steps:

  1. Discovery: The consultant syncs with your nonprofit’s leadership to understand why you’re conducting an assessment, what you’re hoping to accomplish with the evaluation, and the extent to which you’re currently using technology.
  2. Analysis and Strategy: During the analysis phase, the consultant will guide your team through internal surveys to understand your current technology use— including which solutions you’re using, what you’re using them for, and how well they’re currently serving your team. Then, the consultant will develop a digital strategy for improving your technology use to better meet your goals. This will include solutions to invest in/divest from, ways to optimize your current software, policies to implement to ensure the effective use of your solutions, and any staff training recommendations.
  3. Documentation: The consultant will document their findings into two deliverables— a roadmap and an implementation plan. The roadmap will include a list of all of your existing solutions and how your technology lineup can be optimized. The implementation plan will discuss the consultant's strategy to bring the roadmap to realization, should you choose to continue working with them.
  4. Review: Lastly, the consultant will walk through the roadmap and implementation plan with your team. They will provide a quote for how much it will cost to allow your team to decide if you should invest in this consultant’s expertise. 

This initial assessment tends to take anywhere from six to 12 weeks, from start to finish. After that, you have a few choices regarding how to implement the outlined optimizations. You can continue working with the consulting partner who conducted the assessment, receive quotes from and work with another consultant, or complete the optimizations internally. This depends on your experience with the original consultant, your budget for the project, and the tech expertise of your team.

Wrapping Up: Tips for a Successful Assessment

As we embrace the new year, now is the ideal time to conduct a nonprofit technology assessment.

To conclude, here are a few tips that can help your assessment run smoothly:

  • Outline your goals before the assessment. Consider what you’re hoping to accomplish with the assessment, whether that’s improving your technology to elevate your fundraising strategy, save time, or better convey your nonprofit’s story digitally.
  • Budget accordingly. Recognize that the cost of the effort will include more than the price to conduct an initial assessment. In addition to the consulting fees for the evaluation, you’ll want to budget for any new software you may need to purchase as well as the consulting costs for implementing the recommended optimizations after the assessment is complete.
  • Choose the right partner for your team. Choose a consulting partner who specializes in nonprofit technology. This partner should be familiar with your organization’s specific software solutions, whether they’re robust tools like those offered by Blackbaud and Salesforce or more straightforward solutions created for smaller nonprofits.
  • Prepare initial questions for your consulting partner. For example, this could be in relation to any pervasive roadblocks that you repeatedly encounter or innovative technology solutions that you’re interested in implementing. Writing out this list of questions in advance will ensure that all of your inquiries are answered during the assessment process.

While your consulting partner will manage much of the nonprofit technology assessment and ensuing optimizations, it’s worthwhile to complete the above preparation to set your team up for success in the effort. Good luck!

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