Using Technology to Support the Human Side of Fundraising

By Aly Sterling, founder and president of Aly Sterling Philanthropy

There is no doubt that technology has the power to revolutionize the nonprofit world—and in recent years, it certainly has. With all of the obstacles that nonprofits face, from fundraising struggles to data management complications, nonprofit professionals have been adopting rising tech trends to combat some of the issues they face.

Technology, therefore, has become inextricable from the successful management of nonprofits. But is there a chance that, with the rising dependence on technology, nonprofit professionals are missing out on something that can only be contributed by a hard-working group of passionate people?

If so, it’s not to say technology should be disregarded or ignored by nonprofit professionals. Rather, technology should be used to aid your team (not replace them). As you try to create a healthy balance between the two, ask yourself these important questions:

  1. What tech trends are taking nonprofits by storm?
  2. Why should nonprofits care about maintaining a human element?

This post focuses on exploring ways you can use technology wisely for the benefit of your nonprofit. It will also explain the value of a knowledgable, passionate team. Let’s dive in and prepare you to maximize your nonprofit’s potential.

What tech trends are taking nonprofits by storm?

There are so many ways that nonprofits are now incorporating technology into their daily operations. For example, planning and executing a capital campaign requires a humanistic approach to execute, but is often assisted by the use of software and tech tools to facilitate easier management. However, some tech trends rise above the others and can be quite useful, if not necessary to a nonprofit’s success. These include:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Virtual reality
  • CRM software
  • Prospect research software

Let’s take a look at these in more depth and see how they can help nonprofits run smoothly and more successfully.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence refers to a technology that acts as a substitute for human intelligence This has long been a subject that preoccupies the minds, and works, of authors, filmmakers and artists, and it has even permeated the nonprofit space in recent years. Tasks that once required a human being to accomplish can now be completed with an AI-driven solution.

AI technology can alleviate some of the stress of:

  • Tedious administrative tasks. The most common form of administrative AI comes in the form of website Chatbots. They automatically appear on a site visitor’s screen to answer basic questions that once would have necessitated an administrator’s interference. Your nonprofit team can use Chatbots to easily answer questions about the donation process, your organization’s goals and the cause your organization supports!
  • Human resources. AI-driven software can screen, filter and compare potential employee candidates and present the hiring team with a list of the most qualified applicants, effectively streamlining the hiring process. This will help ensure the team members of your nonprofit are equipped to drive your organization to success.
  • Fundraising. AI technology can personalize a donor’s experience with a nonprofit by understanding their preferences and tailoring their interactions with the nonprofit to solicit the best results.

Artificial intelligence allows nonprofits to reduce the amount of time they spend doing menial tasks and enables them to focus on the big picture as they further their cause and accomplish their goals.

Virtual reality

The best way to inspire others to support your nonprofit is to demonstrate the value of your cause and the ways in which you are tirelessly working to support the cause. There is a big difference between knowing that oceans are plagued by human trash and sea creatures are suffering as a result and seeing it in action. How many people would give up using plastic straws if they could see with their own eyes the effect it has on sea turtles?

Virtual reality plays on this notion that seeing and experiencing the need can spur donors to support your cause. After all, fundraising relies heavily on storytelling. Recently, the virtual reality portal Fear of the Sky, launched by Amnesty International allows people to experience firsthand the aftermath of bombings in Syria.

A simulated first-hand experience like this not only raises awareness for extremely important causes but also inspires an audience’s empathetic response and higher levels of support.

CRM software

Software designed for constituent relationship management (CRM)is one of the most vital tools a nonprofit can use for data management. While this software isn’t necessarily a new trend for nonprofits, it’s one of the most important pieces of technology used by organizations to effectively and strategically manage fundraising.

Data management is oftentimes the task that causes most nonprofits to falter. It is all too easy for nonprofit teams to become buried under mountains of data and spend valuable time and resources sifting through spreadsheets. CRM software eliminates the need for tedious data management and enables nonprofit teams to focus on interpreting the data.

According to the Double the Donation nonprofit CRM guide, CRM software allows nonprofits to:

  • Better organize their data. All donor data is clearly organized according to the nonprofit’s preferences and can be easily filtered to show the nonprofit team exactly what they need to know.
  • Segment their donor lists. Nonprofit teams can better understand patterns and trends in their donor population when they segment their list and know the exact demographics of those who support their cause.
  • Manage donor relationships. Knowing more about donors and having easy access to all of their information relating to organization engagement will let nonprofit teams tailor their approach to donors so that fundraising strategies can be more purposeful and successful.

Organizing and analyzing the data that your nonprofit produces will increase your organization’s chances of success!

Prospect research software

One challenge for nonprofits is determining who in their donor network has the potential for making a major gift. Prospect research software is specifically designed to provide insight into a potential donor’s ability and willingness to give to your organization.

Prospect research software uses a range of tools to collect and analyze key data and provide your nonprofit with concrete next steps. Important data for prospect research includes:

  • Wealth markers. Wealth markers demonstrate prospective donors’ net worth and giving potential. This can help your team determine who to solicit for major gifts and which leads could be dead ends. Important wealth markers include business affiliations, real estate investment and stock ownership.
  • Philanthropic indicators. Possibly the most important aspect of prospect research tools, philanthropic indicators reveal donors’ giving histories and relationships to other organizations. These indicators can include their last donation, the frequency with which they donate, who they donate to and how much they typically donate.

Prospect research can take some of the guesswork out of your major gifts strategy. But it’s important to note that the only way to secure a gift is through regular and genuine donor stewardship. Prospect research merely facilitates the fundraising work of your team and helps you make educated decisions around your major gifts strategy.

Nonprofits too frequently think that technology will solve all of their problems and replace the need for face-to-face interactions with your fundraising team. However, in reality, technology is used to further enhance the human element for better interactions with supporters.

Why should nonprofits care about maintaining a human element?

Adopting technology into your nonprofit strategy is certainly considered a best practice now for managing your nonprofit, but that in no way means that your team is not still your nonprofit’s greatest asset. Don’t let your team of experts end with just your nonprofit staff—hire a nonprofit consultant, whose expertise will help you kickstart any fundraising campaign.

Your nonprofit team, with the help of a nonprofit fundraising consultant, can use the technology tools at your disposal to increase your fundraising revenue and maximize your nonprofit’s impact. Your team is so valuable because they are able to:

Design and execute fundraising strategies

One of the greatest ways to ensure your fundraising campaign’s success is to spearhead your efforts with passionate people who are incredibly knowledgable about your nonprofit’s capabilities and fundraising capacity.

According to the Aly Sterling Philanthropy guide to hiring fundraising consultants, these consultants offer an incredible range of services that will enable you to move forward with your fundraising campaign with a complete understanding of what your nonprofit needs and the steps it should take to accomplish its goals. Successful major nonprofit campaigns require the following:

  • Conducting a feasibility study. Before starting any fundraiser starts, it is important to ask questions about its potential success. Closely examine all of the data you have and engage with stakeholders to garner interest and gauge support interest.in your nonprofit to determine how much support your fundraiser would be.
  • Setting reasonable goals. Setting unrealistic goals for your fundraiser will only hurt the fundraiser in the long run. Look at projected costs, deadlines, and expenses to determine how much you should ask, how long you should host the fundraiser, and when you need to execute your plan.
  • Following a concrete plan. When you follow step-by-step a tailor-made fundraising strategy, you will greatly reduce your margin for error and increase the potential of your fundraiser.

To see how all of these vital components of fundraising can be assisted by hiring a consultant, click here.

Fundraising consultants can help you figure out how to best utilize technology into the greater nonprofit strategy without losing your nonprofit’s human element. Nonprofits use empathy to further their cause and inspire their community, but technology can greatly enhance your team’s ability to do this, as long as it doesn’t detract from your team’s personal efforts.

Technology has clearly demonstrated how influential and beneficial it can be for the nonprofit world, but there are certain things that are better off with a human being taking the wheel.

A nonprofit should utilize a combination of technology tools and human expertise to construct the best fundraising strategies with the greatest chance of success. Human expertise should not be undervalued—when your team works with a nonprofit consultant, there is no limit to how much they will be able to accomplish, or how much funds they will be able to raise.