In my previous blog post, I shared the idea that the nonprofit industry needs to rethink the approach to technology products. In order to build the right products, we must start from a foundation of empathy.
We need a strong understanding of the people who will be using those products. This includes aspects like where their organization sits on the technology maturity journey, what use cases from the commercial side are applicable and relevant at this point in their fundraising journey and how to ensure the product is intuitive and easy to use.
But the most important part of empathy in technology is simple: building a product that solves a real problem.
I spent my first 100 days at RKD Group talking to so many amazing people across the nonprofit industry with a goal of understanding our industry’s biggest areas of need.
In this blog post, I’ll break down five areas that have stood out to me as ones that can be addressed with the right technology products.
1. Accurate and accessible data
So much of what we want to do in modern marketing and fundraising begins and ends with data. Yet so many nonprofit organizations have significant challenges when it comes to getting, keeping and seeing that data.
Up-to-date and clean data that connects across various platforms (like CRMs, email systems, internal databases, etc.) is essential. This ensures that the nonprofit has an accurate view of its donors, its fundraising campaigns and the overall ROI on its investments. It also sets the foundation for richer marketing techniques that rely on data for personalization, automation and optimization.
We’re talking about a two-way data flow here—bringing information in for omnichannel action and analysis and sending it back out for activation. And organizations need to be in full control of all data that belongs to them.
2. Actionable insights drawn from relevant dashboards
Plenty of technology tools offer customized reporting—they can build any report you want. The challenge comes in understanding exactly what reports you truly need and how to actually build them.
Google Analytics 4 is a great example. It has incredible depth and can create a wide range of reports. But do you know all of what’s available and how to build the reports you need? I sure don’t. I empathize with the NPOs that want to focus on their mission but instead get bogged down in understanding what these reports mean.
Employees at nonprofit organizations don’t have the time to learn the advanced capabilities of every platform they use.
Most reports and dashboards are built in a lab, outside of real life. Insights are often divorced from the nonprofit's audiences and donors, which makes meaningful next steps challenging at best.
Nonprofits need pre-built solutions that address their needs—like a report that creates all the charts you’ll need for your upcoming presentation to the board, with intuitive next steps identified in the form of strategies.
3. A strong understanding of donors to deliver better experiences
Companies thrive when they understand their customers’ wants, needs and behaviors. The same is true for nonprofit organizations and their donors.
So many nonprofits know they need to bring more personalized experiences to better connect with their donors, but they don’t have the right tools to do so.
You must reach your donors where they are and when they are ready—all on their terms. For example, if you want to deliver your message to a prospective donor from Generation Z, you’ll want to hit them up on TikTok instead of relying on a traditional channel such as direct mail.
But you also need to go deeper than just channel preference in understanding and incorporating their interests and behaviors at the right time. If the timing is off, the prospect will not donate, or the existing donor will stop giving or the lapsed donor will not come back.
The first step toward this is also the first area I addressed earlier—accurate, connected data. With that in place, you can gain insights on donor interests and behavior and use them to deliver more effective messaging in email, on your website, through digital media, etc.
The result is better targeting of donor prospects and improved retention of current donors.
4. Timely optimization across channels
Think about all the direct mail, digital ads, emails and more that your organization sends out. How much of that communication leads to no action from those who receive it?
We’re not talking about proper attribution across a donor journey here. This is all about the prospects who never become donors and the current donors who become lapsed. The seeds that never bear fruit.
And all those missed chances add up in a fundraising budget. That’s why nonprofits need predictive tech tools that can better identify:
- Which prospects are most likely to respond
- Which donors are most likely to lapse
- Who will deliver more long-term net revenue
This will reduce costs and lead to better engagement with constituents—a true win-win scenario.
5. A better way to invite people into deeper relationships
Speaking of engagement, here’s a great statistic: 85% of volunteers donate to the nonprofits they volunteer for. Do you suddenly feel the urge to bring in more volunteers?
Yet many nonprofit leaders are facing significant challenges in finding volunteers who have the availability and the desire to help. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-person volunteering for nonprofits, and the struggle has continued since.
Platforms that prioritize community-building can be invaluable here. By providing tools that facilitate volunteer recruitment, engagement and appreciation, nonprofits can build stronger communities around their causes and bring in more donations.
Empathy is fundamental in nonprofit work, and it's crucial for our technology to mirror this value. By customizing tech solutions to address the unique needs of the nonprofit sector, we are paving the way for a more impactful and fulfilling future.