3 Critical Components of a Nonprofit Tech Stack
Now, more than ever, today’s constituents expect more from non-governmental organizations and nonprofits. Donors evaluate their customer experience against the best in class, like Apple, Amazon and Starbucks.
If your marketing team is saying it can’t execute its strategies from your current platform, it’s time to re-platform for the future. To make an informed decision, you must first understand the three major components of a technology stack and how they are used in the nonprofit space: constituent relationship management (CRM) platform, direct response platform (DRP) and digital execution platform (DEP).
What Is a CRM?
The first component is the CRM platform. This platform primarily focuses on supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits in having a single view into their constituents. It allows you to access comprehensive constituent and demographic information that drives a one-on-one personal engagement through your call centers, or client services teams in support of the programs, events or benefits.
Many CRMs today have native engagement plans that help major gifts or grant officers within a nonprofit to identify, qualify, cultivate, solicit and steward prospects that build an affinity to help grow their support base.
What Is a DRP?
The second component is the DRP, sometimes called a marketing database. This is where your historical data would be stored. Where your CRM may only contain a few years of information, your DRP can contain all the historical data. The DRP is especially focused on data that can help inform the analytics that fuel predictive models, which, in turn, drive segmentation and audiences.
This is extremely helpful when executing outbound communication campaigns. By having this wealth of information on your constituents’ past behavior, you can be very specific in your targeting and your messaging.
What Is a DEP?
The third component of your nonprofit technology stack is a set of tools used to facilitate the execution of your fundraising and organizational programs. These digital execution platforms, or DEPs, are often add-ons or applications that integrate with your CRM and DRP. For nonprofit organizations, this often includes:
- Online fundraising
- Email marketing
- Lead management
- Websites and landing pages
- Social media marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Events management
DEPs are the planning and execution piece for your online marketing efforts that can manage things as simple as deploying an email campaign, or as complex as a multichannel campaign with coordinated efforts using email, social, mobile and advertising. Regardless of how simple or complex your campaigns may be, your DEPs must be able to accomplish your marketing initiatives in a scalable way.
It isn’t enough to just have all the right pieces. Integrating these components is where the magic happens. By feeding data directly into your CRM, each of the other components can act in a real-time way. This means that someone calling into a call center can immediately get a follow-up email with more information and a donation request. If they donate, that information is immediately fed back into the CRM for up-to-date reporting. Integration also allows you to execute coordinated campaigns. You can have display ads, email campaigns and direct mail campaigns, all with the same branding and theme. No more silos or channel-based efforts. Your campaigns will become multichannel, automated and personalized.
Many NGOs have a combination of the aforementioned components in their current tech stack, but most NGOs move partial sets of data through these components via a series of manual or partially automated processes. This makes NGOs feel like their tech stack is integrated, but this level of integration means they will be unsuccessful in staying ahead of the competition, due to the latency of data and lack of access to key data elements. Data fuels the competitive advantage in the digital economy. Data gives fundraisers the power to make your fundraising more addressable and relevant, make the experience more personable and manage your constituents over time.
In order to enable a constituent-based marketing strategy, NGOs should embark on the following set of key activities within their organizations prior to migrating from their current tech stack:
- Conduct a donor journey assessment that is supported across the organization.
- Build out an identity resolution strategy (online and offline).
- Document data flow, integration timing and data consolidation needed across all systems.
- Identify key data elements used across all fundraising activities and marketing channels.
Upon completing these activities, NGOs will have begun to lay the foundation for their readiness to “re-platform for the future.”
Chad Cochran is the delivery unit leader for the nonprofit data management team within Merkle’s CRM- Technology Delivery Group. At Merkle, Chad has worked in several capacities including, solution management, product management, account management, project management, campaign management and production management. His unique combination of 20 years of marketing technology experience and industry specific focus allows him to provide excellent leadership to our nonprofit team.
Chad’s industry experience beyond nonprofit includes higher education, government, business to business, credit bureau, information technology services, retail banking, retail and energy.
Chad earned his Bachelor of Science degree in business information systems from John Brown University and his Master of Business Administration from Webster University. He is also a retired First Sergeant who served 23 years in the United State Army as a combat engineer.
Tracy Davis is the portfolio lead for the nonprofit digital technology team with Merkle. She joined Merkle in 2013 as a senior developer for the same team. She currently manages a team of high performing campaign execution and implementation developers, as well as identifying and supporting technology solutions for nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining Merkle, she spent several years with Convio/Blackbaud, a software company serving nonprofits and higher education.
In addition to her professional dedication to nonprofit organizations, she has a personal commitment, as well. She has served on several nonprofit boards and was voted Volunteer of the Year for another nonprofit.
Tracy’s experience both professionally and personally has given her a wealth of knowledge within the nonprofit vertical. When coupled with her technical acumen, she is a strong asset to Merkle and the nonprofit organizations she serves.