3 Ways Nonprofits Can Leverage Technology to Support Expansion Efforts
Nonprofits are traditionally lean organizations that depend on a mix of volunteers and paid staff. This makes meeting IT needs challenging. Technology is certainly a pillar of productivity but if not managed with a growth mindset, it can become a bottleneck for the entire organization, stymieing operational efficiency.
A growth mindset is a belief that one can learn new skills and improve with effort and feedback. It can help nonprofits adapt to changing needs and opportunities, and leverage technology to enhance their impact. However, once the tools needed to support organizational goals and the mission are in place, there tends to be some common hurdles that nonprofits run into as they expand nationwide.
For instance, a “State of the Sector” survey reported that 52% of nonprofits in the U.S. are unable to meet demand due to funding limitations. Managing supporter data across multiple platforms and locations can also be a daunting task for nonprofits that lack adequate systems and staff.
Let’s explore three ways that growing nonprofits can plan ahead to create operational efficiencies in managing technical tools.
1. Prepare for Different Data Privacy Compliance Requirements When Expanding Geographically
Expanding into new regions nationwide may entail adhering to new requirements, which pose their own set of challenges because data privacy compliance requirements vary from state to state. This makes it imperative that the organization’s technology processes, security practices and compliance efforts can scale when adding locations.
For example, nonprofits that operate in California need to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which grants consumers the right to access, delete and opt out of the sale of their personal data. Similarly, nonprofits that operate in New York need to comply with the New York Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security (SHIELD) Act, which requires reasonable safeguards to protect the security and confidentiality of private information.
Other states, such as Colorado, Maine and Virginia, have also enacted or proposed their own data privacy laws that nonprofits need to be aware of. Additionally, nonprofits that operate in specific sectors need to comply with federal laws that protect the privacy of certain types of data.
Data privacy compliance is not only a legal obligation but also a strategic advantage for nonprofits. According to a Salesforce.org survey, 92% of donors said they are more likely to trust nonprofits with their personal information if they explain how it is used and secured. Moreover, data privacy compliance can help nonprofits improve their operational efficiency, reduce costs and mitigate risks.
Nonprofits must be prepared to adjust how they implement web strategies and technical operations upon expansion into new geographical locations or markets to avoid unnecessary scrambling and rollout delays.
2. Streamline Processes and Efforts Related to Online Tools in Need of Continual Upgrades
Nonprofits today rely on a growing set of online tools to fuel their missions from recruiting to fundraising programs. Keeping up with the upgrades and agile management of those tools can be a full-time pursuit. One way to reduce the strain is through outsourcing the back-end maintenance aspects to platform-as-a-service partners. These partners offer a cloud-computing service that provides a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud, with resources that enable nonprofits to deliver everything from simple cloud-based apps to sophisticated, cloud-enabled enterprise applications.
For example, TEACH, a national nonprofit that works with states and metropolitan areas to develop sustainable teacher talent pipelines for K-12 students, uses a variety of tools to achieve their recruitment goals. These range from candidate outreach, such as email, social media and text messaging, to a web portal for teachers and a customer relationship management database complete with user analytics.
Technology plays an important role in helping the nonprofit’s locations across the country to identify, acquire and support thousands of prospective candidates simultaneously. To achieve a more sustainable deployment process, TEACH has their tools residing on supporting infrastructure to allow for further growth and scalability. This helps the nonprofit offer an effortless user experience for its potential teacher recruits along with security and compliance to protect confidential information.
3. Create a System That Is Easy for New Support Staff to Follow and Manage
The nonprofits that prefer to manage their IT infrastructure in-house should ensure that they have created consistent protocols that are easy to replicate along with an efficient onboarding process for developers and other technical support staff. Consistent protocols can include documenting IT policies and procedures, automating IT tasks and workflows, and standardizing IT tools and platforms. An efficient onboarding process can include providing training and mentoring for new staff, assigning clear roles and responsibilities, and setting up feedback and evaluation mechanisms.
Developing complex technology environments that come with a steep learning curve for new team members can lead to operational challenges down the road. Technology platforms that offer code commands (instructions that tell a computer what to do) and frameworks (collections of code commands that provide a structure and functionality for developing applications) that are universally understood help nonprofits future-proof for growth, minimizing the learning curve for new technical support staff, especially if the organization has plans to significantly expand operations down the road.
According to a report by NTEN, 88% of nonprofits agree that technology is important for achieving their mission, and 72% agree that technology helps them increase their impact. Having the right IT plan that aligns with the nonprofit’s growth strategy — and back-end infrastructure that best supports that strategy — will empower nonprofits to reach more people, improve their services, enhance their communication and optimize their resources. It will also prevent overloading the IT staff who may have other priorities.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: 7 Reasons Why Nonprofits Need to Invest in Technology Now
Joey Stanford brings more than 30 years of experience to his role as the vice president of privacy and security at Platform.sh. Prior to joining Platform.sh, he managed information security and development-operations programs for companies in the U.S., France and the U.K. With a passion for free and open-source software, Stanford is responsible for global security, data management and compliance, and ensuring Platform.sh is a trusted custodian of its customers' data.