Focus on Your Staff to Enhance Your Nonprofit’s Technology Strategy
When you think about optimizing the use of technology for your nonprofit, you probably consider what mix of software products you need to have in place to support your fundraising, marketing, programs, advocacy, accounting and more. While the specific software choices you make are important, there’s another aspect of nonprofit technology that’s just as important — the people.
Why Focus on Your Staff?
Strategic use of technology is not just about what software you choose. It’s also about how you use the technology, which comes down to people and processes.
Optimizing your nonprofit’s use of technology requires making sure your staff and volunteers understand your nonprofit’s software and related processes. Doing so leads to:
- Less frustration and higher job satisfaction.
- Lower staff turnover.
- Higher productivity.
- Better results in fundraising, marketing, volunteer management, programs management and more.
5 Ways to Integrate Your Staff Into Your Technology Strategy
So, how do you incorporate your tech people into your nonprofit’s strategy? Here are five tips.
1. Build Technology Training Into Your Nonprofit’s Culture
It can be tempting to think of software training as a one-time activity. For example, you might schedule software training for your staff when you implement a new software product. But it should be more than that
It’s also important to plan for ongoing training. As new employees come on board, they’re more likely to be more productive, faster, if they can get up to speed quickly on your organization’s technology and related processes. Staff members are also more likely to perform better, be satisfied with their jobs, and stay with your organization longer if they feel confident using your organization’s technology and if they know where to go when they have questions about how to use it or they want to learn how to use it better.
You can improve your staff’s technology training by ensuring a few things are in place.
Vendor resources. Ask your software vendors what resources are available to help your staff learn more about how to use their products. These resources might include on-demand training, customer support, help menus, an online user community and user conferences.
Vendor support. Set up custom training and support if you need more than your software vendors provide. This approach can be especially helpful if you have complex processes and/or a highly configured or customized implementation of your software. Most vendors’ service partners can provide custom training and user support.
Staff awareness. Make sure your staff knows what training resources are available and how to access them. Also, be sure to allow staff members to set aside time in their schedules for ongoing training.
2. Document Your Technology-Related Processes
While it’s important for your staff to understand how to use your organization’s software, it’s also important that they understand related processes. For example, your organization might have specific processes for creating new campaigns, building a new web page or form, adding a product to your online store and building reports. Be sure to document these processes with step-by-step instructions.
It’s ideal to create this document when you implement new software. But you can go back and document your processes at any time. Either way, once you have the document in place:
- Share it with your staff.
- Update it as your organization’s processes evolve.
- Let staff members know when it has been updated, what updates were made and why they’ve been made.
- Go through the document as part of your new staff onboarding process.
3. Update Your Database Policies and Guidelines
There’s nothing that will slow your organization (and your software) down like inconsistent or missing data in your database. If you don’t already have one, be sure to have a database policies and procedures document in place that includes:
- Consistent naming standards for things like files, campaigns, events, queries and exports to make searching and reporting easier and more accurate.
- Processes for entering, archiving and deleting data.
- Information about who has access to what data and why.
Make reviewing your database policies and procedures document a part of your employee onboarding checklist to ensure your entire staff understands the standards. Also, plan to evaluate the policies and procedures at least annually to make sure the information is still accurate.
Again, any time you change a policy or procedure, be sure to notify the entire organization. This will help them understand the importance of the change and its impact on the organization.
4. Use Change-Management Principles
Whenever you move to new software, it can be disruptive. People don’t always like change and can be resistant to it. You can reduce the challenges that technology changes often bring by incorporating principles of change management into the new software project. For example, consider these steps:
Notify. Let the entire organization know that the new software is coming and why your organization is making the move. Focus on the benefits of the new software to the organization.
Update. Keep everyone updated on the software implementation project so that they know what to expect. Continually remind them of the benefits of the new software so that everyone can stay focused on the vision.
Train. Provide all stakeholders with proper training and process documentation so that they feel confident using the new software.
As part of your nonprofit’s technology strategy, ask your staff members and volunteers for feedback so that you can understand what’s working and what’s not. This feedback loop can help you identify technology and related process issues that you might not otherwise be aware of. It also gives stakeholders in your organization a way to voice their concerns.
As you ask for feedback, look for answers to questions like:
- What software are they using most each day?
- What challenges are they facing when using the software? Are the challenges in the software itself or is it more about related processes?
- Are there any things, such as specific training or resources, that would help them take their work to the next level?
Focusing on the people aspect of your nonprofit’s technology strategy can make a positive impact on staff productivity and employee retention — ultimately helping your organization to get more out of your technology investments. Take time to incorporate your staff into your strategy, and you’ll start seeing the efforts pay off.
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: Using Technology to Adapt to Modern Fundraising Challenges
Mark founded Cathexis Partners in 2008 to help nonprofit organizations get the most from their existing technology tools, implement new technology to address gaps and find the best overall approach to using technology to support their missions. He previously served as director of IT consulting at a fundraising event production company focused on nonprofits.
Mark also serves on the editorial advisory board for NonProfit PRO, where he contributes monthly to his blog, “Nonprofit Tech Matters.”