As technology advances by leaps and bounds, the nonprofit sector is transforming rapidly. In order to stay current in the field, it is important for nonprofit leaders to know about the options available to them. However, before embracing every new technology that comes along, it is important for nonprofit leaders to understand the relative pros and cons of each. Below are some factors to consider when evaluating new technology:
- Your Data is Sacred. From payment processing to event scheduling to mass e-mailing services, there are countless vendors from which to choose. When choosing providers, evaluate their features, ease of use, customer service, and, of course, price. But also consider how they treat your data. Will they sell it to third parties or share it in any way? When we sign up for Gmail, iTunes, and other products for our personal lives, we willingly give up massive amounts of our own privacy. But your donors, participants, volunteers, staff, and other constituents expect you to keep their personal information confidential and handle it securely. Make sure not to give up your constituents’ privacy rights to third-party vendors. As a general rule with web-based service providers, the cheaper the service, the fewer rights you maintain.
- Beware of Hidden Fees. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the price is right and you are confident that the vendor is not selling your data, look for hidden fees. Some vendors charge for customer service. Others charge per user. The economics of credit card processing are notoriously difficult to understand. While it is an attractive service to provide your donors, be sure to know exactly how much will be skimmed off of each donation before you sign up for such a service and decide whether the cost is actually worth it.
- Crowdsourcing is an Inch Deep but a Mile Wide. Crowdsourcing provides an incredible opportunity to expose your organization to an extremely wide audience. But is it a sustainable strategy? Remember, maintaining and growing existing donors should be more efficient than obtaining new ones. Gaining hundreds of small donors might be exciting in the short-term, but can you keep them engaged in the long-term? Remember that successful fundraising is about relationship building. By all means, crowdsourcing can be an effective strategy for expanding your base, but make sure that it remains simply one part of a comprehensive strategy.
- Automatically Recurring Donations are Great but… they have real drawbacks. On the face, it seems like a win-win opportunity to enable people to donate smaller amounts to your organization on a monthly basis, but it is important to consider the downsides. First, when you consider the processing fees, it might be preferable to receive one check rather than 12 credit card donations. More importantly, after making the initial decision to donate, these donors become passive contributors to your organization. It will difficult to keep them engaged or to cultivate them to increase their commitment. Worse, without an active relationship with your organization, they are more likely to scale back or stop their giving altogether.
It is important for nonprofit leaders to embrace technology as a tool to operate more efficiently and effectively. As you consider new technologies for your organization, be sure to consider all of the costs and benefits in order to determine how to most effectively integrate them into your operations.