8 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Nonprofit Data and Technology Systems

Investing in technology and systems to accelerate your mission has never been more important. In fact, we’re at a breaking point that many organizations realize they won’t succeed without it. CAF America reported earlier this year that 32% of social good organizations surveyed needed additional funding for technology alone.

“[Nonprofit] Organizations are struggling with technology during the pandemic in many of the same ways they did before the coronavirus forced them to go remote. But now that digital technology is increasingly central to their ability to function, those gaps are more apparent and have a larger impact on how groups serve their clients and meet their missions.” – via The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Your technology systems are crucial to your organization’s and participants’ success. But not all technology solutions are created equal. So how do you evaluate and decide on the technology that’s best for you? Let’s start with these eight questions.

1) How would you describe your technology solution’s core capabilities?

Technology is the center of any data-driven nonprofit organization. It allows organizations to track and standardize data, report on outcomes and prove impact better than ever before. With the right technology at your fingertips, you won’t have to spend hours inputting, organizing, assessing and reporting. Instead, you can apply the time you save delivering more mission to your community.

Whether you’re using technology for case management, data collection or outcomes reporting, nonprofit software is essential for showing a top-down view of an organization’s impact on the people it serves.

2) What types of data can clients track with your solution?

Collecting, tracking and managing nonprofit data are important ways to measure and quantify the good work your organization does for your community. Your data should empower you and your stakeholders to understand how your services affect your program participants.

At the very least, your organization should be able to see your operations from an end-to-end point of view. That means that you can see the entire journey that a program participant goes through from the start of their participation to when they exit. That also means that you can see all the inner workings of each program you’re running, how they are serving your clients and how they roll up through your organization as a whole. Tracking this data is the only way you can truly understand what’s working overtime, what you can improve and how you can expand your best practices.

3) Is your solution designed specifically for nonprofits?

Partnering with a software solution that’s enthusiastic about working with your organization is key. It allows both parties to excel at what they do best while working collaboratively. The shared goal is to serve your community. Technology is a universal language that has the power to unite, change lives and prove and optimize your organization’s impact.

Your systems should be working for you, ultimately saving you time, resources and money while also informing you of best practices to empower your participants and prove more impact.

4) How much time is needed to invest in onboarding and implementing your solution?

Unfortunately, unless you’re a brand new organization, you probably have a lot of data in a lot of places. Whether in dated systems, Google, Excel or maybe even pen and paper, it can be daunting thinking about the implementation process and the lift it will take.

When shopping for your technology, make sure you’re not just looking for a software provider but a technology partner. As your partner, specialists will be available to assist with data integrations, implementation, trainings and more to help you get up and running.

5) Is your solution flexible and easy-to-use?

If you’re like most nonprofits, you have a set of processes and procedures that help keep everything organized and running as smoothly as possible. It is essential to find a case management software solution that allows you to tailor it to your workflow as it will help streamline your organization’s management and reporting efficiency. Have it be flexible to your growth as well. It’s easy to fall for software that fits for the short term but look beyond that. Find something that will grow with your organization.

Plus, user-friendly design makes it easy for your team to learn and adopt your technology systems so you can start saving time on data entry and focusing on service delivery right away.

6) How will you ensure our staff are properly trained? Do you offer ongoing training and support?

Your technology systems are only as strong as your staff’s knowledge to use them. Fully trained employees are enabled to implement software with ease. And any time the program is updated or a new feature is added, it will take much less time out of an employees’ day to quickly learn and make adjustments. This ensures their knowledge continues to increase, and they become more valuable over time. 

The knowledge and increased experience that your employees will gain from software training will make them more productive at work. It also makes the turn around time of adoption that much quicker.

7) Is your solution secure? Can your technology help you to remain compliant?

Secure nonprofit technology ensures that your organization keeps your data safe, secure and in the right hands at all times. Your biggest responsibility to your clients is to keep their information safe. Along with that, your organization must stay compliant. 

With the right technology partner, your data isn’t inside a building or server, and you can work anywhere (with a secure WiFi connection) without worry. Secure, cloud-based technology is also flexible enough to be taken anywhere, so when your organization eventually grows, you won’t have to move any heavy equipment. 

8) What do we need to budget for our technology investment over the long term?

Technology for nonprofits has lagged behind the consumer market, and one of the big reasons for this is costs. It’s infeasible to throw precious money at every software on the market, but finding the right technology is essential. Partnering with a technology solution helps you advance your mission and vision. However, we all know how tight things can be in our space, and every dollar must be spent wisely.

The main driver for technology investment is the amount of time, money and resources you will get back to give to your mission. Technology should be making your job easier, which in turn makes service delivery more abundant and effective. Nonprofit technology also opens nonprofits up to more funding if used correctly. 

Next Steps

When selecting a technology provider, choose one that knows and understands your mission and wants to be a part of it. Find a solution that understands that data is powerful and that it must be handled with care and compassion. And above all, choose a technology partner that feels a sense of purpose in what your organization is doing.

Are you investing in the right nonprofit technology for your organization? Check out our Nonprofit Technology Provider Worksheet to compare and choose your systems and partner with confidence. 

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