Preface: Any non-profit COO or CTO will tell you that finding the technology that appropriately addresses their needs is tough to come by. The platforms that do exist with the non-profit in mind often cost upwards of $25,000 to engage. There are several problems with this situation. First, it is impossible to know that a CRM/donor database/360° fundraising platform will meet your needs long-term. Second, these platforms will lock you in for a year at least, and the much-needed updates will never come. Lastly, these platforms are insular systems without API or any means of connecting it to other solutions. (San Francisco, feel free to help us out here.)
I’m lucky to work in a non-profit vertical that spans from the tiny side-project to the multi-million dollar behemoth fundraising machine. In a space where we’re all working towards the same goal, it’s interesting how organizations leverage technology to carry out their mission.
Over the past 6 years at Stupid Cancer, we have stopped and started with so many different platforms my staff now cringes any time I tell them I’ve found something new. It’s true that I’ve probably worn out my welcome with having them help me test new things, but old habits die hard. When it was just Matthew and myself, we had to compensate for the lack of staff. It was the wild west of free trial exploration and I learned a lot from it.
As we’ve grown over the past few years and hired staff to help us, my instinct remains to take a tech-forward approach.
I am also a big believer in putting automated systems in place where appropriate, and removing the human element. There is no reason to try to do things better than computers. I see it way too often in this community of limited resources. It will only reduce your capacity for upward growth.
We recently did an internal exercise where we measured how much time each staff member spent on their respective duties. While they mostly landed as we thought they would, there were some instances where outside forces were pulling us away from getting out jobs done. In any company — especially a growing one – this is bound to happen. Ultimately, we took a look at the results and have begun to figure out how to mitigate these distractions by adding articles to our Zendesk FAQ, for example.
In this world of highly scrutinized non-profit budgets, there is so much time and money that can be saved by utilizing low-cost platforms like Zapier or IFTTT (Which doesn’t cost anything at all). I actually find most SaaS-based companies are willing to give deep discounts just based on your merit.
Google and Slack are two examples of companies that reward 501(c)(3) organizations with a lifetime subscription to their platform for free. If a platform doesn’t offer free or discounted services, offer to create compelling content for them that will be mutually beneficial.
We recently received a very nice donation from a platform we had used in the past that was in transition. The temporary separation was a mutual agreement, as they changed their core product offering. When the dust settled on their end, we jumped right in line to sign up.
As the maturation of Stupid Cancer continues from tiny startup non-profit to million dollar organization, I remain vigilant in making sure we stay nimble and unburdened by the unnecessary.