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David Mills
By David Mills on July 17, 2023

De-Clunk Your Nonprofit by Streamlining Software

How to approach communication and development software to improve growth outcomes and reduce frustration and time waste.

Credible estimates tell us that sales reps spend only one-third of their time selling with the rest of their time spent on administrative tasks or data entry - is it any better for nonprofit development teams?

It’s a safe bet that your communications and development team is spending at least 5 hours or more each week just managing the technology they need to communicate.

That’s more than half of a day, wasted every week.

But that’s not all, how much time is spent each day in data entry?

There went another half day.

Then it gets worse because 75% may also be spending an hour each day analyzing what their technology is telling them. In other words, which donors to focus on, knowing which event participants to follow-up with is hard to deduce.

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Now they've burned 3 hours a day or 15 hours a week. That doesn’t even count all the other things they have to do when they need to create a campaign, reach out to individual donors or prepare an event.

Could technology management and data entry be costing you 25% to 30% of your nonprofit productivity? 

For a lot of nonprofits that is what is really happening.

That’s not just clunky, it’s frustrating.

Some popular solutions aren’t really helping

What's most common in the nonprofit world is to build software around a single function like events or development. And these software solutions are notorious for trying to be everything. But they simply don't do everything well. That leaves teams cobbling together lots of other software so that nothing is actually connected. And the result is massive amounts of data in different places. Manual data entry, poor quality communications, and reports? You simply have to build them yourself.

Some popular solutions aren’t actually helping. If you look at reviews for Microsoft Dynamics marketing and sales software, what you hear are words like “clunky” and “slow.”

One trap that people fall into is trying to stack up a bunch of low-cost DIY tools to get various jobs done, but that’s just adding to the mountain of distraction that team members already face.

Enterprise-level tools like Salesforce and HubSpot have taken a different approach, and offer a single platform that serves as the “single source of truth” for both staff and managers. This is a CRM-based system that is designed to integrate seamlessly with lead databases, marketing, and event software. The ability of the platform to be a single place to work from, along with effective external integrations is a powerful combination.

This platform approach allows you to keep your team engaged in actual communication and development, instead of administrative duties. It will reduce the total tech stack burden and add real efficiency.

We’re a HubSpot Solutions Partner, so we can speak meaningfully about how HubSpot solves the clunky problem. Salesforce certainly makes similar claims and we also integrate HubSpot and Salesforce for many people.  We find consistently that a streamlined software system reduces time wasted and boosts nonprofit growth outcomes.

Five important factors in streamlining that will de-clunk your software system

Level of Adoption.

Since we are talking about both volunteers and paid staff here, then the level of adoption is central to how well any system will work. Anyone who knows nonprofit development knows that nonprofit developers are a fierce lot. If the system fits the workflow and work processes of the team, then the adoption level will be much higher, and productivity and donations will get a boost. If the system is overly complicated and requires a long-term administrator to make it work effectively, then adoption is likely to suffer.

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Time Savings Across Departments.

(This can also be called “the Time Cost of Ownership”) If a CRM could become truly the “single source of truth” for donor development, marketing, and program management, then it would multiply time savings and productivity across the company. Cutting down the time that it takes for team members to complete new documents, and submit paperwork to inform operations or accounting can be an additional boost to focused donor outcomes. The problems that donor developers are having are also being experienced by marketers. You can solve all of these issues at one time.

Supervision Visibility.

The ability of a director to coach and support the team requires good visibility into the work that they are doing. You need access to robust activity and outcome reporting - without asking people to fill out additional reports. This information should come from the regular workflow and CRM use, not from additional reporting projects.

Total Cost of Ownership.

The cost of ownership for any software includes the software license itself, the cost of onboarding, and ongoing administration. Add to this any additional costs for data enrichment or lead sourcing. For some software, the administrative cost of keeping the software effective can be almost as much as the software itself. Ask about this because it goes into the total cost of ownership. Salesforce, as an example, recommends a long-term administrator vs. HubSpot which does not require this level of administrative support.

Improved Communication Impact.

The degree to which software can give team members an edge in the communication process or method is an important consideration. This may be hard to measure with anything other than outcome data, but if your team is sending out inconsistent or poorly branded communications, a lift in this area will improve donor outcomes.

De-clunking with streamlined software will boost growth

The right approach to streamlined nonprofit software can have a big impact on the productivity and morale of a nonprofit team. It should never be a "use it or else" situation, but rather a "use-this-and-grow better" opportunity. A recent quote from a company that we helped onboard to new software at HubSpot said this about the streamlined tools: "This is 'special...so helpful...great for my team.'"  When you save team members time by eliminating data entry and administrative tasks and upgrading their ability to communicate effectively, that's the kind of reaction you'll get.

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Published by David Mills July 17, 2023
David Mills