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6 Ways to Tell if Your Nonprofit Tech is a Point Solution or a Platform

By Andrea Schiller February 13, 2018

And How You Can Improve Your Nonprofit Reporting, Fundraising and Metrics

Challenging the Data Silo Status Quo

With nonprofit donors and funders increasingly requesting impact metrics and analytics around nonprofit performance, it’s more important than ever to keep your organization’s data organized. Yet many nonprofits face challenges in measuring impact, usually because data is stored in multiple Excel files, systems or notebooks. When information about your programs, donations, grants, volunteers, and impact data are all in separate places, it takes a lot of time to create simple reports, and even it’s harder to show ROI on your programs. And when it comes to having some data on paper, you know it can take days to get information that should take just minutes.

Luckily, there is a trend happening that you should know about – and that you can use to be more efficient and successful.

This is the shift away from data silos, towards what we call an Impact Platform, or the idea of having all information on one complete, place, or platform. However, most technologies are designed as point solutions, to do only one thing – only case management, only fundraising, only marketing, and so on.

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You want to fundraise, measure your impact, and keep track of constituents. So how do you know the difference between a point solution and a comprehensive platform?

Ways to Determine if a Technology is a True Impact Platform

Ask these questions as you research technology vendors to make sure the technology is not a point solution or a single purpose product, and actually is an impact platform:

Question 1: Does the technology allow you to gain a full view of your organization?

If the technology you are considering for your nonprofit is a true impact platform, you should be able to:

  • Log in to one place from anywhere at anytime, and instantly see top programmatic, fundraising and impact information
  • Have a full view of every constituent you serve
  • Be able to create reports on what metrics your funders want to measure your impact

Here’s an example of a donation dashboard:
Nonprofit analytics example - fundraising and impact information at a glance. Screenshot of Salesforce for Nonprofits

Question 2: Does the technology allow you to accurately report your impact?

You know how it can take hours to create a report when some data is in Excel, some is on a whiteboard in your office, and some is in the heads of different staff. When you’re contemplating how technology can help you report your impact, you should be able to:

  • Create reports and dashboards yourself
  • Not have to ask IT for help
  • Make sure your reports and dashboards are always up to date
  • Be able to confidently fill out your impact metrics when your next grant proposal is due

In a nutshell, the technology you choose should help you measure your impact so you can get more funding. Reporting your impact should take minutes, not months.

Question 3: Does the technology allow you to creatively engage your constituents?

Engagement doesn’t just mean emailing your constituents with thank you notes or volunteer reminders one time. To reach your supporters where they are, you should be able to:

  • Engage people on all types of media, including Twitter, Facebook, and SMS
  • Interact with people both individually and in communities
  • Connect your community members together so your supporters and members can help each other
  • Help your supporters highlight important information and engage with staff easily and at scale
  • Make it easy to incorporate direct mail into a multi-channel marketing strategy

For example:
Here's a screenshot of Salesforce Social Studio. Helps with tracking social media posts to engage your community and donors.

Question 4: Can you manage a donor relationship and a program beneficiary relationship in one system?

If you’re using multiple systems, each for one purpose, you may be wasting time on pulling data from one system, putting it in Excel, putting it in another system, etc. Donors want to know how their dollars are making an impact – and the faster you can get them more information about how their money is being used, the easier it is to engage them to give again. If you can report on both program beneficiary outputs, outcomes, and impacts and follow up with donors about the impact you enabled – that matters! Pencils of Promise is one nonprofit that ties donations to specific schools. This helps them show donors where their dollars are going.

Question 5: Can you see grants coming in and tie those grants to your programs?

Once you get funds from a grant, it’s important to be able to use technology to manage your programs and create reports for the grant. Your choice of technology should allow you to manage incoming funding and tie it to services delivery. This will enable you to calculate ROI, and other impact metrics funders want to know. Can you answer the question, “What did those funds do?” A true impact platform (rather than a point solution) will let you distill intelligence from the data about your program to share with funders.

Question 6: Can you turn all that data into engagement?

Engaging your supporters isn’t separate from the good work you do for your nonprofit program management. Do you have to export data that you then upload to an email system, and neither system talks to the other for real-time updates?

With the right technology, you can use fundraising and programs data and make it actionable. For example, you can use an impact platform to reach out to constituents when seeing that someone requires attention. Some universities are doing this to proactively follow up with at-risk students for extra attention, or even simply send SMS reminders to students with important deadlines.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at this free e-book about how to become a Connected Nonprofit.

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