Building Capacity Through Technology
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, right? Through the magic of technology we’re supposed to be more effective, efficient, informed, and insightful. Whew, that’s a lot of pressure!
Nonprofit organizations feel this pressure more than most. While the expectation to do more with less is not new to nonprofits, there are new expectations for how nonprofits should do this. They are expected to be data-driven, instantly-responsive and tech-savvy. Unfortunately, rather than alleviate this pressure, technology can sometimes add to the stress. So as you think about how to leverage technology to build capacity at your organization, here are three areas to focus on to get the most bang for your buck.
Automating processes is one of the fastest and easiest ways to build capacity using technology. You can streamline administrative processes and reach more clients using less staff time. The key to successful process automation is to map out your processes BEFORE building them into your database. This is a classic example of when investing in planning upfront will save a load of headaches down the road. Solid business processes should dictate the technology you use, not the other way around. Technology is constantly changing and evolving. If you change your processes every time a technology update happens you’re doomed to failure. Having solid business processes mapped out first will also help you decide which technology will be best for which processes.
Part of building capacity is building your knowledge of your client. The temptation is always to gather as much data as possible, but I urge you to please, be considerate of your user! Answer the question “how will I use this?” when determining what information to gather. Other strategies to improve user experience include breaking up data collection over multiple touchpoints. Is there information you can gather at a later interaction with a client? User experience has a huge impact on adoption levels which, in turn, affects the quantity and quality of data that you’re able to collect
The key to analytics is to provide actionable information. This ties in closely to the above point about data collection. It’s tempting to create all kinds of reports and charts because you can. However, this quickly leads to data overload and “analysis paralysis”. Again, consider you user – who will be looking at this data? Think about what will be useful to them. What questions do they need to answer to do their job?
Indeed, technology has the power to help us do amazing things. It is a tool that can increase our impact exponentially. But, that’s all it is – a tool. It’s up to us to use that tool well. There’s no substitute for solid business processes and strategic thinking. Remember that old saying – garbage in, garbage out!
Autumn Romanchek is an experienced nonprofit manager, Salesforce consultant, problem-solver, and data fanatic. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Villanova University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. When she’s not helping nonprofits better leverage the power of people and technology she can be found spending time with her husband, keeping up with their toddler, and training dogs.