The future for nonprofits exists in technology. It’s one door, and every nonprofit must go through it to stay open. Two technological tools should be at the ready. First, a way for people to digitally donate money to your organization. Second, a way for people to digitally communicate their interest in volunteering in your organization. Both gateways should be set up so the transaction happens in three clicks, and it should take less than 5 minutes. I fully acknowledge that leaders of small to mid-size shops are thinking, “We don’t have the money to do that”. That’s true, you probably don’t. And it also says your organization is not relevant for doing business in 2022 the way the donor, the volunteer, and the customer expects.
If you’ve been reading the articles I’ve published in this series over the last two weeks, you likely remember the initial problem I highlighted: “We don’t have anyone to work”. Well, guess what? Your new worker is technology. The best person out there could be available to you, and if you don’t have a way for them to interact with you how they want and expect, you won’t get them. Society decided how they want to do things several years back, and it’s using an iPhone or an Android. Are you still doing everything on paper? Ooof. Big mistake. And it’s costing you.
Let’s for a minute assume you have technology in place, at minimum, a database and email. A decent start for sure. Let’s also assume you have the technology tools I mentioned at the beginning – a digital way for donors and volunteers to transact with you outside business hours. Excellent. Tell me – who is following up and how long is that response time? Three decades ago, donors were saying, “I sent in a donation and I never heard anything back”. What you needed then was a pen, paper, an envelope, and a postage stamp. Today, donors are saying exactly the same thing, and the excuse is, “Oh my inbox is so full, I didn’t get to that”. Same issue, different decade.
Technology is supposed to solve this, right? Somebody donates online and there’s a URL redirect in place to say “thank you“. That’s enough, right? Wrong. As the leader of an organization, you must look through the eyes of a giver. Auto-replies, URL redirects and autoresponders are tolerated because the user’s transaction was confirmed. With no human follow-up, that kind of technology tells the donor, the volunteer and the customer that nobody cares. We are human beings doing human work. Technology is part of a loop and you have to work the entire loop.
A nonprofit’s email inbox has become a stack of unread and unanswered messages. People say, “I’m two to three days behind” and call it good. I asked a staff member the other day if she ordered a particular product I requested. Her response? “Yes, I sent an email but I never heard anything back”. This is so normal nowadays that nobody even blinks or gives it another thought. The problem isn’t how much activity and communication is pouring in. Rather, it’s that no system has been created for everyone who wants to do business with you. Like it or not, how long it takes for your organization to follow up is the first indicator of how much interest you have in anyone’s contact with you. Understand and realize – the bar is so insanely low today that even an average effort can win the contact game.
Small and mid-size shops love to tell me how they can’t afford this or that platform, this or that network. So many are unwilling to pay for a monthly email subscription service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp. It’s always tied to a money issue. I can think of 14 organizations I deal with regularly, and only one of them has an email database. The rest reach for the blame stick that lets them hold onto, “We can’t because…” Here’s the ugly truth about that. Affording technology is sort of like owning a pet. Organizations want it, but they don’t want the work once they get it. They’ll never say that out loud. They know it’ll take someone for input, someone to sanitize it, someone to create content, and someone to send that content out. “It takes so long. So many hours. We don’t know what we’re going to get back if we do that”. I have a response for that…
Investing your time over a long period of time pays huge dividends. If your current efforts aren’t paying off the way you’d like them to, ask yourself when you decided to play the short game – and how that’s going for you. If an Excel database is the tool you have, keep it accurate, clean and up to date. If an email inbox is the tool you have, treat it like the powerful gateway it is. How are you going to use what you have? The person interacting with your organization is what matters. Do it on time, do it friendly, and do it with purpose.
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