How Can Software Help NPOs to Save Time & Focus on What They Enjoy? (by Debbie McNeil)

Introduction:

DebbieMcNeill-Tanzania-Technology-WR122-Spring2014I recently returned from Tanzania Africa where I volunteered at Make A Difference Now (MAD). MAD’s mission is to help children, many orphaned, rise out of poverty and become leaders within their countries. The founder and staff of the organization are incredible, loving, and giving individuals. They are making an impact with the 22 children I met at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage.

The organization sponsors the children’s school education, nutrition, sports therapy, private counseling, relative connection, and field trip programs. If you have the opportunity to meet with the children (which I hope you do), you would immediately realize the program is a huge success. I am not only inspired, I am moved by the great work the founder and the children are doing to grow above the harsh history they have encountered, to make a change in the world in which they live.

My research was shaped by my work with MAD and my background in Technology. A thriving nonprofit organization has a wide array of responsibilities a on day-to-day basis that are outside the cause they work so tirelessly to change. I believe all nonprofits need to embrace technology as a tool for working smarter, instead of harder.

Part I: The Thematic Research Collection

My research question: How can technology, specifically software, help Nonprofit Organizations (NPO) to save them time and effort in doing business so they can spend more time doing what they enjoy.

Individual Research Collection

Andrei, Kyle. “Nothing for Nothing: Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo.” Idealware. N.p., 10 May 2011. Web. 30 May 2014.

This online resource is full of articles, reports, online training and additional resources to support nonprofits to make smart software decisions. The Idealware website was a find, which I plan to explore often. The article is about crowdsourcing fundraisers. The author goes on to compare two very popular options. What I found most interesting was the extended comments of user experiences recorded.

“Manage Donors and Constituents.” TechSoup.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2014.

Techsoup.org is a nonprofit offers a membership community for nonprofits, charity and public libraries. They offer free articles, webinars, and forums to assist nonprofits with discounted or donated technology products and solutions. They sort recommended services and agencies by categories, solutions and member recommendations, which I found very helpful.

Weiner, Robert. “Calendar – Nonprofit Technology.” Calendar – Nonprofit Technology. Nonprofit Tech, 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 June 2014.

Nonprofit Tech is an aggregate web space for readers interested in learning about technology for nonprofits. A portal-type website that aggregates information from multiple online sources. There are several resources listed by categories, location, and agency type. Robert Weiner, a strategic technologist advisor to nonprofits, shares a resource for calendaring appointments. Every nonprofits should have this website bookmarked.

McCambridge, Ruth. “New (and Only) Accelerator for Tech-based Nonprofits Announces Its First Class.” NPQ – Non Profit Quarterly. N.p., 15 May 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. <https://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/24196-new-and-only-accelerator-for-tech-based-nonprofits-announces-its-first-class.html&gt;.

This popular source is a unique print magazine for nonprofit organizations. The article talks about the first five companies, which have received support thru a new program. Fast Forward’s purpose is to support nonprofits in their early stages of building a software product. They supply both mentors and financial capital to help scale technology solutions to aid in solving problems that plague nonprofits. One of the companies Fast Forward is helping is One Degree – a community resource in beta for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Harper, Amina. “Dot.Org Awards Showcase Minnesota Nonprofits at the Forefront of Technology.” MinnPost. MinnPost, 16 May 2014. Web. 29 May 2014.

This popular source is a nonprofit newspaper that serves the Minnesota region. The article is about the Dot.Org award created in 2008 to highlight cutting-edge technology in new and exciting ways in the nonprofit sector. What I found the most interesting to my research was a showcase of the Oak Meadows recent website redesign as a template for other nonprofits.

Jones, Roberta Ann. “Sizing Up NPO Software.” Journal Of Accountancy 190.5 (2000): 28-44. Business Source Premier. Web. 29 May 2014.

This academic article provides a look at accounting packages that are available to assist nonprofit organizations (NPO) with their accounting. Every NPO needs to take care of their books and I am betting most do not the process but understand the accountability.

Part 2: The Public Writing

I am hopeful my extensive research on technology solutions will aid the MAD organization and possibly others that have similar needs. One person can make

My Top 3 Recommended Software Solutions for Nonprofits

In today’s world, working smarter, instead of harder, is a requirement to every small business – but especially for nonprofits (NPO). The World Wide Web has introduced many tools that can help NPO reduce the workload and increase connections. Using the right online tools will help you automate many simple tasks where time would be better served elsewhere. Here are my top 3 recommendations of online products to help NPOs put technology to use in scheduling appointments and meetings, retaining and connecting with volunteers and bringing in donations.

ScheduleOnce is a free online scheduling software that helps NPOs schedule appointments without the need for multiple phone calls and going back and forth. Leave your coffee cup ring stained desktop calendar that you and your team can’t find under that pile of paperwork and let this online service do all the connecting for you. ScheduleOnce is more private than a public online calendar, easier to maintain and is perfect for group meetings that happen frequently with people who are not in the same location at the same time like volunteers. You can send the calendar link to a vendor or a volunteer giving them different time options, making the encounter with your organization friendly and convenient. There are Free, single and multi-user plans. http://www.ScheduleOnce.com

 

Bloomerang is a fundraising, donor management system. As your NPO grows, so too does the volume of donors and volunteers. Keeping track of the information can be a real challenge. As an NPO, you know the importance of connecting with your donors and volunteers on a regular basis. Without the right systems in place, it is easy to lose track – especially when you have more than one person. Donations can be lost and volunteer contact information misplaced – which creates lost time and frustration. Bloomerang starts at $99 a month with a plethora of features that will keep your team on track. The system will show case your donor retention, giving engagement level, contact history, donor and volunteer reports, and email communication. All this with an intuitive user-interface and anywhere access with unlimited users. http://bloomerang.co

Causevox – where would a NPO be without funding? Crowdfunding is where modest contributions from a large group of individuals can make an impact without mega media events or donation letters. Even better is peer-to-peer funding in the crowdfunding industry where individuals organize and inspire other individuals to donate to your cause or organization. Causevox makes peer-to-peer funding simple by allowing supporter to create his or her own page on your Causevox site. It has great integration features too, making it easy to add to a web or social media sites. With reporting and donation receipts sent automatically, less time is spent on administration tasks. Causevox is relatively inexpensive for all the good it provides with transaction fees starting at 2.5% in addition to your PayPal or regular credit card fees. Best of all, there is no monthly fees until you raise $5,000 online. http://causevox.com.

These are just a few of the many different technology tools that can make your job as a NPO easier by automating the business tasks of your organization. Jump in with both feet, share your ideas with others and inspire a change in the world. Leave the heavy work to your technology partners.

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4 comments

  1. Andrea Russell

    Debbie, this article is great. I enjoyed how you started off with your personal story, it was very engaging and inspiring. MAD sounds like a great organization. I love how you explained how technology can help a NPO, it was easy to understand even for someone who knows nothing about technology. I wish you the best of luck if you choose to continue your journey of helping MAD.

    -Andrea

  2. Christina

    Debbie,

    This is a very interesting topic and as I am interested in pursuing a career with NPOs and NGOs I found it very relevant. I am not a techie in any stretch of the imagination but your work helped me realize how vital software and tech solutions can be to community organizations. I particularly liked the three software solutions you shared, the schedule once program sounds amazing. I think it can be easy to dismiss tech solutions in community based work because the emphasis is on people so much more than business, deadlines, and profits.

    In terms of your writing, I have only a few comments. You communicate very clearly your passion and knowledge on the subject. There seems to be a small cut-off sentence in your public writing but beyond that I enjoyed your project. Your research collection was excellent, giving many resources and presenting them in a way that did not scare me off (as a tech novice).

    Thank you so much for sharing your passion and experiences in Africa this term Debbie. I have been inspired by your example and wish you all the best.

    Christina

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