Build Your Nonprofit Tech Stack
The Big Picture: What Changed?
The nonprofit technology landscape has changed.
Many of us who have been in the sector for our careers have watched nonprofit technology options evolve from what had to be installed and managed on a physical server in your office to a world that can be entirely cloud-based.
With the growing emergence of software as a service and cloud-based solutions, new and improved products are being developed all the time. Tools that were once beyond reach, from marketing automation to business intelligence, are now a part of the tech stack.
Salesforce’s entry into the nonprofit sector was disruptive. For a time, it was the only platform in the market powerful enough for nonprofits to bring tools into a unified system. But now, with Microsoft’s recent expansion of products designed specifically for nonprofits, the landscape is even more complex.
Now, you have a choice of platforms to serve as a foundation for your technologies and there are additional point solution providers that integrate with Salesforce or Microsoft if not both.
There Is Now An Abundance of Choices
While the abundance of choices makes decisions more challenging, these developments are exciting.
Organizations are no longer limited to separate, siloed point solutions of the past.
Now, you can bring together optimal tools and technologies to support and enhance your specific operational needs, from advocacy, volunteer management, mission delivery to fundraising and constituent engagement.
Choosing the Right Approach
Let's run through four approaches to building out your nonprofit technology stack:
We do not present these options as a logical evolution toward a more advanced setup. Instead, we advise you to take a critical look at your organizational needs and then map a strategy to those needs. Another consideration is your organization’s technical capacity and culture. These factors will play a significant role in your path to successful adoption.
A single application that solves a specific organizational need. Products are relatively easy to deploy and hone their offerings to specific functional requirements. However, products likely will not support all organization needs across the departments.
A suite of offerings, including multiple products and services brought together by a single vendor. Solution providers bring together products via integrations and built-in connections to support organizational needs. With more complex offerings you can expect additional management of systems.
Platforms offer a foundational layer that allows organizations to connect a variety of functional areas through pre-built applications, API connections, and custom configurations. Platform setup is dynamic and nonprofits that choose this approach ought to have expertise and resources to manage technology as it continues to evolve. Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud and Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit both fall into this category.
A strategy for evaluating and selecting the right combination of products and platforms for your organization’s specific needs. Think of best-of-breed as a platform taken to the next level, with strategic planning to develop an overarching vision.
Investing in Strategic Planning
Even if you are looking for the easiest and most basic resolutions to your business problems, a blueprint of the future state can help you make more informed choices. That planning can also help you determine if you need to roll out your technology and related business changes over time and help you plan what that phasing might look like. That minimal short-term investment of your time to do strategic planning will almost certainly save your organization time, resources, and pain in the long term.