This post was originally published here (The TechSoup Blog)
A recent NetSquared London Meetup investigated the IT tools that can be used to get nonprofit operations done cheaply and effectively.
It also delved into how nonprofits can tackle the process of finding the tech that helps the most when you don’t necessarily have the time to research. Charity Digital News shares some of the key points from the event.
Matt Moorut from Technology Trust kicked things off by noting, from his own experience and from working with others, that it’s often difficult for nonprofits to get organizational support for new tools.
It’s especially difficult if the tools aren’t 100 percent free or if they require people in the team to learn new ways of working.
In order to get the ball rolling, nonprofits need to find the right tools for their cause (watch for suggestions in part 2 of this series next week). And not only that — they also need to get buy-in from the very top of their organization.
If charities haven’t got a trustee or senior managers who are championing digital, the best tools in the world won’t make their way into the organization, which is a missed opportunity.
Matt suggested that if you haven’t got a digital champion on your board of trustees, then you need to get one, because that champion’s absence can be a serious blocker to your digital progress.
The Charity Digital Toolkit is a great set of resources to help get you started on your digital journey and can help support existing digital advocates within a nonprofit to persuade others. If you need to convince senior managers of the value of digital, take a look at the section on digital leadership. You can also enroll those managers in CAST’s Digital Fellowship program for nonprofit leaders, which is recruiting now!
Choosing the Right Tools
Assuming organizational barriers have been overcome, then how do you choose the right tools?
Before you start, you need to establish exactly what you’re trying to achieve. This is a constant evaluation that all nonprofits should be doing anyway whenever they want to try something new and unproven. Even if you hear about a great tool that’s worked for another organization, that tool might not be great for you!
So start by thinking about
- What’s your mission?
- What’s your strategy?
- What is essential?
- What are your main pain points?
- What solutions exist?
Finding the Solution
So you think you know what kind of solution you need. Now how do you find and evaluate the different offers available?
Dama Sathianathan and Laurie Ainley are the driving forces behind Charity Catalogue, a curated hub of tools that either have a charity discount or are available for free for nonprofits. At the meetup, Dama revealed how several years ago she’d started working at a tiny charity. This nonprofit had no budget for communications, at a time when there were few tools available to help, especially free ones.
But now there are so many, the challenge has become how to compare all the options. And although there are some great startup-focused resources for this, there wasn’t anything specifically geared towards the social sector.
On all charity forums that Dama and Laurie were members of, such as Charity Comms, Digital Charities, and ECF, one of the most common questions was, “Which tool do you use for X?” And that’s how Charity Catalogue was born. What started with a spreadsheet has grown into a collection of 27 categories, of which 7 are live right now.
Aside from sector-specific tool banks like Charity Catalogue, you can also take a look at platforms for small businesses like G2 Crowd, Community How To, and Capterra (which has nonprofit-specific verticals).
Technology Trust’s blog also has recommendations for tools in specific categories. The Trust uses nine criteria against which to measure new digital tools. These categories might be a handy guide for your own organization:
- Great user experience
- Short learning curve
- Companion mobile app
- Short contract
- Open API linking to other platforms
- Nonprofit discounts
- Regular updates
- Zero setup or minimal configuration
This blog post was written by Austin Clark. It was originally published on the Charity Digital News blog.
Image: Charity Digital News