By: Doron Barbalat, Marketing Manager at Causeview.
One of the biggest technology buzzwords in recent years is ‘automation.’ For nonprofits, it’s especially important: with limited resources, being able to handle tasks without manual effort creates additional time for your most impactful work.
Automation software and technology is typically thought of as expensive and challenging to setup, and certainly it can be. But there are some key areas where automation can make a major difference on a nonprofit’s productivity, effectiveness, and ultimately, to revenues. At my company, Causeview, we’ve seen this type of automation pay off in spades for the great organizations we work with.
While some organizations seek a complete fundraising system to automate many of their processes, there are simple steps any nonprofit can take to reduce the manual work they need to perform:
Automatic receipting and acknowledgements
While fundraisers often focus on the challenge of raising donations, what comes after a gift is made is crucial to donor stewardship too.
Receiving a compliant tax receipt with a donation and a ‘thank you’ note from your organization will go a long way to satisfying your donor. And our experience shows us that ensuring the supporter receives them quickly is a big factor in encouraging them to give again.
Leaving this process to manual effort will mean frequent delays. Plus, it opens the possibility that human error may cause the acknowledgment to be forgotten, the wrong amount to be listed, or even a spelling error in the donor’s name!
If you’re looking to implement some automation into your fundraising practices, receipting and acknowledgments are a valuable place to start.
Where to Start:
- Do your donation receipts meet Canadian Revenue Agency guidelines? Before you automate, you’ll want to make sure. You can check the guidelines here.
- Research some email automation tools like MailChimp or Constant Contact, where a simple click of a button can create a message that goes to every supporter you need it to.
Setup tasks and reminders for yourself and your team
We know how often nonprofit employees are asked to wear multiple hats. This unfortunately makes it possible for key tasks to fall through the cracks and get overlooked.
Automation can help solve this challenge. A great fundraising tool should incorporate the different types of tasks your team takes on, and should give you the tools to generate prompts and reminders in a variety of ways.
These could be as simple as setting up a reminder for you to follow-up with prospective volunteers, or setting up a series of tasks when delegating important jobs to others.
You should also be able to rely on your software to do some of this work behind-the-scenes based on your fundraising best-practices. For example, you may want to be reminded to call a monthly donor a few weeks before their renewal date, or to be prompted to call any new donors who gave more than $200 in a single gift to learn about, and steward, their support.
Where to Start:
- Does your nonprofit handle a lot of manual processes by memory? The first step to automating them is to make sure they are all accounted for. Have a brainstorming session with your team and create a list of scheduled tasks that occur frequently.
- Your organization’s email program – whether it’s Outlook or Gmail – will let you schedule tasks and reminders, either as one-offs or for recurring instances either weekly or monthly. You can add a co-worker to the task or event to make sure they get the same prompt.
Build ‘smart’ lists and reports
Automation isn’t solely about saving time on tasks, it’s also about gaining the capabilities to work smarter. By giving your fundraising software the right criteria, you can ask it to do the ‘dirty work’ of generating names of supporters you want to focus on for your campaigns or initiatives.
Do you know what characteristics make up the first-time donors who are most likely to become recurring donors? Do you know the common demographics of volunteers at your events? Do you know which behaviours indicate a monthly donor might soon cancel their gift? Your fundraising system should be able to take your insights and create a real-time list of the supporters who fit.
From there, you can quickly communicate to everyone who fits your target group with an e-blast or assign tasks for your team to personally reach out to them.
Where to Start:
- Discuss with your team what insights you have about your supporters, such as their typical demographics, how often they donate, and/or their relationship to your cause. You will begin to see some patterns! Once you've established some common criteria, you'll have many options to create lists of donors, volunteers, or others who meet the criteria on your checklist. For example, this could help you identify the supporters in a certain city that are most likely to attend an upcoming fundraising event.
- If you don’t yet have a ton of insights, consider running a simple survey with a tool like SurveyMonkey to learn about your typical donors, volunteers, or event attendees.
Connect your fundraising software to your payment gateway
One of the biggest pain points in the fundraising processes is the disconnection between the various systems a nonprofit relies on. Two of the most important are an organization’s fundraising platform and their payment processor, which together help manage the steps needed to turn a constituent’s support into revenue.
Ensuring your fundraising software and payment gateway integrate with one another will reduce a number of challenges caused by manual processes. It will also let you take more automation shortcuts once it's setup, such as reconciling payments or sending receipts. If your tools aren’t connected like this, you will need to use manual processes to record the information from a donation into your CRM, where human error can occur and a ton of time is spent. And that’s only for a typical donation!
With your fundraising software and payment gateway integrated, nonprofits will find it easy to manage more complex transactions like recurring donations or issuing refunds in a single step. Whatever the case, data will be automatically passed back-and-forth between the two systems, so that every detail is tracked. This means any transaction will be simultaneously handled by your payment processor, tracked in detail on a donor’s history, and allocated and reconciled correctly for accounting purposes. Not only will this save time and effort up-front, but the trust you have in your data will enable even more automation down the road.
Where to Start:
- Identify and discuss the various steps that occur after a donation comes in with each department at your nonprofit. You may be surprised to learn how many people a donation touches and how much time is spent on each one. Once you do, you’ll be better prepared to find ways to avoid duplication of tasks and understand your automation needs.
- If your nonprofit receives donations online, you are working with a payment gateway, whether you realize it or not. These could range from common online payment platforms like PayPal to nonprofit-specialized processors like iATS Payments. You can check with your payment processing provider to learn which fundraising platforms they integrate with, and then begin exploring your options.
About the Author:
Doron Barbalat is the Marketing Manager for Causeview, the Salesforce-based fundraising solution that makes donor management simple. Visit Causeview.com to learn why more and more amazing nonprofit’s are turning to Causeview to bring automation to their fundraising, event, and volunteer needs.