Technology Problems faced by Non-Profits

Technology Problems faced by Non-Profits

Welcome to my first blog entry for Lumity.  I am the Director of Technology Services here and I will be writing about technology problems faced by non-profits, focusing in particular on the medium and small non-profit organizations.

Today I’m focusing on the smaller non-profits.  Yes, those of you who keep your membership list on file cards or on an Excel spreadsheet.  My advice to you: upgrade and get with the program (pun intended).

In the last several years, two trends have made technology so much easier for non-profits:

  • A move to the cloud.  Instead of finding or buying hardware and software, the cloud gives us both in one easy-to-use package.  You probably already use the cloud for email, right?  Well, just about anything else you need is out there as well.
  • Free to non-profits.  That cloud-based email you’re using is free, right?  Yahoo and Google aren’t sending you a monthly bill for your email.  Well, free email is just the start, particularly if you’re a non-profit organization.

Here are some examples of free, cloud-based software that you can start using tonight:

File sharing

Do you use your email to distribute files, for example, to your Board of Directors?  Email distribution can be effective, but you start running into problems if the files are too large or if you have to update a file after you sent it or if the receiving party’s email system blocks your email (etc).  And the larger the email list, the more headaches you have keeping it all together.

One free cloud-based solution is Dropbox.  Dropbox is a secure common set of cloud-based folders that can be accessed by any authorized user from anywhere at all.  You just save your files to the Dropbox folder instead of a My Documents folder and your Board (or committee or whomever you want) can pull them down at their leisure.  Moreover, being in the cloud, the contents of your Dropbox are automatically and instantly backed up, so you’ll never lose a Dropbox-stored file to a hard drive crash.

Like many firms, Dropbox offers additional features (e.g. more storage) for a fee, but the basic service is free.

Website

Do you have a website?  If not, you should.  A website is the way to keep your members and donors engaged, and an important tool for attracting more of each.

Grassroots.org provides not only free website hosting, but also the tools necessary to build a website.  No, you don’t need to know HTML or be a programmer to build a website.  The tools are self-explanatory enough.  If you are proficient at Microsoft Word, then you have the skills to build a Grassroots.org website.  If not, Grassroots can help you, for a fee.  Yes, like Dropbox, Grassroots offers additional services for relatively modest fees.  But they aren’t a bait-and-switch outfit.  Like Lumity, they are a non-profit helping other non-profits.

Membership Management

One of the most difficult jobs for a non-profit is tracking membership and donors.  Believe, I’ve been there and done that (or rather I am there and doing that for a 300+ member homeowner association and, before that, for a community theatre).

If you’re using an Excel spreadsheet for tracking members or donors, I would urge you to look at Salesforce.  Salesforce is perhaps the leading cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and their application is free to a non-profit.  Like the other software I’ve highlighted, you’ll have to pay for some features (like adding more than 10 user IDs to the system).  And it will probably require at least some general computer aptitude to get the system to do exactly what you want.  But you can’t beat the price.

We here at Lumity are using Salesforce to track sales leads, contacts, opportunities, and donors.  And we’ve built very complex Salesforce instances for other non-profits.   But Salesforce doesn’t have to be complex, and it’s certainly easy to use.

And in conclusion . . .

Unfortunately, I don’t have the space in this blog installment to go into detail on the pros and cons of each of these applications, much less discuss similar applications or even mention other free cloud-based software that can help your non-profit.  But there’s always tomorrow.

Now, if you want further information before tomorrow, don’t hesitate to call me at (312) 237-4209 or write me at info@lumity.org.  Unlike the software I’ve highlighted, Lumity’s services aren’t free, but as a non-profit with our own generous donors, our prices are half those of your typical consultant.  And unlike most other consultants, we know non-profits.

Thanks for listening.

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