Most nonprofits, especially human service providers, are under pressure to reconsider how they do business in the face of decreased resources, increased accountability measures, new funding structures, and increased expectations to produce evidence of effectiveness. Technology offers tools that can help human services organizations provide effective, efficient and low-cost services in an individualized manner, and meet the complex reporting requirements of regulators and funders. These tools can also assist organizations in finding innovative ways to provide services to their communities and expand the reach and the impact of those services.
Traditionally, most human services nonprofits spend most of their budgets on resources for direct services, with little left over for planning or implementing technology to support their work. Organizations that have been able to combine their dedication to mission with resources to build both their business and technological capacity are best positioned to meet current challenges. Moving into the future, organizations are likely to adopt new technologies to sustain, manage, and improve their businesses. Preserving what is important and valuable about human services while taking advantage of what technology has to offer is a possibility with promise.
Here are 5 common problems and solutions which use technology as a service tool to help you innovate:
1. Problem: You continually collect the same data over and over because it is not easily accessible or is not stored each time a client visits.
Solution: Track all data so staff can spend more time working with customers and clients. Create a custom-built database for mission-critical data.
2. Problem: Your nonprofit has the tools to provide great service, but people aren’t sure of what you do.
Solution: Create a website, create a monthly or quarterly newsletter. Visit techsoup.org for articles on getting your website noticed. WordPress has free templates. Squarespace and Wix are also low-cost solutions for the novice.
3. Problem: Your agency collects mission-critical data, but your organization can’t access it remotely.
Solution: Move your files to the cloud (perhaps using Microsoft Office 365), so all users are able to access and add to your database at any given time.
4. Problem: You need to report financial information to donors and funders in many different ways and you are doing repetitive equations to get the reports you need.
Solution: Track your finances using nonprofit fund accounting software that generates the reports you need. QuickBooks, NonProfitBooks, or Raiser’s Edge are some common programs.
5. Problem: You want to talk about your accomplishments, but aren’t sure how to capture what customer or clients think.
Solution: Conduct a survey using tools such as surveymonkey.com that ask clients the services received from your agency. Use this information to show stakeholders how you are making a difference in the community.
Find out how other nonprofits are using information technology by attending one of our Roundtable discussions.