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Software Automation vs. Status Quo

What’s the value associated with automating a single process? How can your organization quantify this value?

Before we can answer these questions, wenonprofit technology roi must first look at the tradeoffs between cost and value. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics tells us “the cost of using a resource arises from the value of what it could be used for instead.” In other words, there’s a cost associated with every action – or inaction.

Time is one of a nonprofit’s most valuable resources; yet, nonprofits frequently overlook the full value (and cost) of employee and volunteer time. Should we continue to spend time manually crunching donor numbers? Why are we still spending time de-duplicating donor and volunteer lists? These questions are often neglected because the status quo is a known entity. Why fix something if it isn’t broken, right?

DIY or Automate?

With years spent in the nonprofit world, I have personally witnessed the pull that occurs when time and money are both in short supply. Sometimes in the interest of saving money we adopt a “do it yourself” (DIY) attitude rather than outsourcing or automating a task. While DIY might be more economical for some endeavors, it often doesn’t work in a nonprofit setting. On the surface, sometimes a decision we make feels like we are being frugal by “doing it ourselves,” but is it really the best decision? What else could we be dedicating staff time to instead – and what is that time worth?

The Value of Each Hour Impacts Your Decision-Making Process

As documented many times before, each volunteer hour contributed is certainly a valuable commodity. However, it also comes at an opportunity cost: time investment from your staff to train and manage volunteers.

Your objective should be leveraging volunteer contributions, while simultaneously reducing the work needed to manage them. Let’s look at how technology can accelerate this equation and create more value.

How Technology Accelerates Your Team’s Value

A small investment in automation can reap big rewards. For example, each day our team at VolunteerHub witnesses how nonprofits can reduce expenditures simply by managing their volunteers online. As we routinely point out, although there’s a cost associated with subscribing to a system like VolunteerHub, the benefits almost always outweigh the costs. Our clients instantly reduce administrative costs, minimize data-entry errors, streamline event marketing efforts, and improve branding.

Moving beyond the adoption of new systems, nonprofits are now able to maximize such investments by creating integrations between their software applications. What if you could connect your CRM and volunteer databases to “talk” to one another? Just imagine all the processes you could eliminate or streamline. Here are just a few off the top of my head:

  • Eliminating manual data import / export between CRM and volunteer system
  • Improving accessibility and quality of donor and volunteer data
  • Automating the process to convert volunteers to donors
  • Automating the process to convert donors to volunteers
  • Reducing the time spent on administrative tasks
  • Increasing staff time available to strategic initiatives, growing your donor base, and achieving goals

Of course, this is only a single example for leveraging technology’s value-creating attributes. There are likely countless other opportunities for your organization. Before jumping into any new technology or integration, you should first do a big-picture review of all potential opportunities. Ranking such opportunities based on impact and ease of implementation will help your team gain the greatest value.

Feel free to contact our team, and we’d be glad to help your organization explore the full impact of optimizing your volunteer operations.

As 2014 gets underway, now might be a good time to ask yourself: what’s the opportunity cost of DIY? The numbers might surprise you.

Headshot of Corbit Harrison

About Corbit Harrison

Corbit Harrison is VolunteerHub's Chief Operating Officer and has been actively helping nonprofit organizations engage constituents for over 10 years.

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