The following article was originally posted on the Third Sector Today blog. Click here to read the original post.
When it comes to nonprofit technology, “integration” is an often-used buzzword. As many consultants will tell you, integration between software applications can yield untold synergies and allow you to do more with less. However, when considering synergy-building opportunities, many organizations overlook one of the most valued assets of any nonprofit: volunteers.
In this article, we’ll examine the tangible value of leveraging volunteers and how it should impact your technological roadmap.
Your Most Valuable Asset?
Volunteers are often the heart of an organization. When your volunteer force isn’t operating optimally, it doesn’t take long to feel the impact. Your staff, programs, and ultimately your mission can suffer.
This inefficiency also has a tangible cost. The Independent Sector estimates that each hour of volunteer time in 2012 was worth $22.14. Considering that Americans volunteered a total of 7.9 billion hours in 2011, it’s not hard to see how donated human capital can quickly add up. Stop and think for a moment – does your organization have another intangible asset that is more valuable? Probably not.
Building Synergies Between People & Technology
Given the magnitude of your volunteers’ contributions, it’s vital that you properly weigh the pros and cons of new technology implementations. There’s a good likelihood that your volunteers will interact with most (or all) of your tech footprint. Do your CRM, volunteer management system, CMS, and other tools work together to build synergies? If humans and technology don’t sync well, then you’ll find yourself with frustrated volunteers. The last thing you want is a volunteer to leave – taking his or her knowledge, resources, goodwill, and $22.14 per hour out the door.
Building connections through technology can also create new cross-pollination opportunities. How many of your donors have never volunteered? How many volunteers have never contributed financially to your cause? By connecting your CRM and volunteer database, you’ll be able to answer such questions and develop strategies for increasing engagement.
How to Connect People with Technology
Luckily, there are several measures your organization can take to ensure that your people and systems mesh.
For starters, make sure to talk with the leaders in your volunteer group. Ask for their input on any potential software purchases that will impact them. They’ll be able to help you understand what it’s really like on the front lines, as well as if the system is a good fit. Having volunteers involved in the process not only contributes to a successful launch, but it also helps solidify the relationship between your organization and its constituents. Plus, after a decision is made, it’s easier to ask for their buy-in if they were already engaged in the process. When it’s time for rollout, you’ll want these folks on your side.
Keeping your volunteers engaged will also help your organization resist the urge to be too frugal in your decision. When it comes to investing in technology, nonprofits understandably struggle to fit improvements into their budgets. However, when considering the adverse effects of deploying underperforming software, is it really worth it just to save a few bucks? New technology shouldn’t make your volunteers’ responsibilities more difficult. In fact, seek out tools that offer best-in-class integrations, with the goal of making volunteer jobs more impactful and meaningful. The key is to look for value, not the cheapest plan.
Improving the productivity and experience of humans in the workplace is the goal of software synchronization. Keeping this in mind can help guide you to the right decisions when looking for true integration.
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