Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 59 seconds

If you’re in the nonprofit world, you know how much relationships matter.. So why is it then, that we tend to deprioritize investing in technology that helps us connect, converse and grow these relationships? Like so many nonprofit organizations, United Way of the Boston area faces its fair share of challenges. We’re on a budget fueled by donors. We work across a geo-dispersed region and many of us drive a long way on our commute, or for meetings. We tend to prioritize spending our funds on supporting our mission of serving the community rather than giving our office a facelift.

One day, however, one of our employees decided to enter a contest through Highfive, a video conferencing provider known for the way it combines hardware and software to create a truly unique meeting experience. Upon winning the contest, we were given Highfive’s Premium video conferencing solution, a glass whiteboard, two 65” 4K monitors and a customer mural made just for our United Way location, the features the downtown Boston skyline. For many of our employees, hopping on a Highfive line, instead of our traditional audio-only conference line, was a game changer. I’d compare it to trying a restaurant for the first time, and then wondering how you ever lived without it in the first place. We thrive on relationships-- with donors, with our volunteer network-- and getting to see people, instead of only hearing them, adds so much to our conversation. 

Nonprofits face an interesting conundrum: we are on a strict budget, expected to use a very small percentage of donations for administrative or overhead costs. Yet through this experience, we realized that ROI is often found in unexpected places. The impact we make by relationship-building and feeling like we’re all in one room, even if we’re miles apart, is often times unmeasurable. We can be more productive, read each other’s non-verbal cues better and have come to enjoy meetings just a little more.

Nonprofits tend to think about budget and limitations before potential. What if we started thinking outside these constraints, about ways to actually streamline our work and become better, happier employees ourselves. It might seem like an investment up front, but if relationships are your biggest bet, it’s always worth it in the end.

Mark Lamothe, Senior Vice President, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

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