Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 53 seconds

Technology can help nonprofit employees focus on the mission, adhere to donor requirements and deliver more impact. But trying to make do with the wrong kind of technology is a dangerous gamble.

The wrong kind of technology

Many nonprofits use enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that was initially developed for the manufacturing industry. This forces them to shoe-horn their people- and project-based processes into a framework that can’t accommodate them, resulting in lower productivity.

Most nonprofits use multiple software solutions that aren’t integrated with each other to manage their business. They have to create a shared data repository so these systems can talk to each other and there’s often too much wasteful manual reconciliation that has to be done.

Frugal charities try to squeeze as much life as possible out of their software before refreshing it. But vendors stop supporting systems as they come toward the end of their life, making them more expensive to maintain. Waiting to replace an outdated system means organizations can’t get the benefits of modern solutions in challenging times.

Traditional IT procurement models involve an upfront capital purchase and a standing maintenance charge, both of which have to be accounted for as indirect costs, something every NFP and NGO wants to avoid.

In the current situation where all organizations are attempting to build work-from-home capabilities, many nonprofits we work with are really struggling. Connecting people to work, many of whom have never worked from home before, requires all sorts of equipment and services – laptops, VPNs, software licenses, firewalls – and many face bandwidth and connectivity challenges.

The right kind of technology

Unlike traditional ERPs, systems designed specifically for the nonprofit sector are purpose-built for coordinating the numerous stakeholders, donors, member organizations and delivery partners involved in the project-based work of nonprofits and NGOs.

The right kind of technology can completely transform your funding allocation. A good grant allocation engine allows project spending to be allocated to the optimal source of funding. This frees up unrestricted funding, improves reporting to funders and promotes more realistic accounting which enhances planning and decision making.

Flexible technology built on low-code/no-code principles is easy for users to use and change themselves without the help of expert IT staff. This helps your organization connect all your critical systems together, quickly initiate projects, allocate funds and respond to demand.

Good technology makes it easy for everyone – including mobile field workers – to capture and analyze data from across the organization and use it to make prompt, data-informed decisions that optimize impact.

With the right technology, it’s no longer time-consuming or difficult to report to multiple institutional donors in the diverse formats they require, meaning you keep funders happy and they keep making grants.

Because they’re hosted in the cloud, modern ERPs are accessible from anywhere and, when used in conjunction with mobile apps, users can get the same experience in the field as at HQ.

By using digital assistants to automate time-consuming, administrative tasks, the right ERP platform frees up people’s time, enabling them to focus on the mission and deliver more impact.

The detailed usage-metering available from modern as-a-service software allows more costs to be allocated to projects, reducing indirect costs. Moving to a streamlined as-a-service technology model eliminates CAPEX and quickly reduces operating expenses as well.

You might expect nonprofits to be slowing their big transformative projects down right now, but many of our customers are actually accelerating their digital transformation because the pandemic has uncovered gaps in their business continuity. They may have properly allowed for earthquakes or floods, but never considered how to mobilize their entire workforce to deliver vital impact from their kitchen tables.

Of course, for many this is a tricky position because funding and grants come with restrictions about where money can be spent – and laptops and work-from-home internet connections aren’t normally allowable. Nonprofits may need to dig into their precious unrestricted funds to help them get back to delivering important impact.

The People Experience

Nonprofits can achieve transformative results in impact delivery by using software designed specifically for project-based nonprofit operations with their people’s experience in mind. This approach lets people work the way they do best rather than the way the software makes them. It basically makes it easier to get things done.

Starting to use the right kind of enterprise software, even in the current climate, is one of the quickest ways to direct more of your finite funds to your mission. It can help you satisfy your donors, empower your people and ultimately deliver more impact to those who need you most.


Nick Schiavi, Vice President and Global Head of Nonprofit, Unit4

Last modified on Monday, 08 June 2020
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