Nonprofit Technology: ‘Be There’ or Be Square

It seems that there is some new technology available to development professionals nearly every day. Phrases like ‘data-driven decisions,’ ‘mobile optimization,’ ‘cloud-based computing’ were not even on our horizons just a few short years ago. And yet here we are, using terminology like this in our planning, strategy, and day-to-day discussions. It appears that we just won’t be able to survive in the future if we don’t adapt to and take advantage of all the technological developments that are currently available.

I’m old enough to remember when computers first became a part of mainstream life for the average citizen, and the fears among people that machines or robots would completely replace humans was subtle but present. There was a natural fear of the unknown, as well as a reluctance to fully accept what we didn’t yet understand. Younger professionals who grew up with technology are probably rolling their eyes right about now.

It seems, however, that the feared revolution never really materialized – or perhaps it did so in such a gradual way that we didn’t notice. Regardless, valuable elements of the new technologies have slowly merged into the more traditional practices of development offices and I suspect this will continue well into the future.

There is such a contrast between the hard-edged, black and white world of technology and the softer, human elements of relationship-based fundraising, and yet somehow, both elements are existing in your development office right now. You’re probably using a database or a donor-management system to keep track of important history and details that support your face-to-face connections with your donors. I’ll bet money that you’re using an electronic calendar to keep track of and remind you of meetings that you’ll attend in person with your board, volunteers, and donors.  And surely you’re using an electronic system to help coordinate your mailings and communications, so you can spend less time in the office and more time with your constituents.

So don’t let the wave of technology cover up or disguise what is at the heart of the matter in philanthropy – our physical presence and human connections with one another. Use all the technology that is available to help you ‘be there’ for your donors and your beneficiaries. You’ll be getting the best of both worlds.