How to use process automation tools to operate more intelligently
By Meredith Dunn
Meredith is a BECK Digital enthusiast with a weak spot for business planning, full cycle digital marketing and killer content.
New Technologies to Transform the Philanthropy Sector and Increase Efficiency
As funding for nonprofits stands to take hit under the current administration’s 2018 budget proposal, nonprofits are finding it increasingly hard to operate and stay ahead of the curve. Nonprofit organizations are already expected to do more with less. During this tense and highly-competitive era, maintaining a low overhead and maximizing monetary investment is becoming increasingly crucial to survive.
It’s time nonprofits harness their data and embrace process automation methods traditionally reserved for high-performing corporate sales teams – think customer relationship management (CRM) software and automation tools such as Salesforce and Infusionsoft. Just as these tools provide cost-savings and a competitive edge for corporations, digital automation tools can add immense value, and drastically reduce workload, time, and operational costs for nonprofits.
Better yet, by automating processes and analyzing existing organization data, nonprofits will generate insights to help them operate and plan more intelligently. While the upfront investment in new automation software can be steep, it’s well worth it; the benefits can prove enough to keep organizations afloat, and dare we say, thriving, during this presidency and beyond.
It All Begins with Tracking
Whether your donor base is big or small, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of every donor interaction manually. And to this day, many nonprofits still rely on word-of-mouth and intuition to track and assess cultivation efforts. Unfortunately, outdated tracking methods like these generally equal more human error, less accountability and a void in transparency. Organizations of every size suffer without metrics for measuring progress.
Tracking donors or foundation processes with automation tools assigns metrics to actions. And without metrics, nonprofits struggle to understand what is working and what needs improvement. Automation tools not only reduce the administrative strain many nonprofits face, but improve data quality and bring forward useful data for interpretation. They help accelerate growth, and can identify the efforts that truly convert and add value.
Nearly every internal task can be automated with the right software. If your nonprofit staff must dig through spreadsheets – cleaning, migrating, importing and exporting data between systems that aren’t synced – you should consider process automation software. Moreover, if your nonprofit still relies on hunches and hopes to cultivate donors, it’s time to upgrade your methodology and bring some strategy and precision to your work.
With new and rapidly evolving cloud-based technologies, it’s now easier than ever for nonprofits to automate their processes and analyze their data. Here are a few processes we recommend automating to maximize your nonprofit impact.
Marketing Automation to Improve Touchpoints
It’s a common misconception that to effectively connect with donors or maintain high donor engagement, nonprofit touchpoints (or any point of communication between an organization and existing or potential donors) should be personalized and instinctual. Many fundraising professionals fear that employing technology will distract from the “art” of fundraising, turning a personal process into an impersonal science. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. While highly-tailored touchpoints do lead to better donor engagement, new technology, data analytics and automation tools can greatly enhance strategy and approach, revealing deeper insights on impact and reach.
If your organization is ready to engage more constituents and strategize with greater accuracy, it’s time to put your donor data to work and start automating.
Let’s look at marketing automation – or how to automate donor outreach. Marketing automation software can help you create more personalized and targeted outreach, such as emails, while catering to the various cultivation paths for prospects and donors. For example, a prospect may find your organization through a donation page, while a donor may engage based off a newsletter. A prospect will need more nurturing before a gift, while a donor may want to hear more about the impact of his gift. Communication to these segments should be targeted appropriately to meet each constituent at his specific entry point (or touchpoint), guiding them through a personalized cultivation journey and beyond.
Tailoring and targeting all begins with quality data. Tracking data about every touchpoint – down to the granular actions taken by every donor – helps nonprofits make more informed decisions and create effective, data-driven communication strategies. Information on the types of touchpoints, how and when they were executed, and the impact of those efforts, should be available in your donor database or CRM. Nonprofits shouldn’t be afraid of the wealth of data available, but use it to enrich their efforts. And if you’re already using a donor management system like Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge or DonorBridge, you have much of the data required to reveal unique constituent insights and create automated marketing campaigns.
Using your constituent data, start examining which segments you want to target and what communication can be automated. This will take some initial exploration and analysis, as each organization has a unique constituent base and set of strengths. Dozens upon dozens of donor segments can be generated, but these three are a good place to start: those who are interested (prospects), those who have donated, and those who have setup recurring donations.
It may be useful to also consider these questions: Which touchpoints yielded the most engagement – social media posts, newsletters, emails, events? How can you create personalized digital communication relevant to each touchpoint? How does behavior or engagement differ among donors? Which constituent segment is growing or most engaged, and how can you personalize their communication? What efforts generate the most donations? For example, cross reference a touchpoint, such as an email, against the recipients and subsequent engagement levels to get a better understanding of the success of your efforts.
Rather than sending all your constituents the same information, examining your data, segmenting your constituents and personalizing your outreach will optimize your efforts. After identifying the audiences you wish to target and the messaging to employ, we suggest utilizing marketing automation platforms, like Hubspot or Marketo, to help you build tailored email marketing campaigns. These platforms can help you store and manage sign-ups, trigger personalized emails, and analyze campaign engagement. With data analysis and continuous testing, you’ll be well on your way to identifying the most successful touchpoints and messaging for every type of constituent.
Putting Your Data to Work
As mentioned above, a degree of manual analysis is necessary to understand which touchpoints and messaging are most effective. That’s why we suggest putting your data to work for you with predictive analytics tools, like DonorBridge. With a program like this, data across your entire organization can be used to generate cultivation projections and assessments of organizational soft spots and successes – without the manual analysis.
Superior nonprofit automation software should help you leverage your database and scale donor communication accordingly. Between tailored messaging, marketing automation and predictive analytics tools, you’ll be creating more effective outreach in no time.
Employee Campaign Automation
Managing, implementing and measuring employee campaigns generally means daunting work and cumbersome reporting for fundraising departments. Most employee campaigns process donations via paper donation cards, which means extensive manual data entry before obtaining a clear understanding of campaign progress. With that comes inordinate amounts of time wasted in locating, organizing and updating employee donation records, and calculating participation across departments or the entire institution. Furthermore, generating reports and analyzing key donation metrics for stakeholders and leadership means clunky, manual work for fundraising staff, and oftentimes, inaccurate and outdated data.
With employee engagement levels remaining stagnant in the U.S. at an alarmingly low 32%, many organizations are pressed to find new participation strategies and inspiration to drive up this statistic. The need for proper automation technology to increase gifts, reduce staff workload and enhance reporting has never been greater.
Here are some features we recommend when looking for an employee campaign automation platform:
- Administrative & Leadership Dashboard – The metrics used to measure the effectiveness of your employee campaign should be easily accessible on an administrative dashboard. The dashboard should include views that clearly highlight employee and department participation, gift allocation, funds raised, and top performing teams/departments, to name just a few.
- Custom & Flexible Records – Updating employee records within any employee campaign platform should be standard, as donation levels, gift frequencies and designations change frequently. You should not need to contact a developer each time you make updates to the platform database. Your software needs to be flexible enough to handle a variety of donor requests and administrative actions.
- CRM Integration – An employee campaign is just one piece in the donor cultivation process. To appropriately steward your employees, your employee campaign should seamlessly integrate with your donor management system. You’ll get more comprehensive data and can more accurately assess campaign efforts.
- Marketing & Communication Tools – When rolling out your employee campaign, a built-in email system that provides adequate communication across the entire organization is immensely helpful. Not only does it streamline communication and marketing efforts, but it provides useful segmenting of employees and engagement tracking after the campaign has begun.
- Engaging Platform Interface – As web designers and developers, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the importance of a well-designed platform interface. Without a fun, vibrant user interface, you’ll lose employees before they even begin. To increase employee engagement and participation, your automation software should be appealing to users and easy to navigate, and bit more exciting than your standard organization website.
- Single Sign-On Integration – As with any software login, we highly recommend an automation platform that can easily integrate with your organization’s authentication structure. That way employees can easily access the campaign platform without remembering multiple logins.
- Advanced Reporting – Lastly, but certainly not least, your automation platform should provide robust and customizable reporting tools. When leadership requests specific metrics and analysis, your system should go beyond canned reports, and supply quick and easy overviews on progress.
Grant Management Automation
Grant management can be an overwhelming task for even the most organized grant management teams. Between preparing and submitting grants, maintaining grant records, managing grant activities, stewarding potential funders, creating annual reports, distributing internal policies and procedures, coordinating external reviewers and analyzing cash flow (oi!) – not to mention, completing these processes manually and across numerous, un-synced programs – grant managers are the unsung heroes of the fundraising realm.
In 2016, over $667 billion was awarded in grants in the United States. Is your grant team equipped to take advantage of this figure? Is your organization reaping the awards it deserves? If not, automating the grant management process should top your software wish list. Not only will it significantly reduce the workload for grant management teams through the entire procurement process, but it streamlines and expedites the process – thereby freeing up time and money to reinvest in additional grant efforts and other revenue-producing activities.
When examining grant management automation software, here are some key features to look for:
- Single Data Repository – If you keep your data in separate systems (or various spreadsheets), you run the risk of inaccurate, outdated and un-synced information. Syncing that data across various platforms requires time and manual verification. Thus, all grant data should be housed in the same software to ensure consistency and reduce confusion. Take it a step further and aim to assign only a select group of administrative users to manage your data; that way you reduce user errors and data is reliable over time.
- Grant Lifecycle Management – Tracking only a portion of the grant process is like baking a cake without all the necessary ingredients. You won’t get a comprehensive and accurate assessment of the grant process if you’re only tracking a few KPIs (key performance indicators). Make sure your grant automation software tracks grants through the entire procurement process and can report on every key metric throughout.
- Enable Collaboration – For many grant teams, managing and coordinating external grant team members, reviewers, board members and grant panels can be a frustrating and tedious process. Grant automation platforms should include tools for collaboration within your organization and beyond. Look for a system that allows you to assign tasks to internal and external teams, track milestones, schedule meetings, attach important files, make notes and invite new team members. Automating tasks and collaboration from one system, simplifies work for grant managers and expedites the grant process.
- Comprehensive Reporting – With hard and fast deadlines, and leadership teams eager for grant assessments yesterday, grant managers need a quick and accurate way to view, analyze and report on grants, progress and cash flow. Ideally, you want grant software that can provide custom reports, a snapshot of high-level metrics and dynamic, real-time graphs. Less time spent on manual analysis means less manual work and more time for additional grant development, not to mention, more informed leadership and more intelligent business decisions.
Finding the Right Automation Partner
If your healthcare or nonprofit organization needs help with executing an effective employee donation campaign, implementing grant management software, or automating your business processes, we encourage you to talk with us. BECK Digital is comprised of experts in healthcare and nonprofit website development. We specialize in implementing technology to streamline processes and help your foundation do more with less.
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