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How Technology Helps Nonprofits Succeed

How Technology Helps Today’s Nonprofits Succeed — Starting in the Boardroom


Technology innovation has transformed the way many modern nonprofits can deliver their services — and has also made entirely new services possible. Crisis Text Line, featured in our recent post “What are the hallmarks of a successful nonprofit?”, has adopted digital methods of mental health intervention. In another example, Irish nonprofit FoodCloud has transformed its food distribution model by adopting a platform integrated with the Tesco supermarket chain to reduce food waste, preventing more than 75,000 tons of food from going into landfills.

The increasing — and increasingly affordable — options provided by technological innovations are changing our world and offering new strategies that mission-driven organizations can use for their audiences. These options not only make a difference externally, but they underpin good governance practices when adopted internally.

So how are the most successful nonprofits using technology? And how can a board member, executive director or senior leader adopt technology to improve how their nonprofit serves?

Smart Technology Use Begins in the Nonprofit Boardroom

The bottom line: A successful nonprofit uses technology innovations to improve efficiency and effectiveness while supporting staff, volunteers, members and supporters. We see many of these innovations begin in the boardroom and spread to influence the success of the entire organization.

Consider some of these ways nonprofit boards can benefit from smart technology use.

Streamline and Codify Processes

Preparing for, participating in and archiving board meetings are huge endeavors for any nonprofit, often involving multiple staff with oversight from senior leadership. It’s in the organization’s interest that the process be as smooth and efficient as possible. It’s also in the interest of board members, who may already be committing the equivalent of a second full-time job to this volunteer activity.

In a column on how much time board members should commit, Nick Marzano, board president at Young Involved Philadelphia, describes ideal “working board” members as “ride-or-dies, not just advisors.”

Digitizing this process with workflow tracking, one-click approvals and accessible document repositories reclaims hours spent managing and participating in meetings and redirects board efforts toward mission-critical work.

Ease and Increase Confidence in Decision-making

Many board members find themselves spending too much time trying to get on the same page — with multiple versions of documents, outdated information, streams of emails and texts and more. It’s no wonder decision-making can be fraught.

By implementing a standardized agenda (including time guidelines for agenda items) and providing ready access to supporting documents prior to and during meetings, board members know where they are in the decision-making process and have access to what they need to make an informed decision. A single source of truth for board documents, minutes, progress reports and more, accessible via keyword search, benefits the board and the staff that supports them.

Standardize and Store Communication

The firehose of information affects us all. Texts, emails, paper mail and handouts, videos — every channel demands a new method for hunting and finding relevant content (and some are more successful than others). By adopting a digital board management platform, board members and the senior leaders who support them can create standardized channels that allow trustees to engage with communication in the way that best suits them.

Additionally, with streamed meetings now commonplace, boards must adopt tools that work with online collaboration as well. A board agenda and meeting management solution should be accessible from any device.

Use Consistent Reporting to Measure Impact

Along with gauging financial health, boards must measure the impact the organization is having based on its mission. This may not be intuitive for many. Leadership teams work with diverse sources of data provided by different individuals and entities. In itself, this is a good thing, as it captures different perspectives and creates a full picture of organizational impact. But wildly different data presentations, reports, styles and more add complexity without clarity.

Using digital dashboards as well as report templates helps the board understand their organizations’ current performance and see a more clear path to improvement.

Centralize Onboarding and Continuous Learning

Whether your board is constantly welcoming new members or veteran trustees need to stay updated on changing needs and new legislation, every board needs a way to offer engaging training.

Prevent Mission Creep

When a nonprofit runs programs or activities unrelated to its mission, it is suffering from mission creep. Using centralized tools to track goals and progress, as well as creating a standardized process for evaluating new programs, are two ways boards can use technology to stay on track. Already struggling with mission creep? This BoardEffect blog piece has examples of nonprofits that crept back.

Defend Against Cybercrime

Mission-driven organizations seem an unlikely target for big-dollar digital attacks, but their supposed lack of dedication to IT resources can make them a target. Telecom4Good highlights some significant examples of attacks against the Salvation Army and the World Wildlife Fund and shares tips around limiting data access, keeping software up-to-date and regularly creating backups.

A modern, digital board agenda and meeting management platform offers backups, proactive security updates, granular permissions and more to ensure organizations remain protected against cyberattacks.

Practice Regular Self-evaluation

The National Council of Nonprofits recommends that boards conduct a self-evaluation at least every two years — a process some boards resist due to time constraints, individual reluctance and other factors. A built-in survey tool makes regular self-evaluation a simpler process.

Using Technology for Transformation

The benefits of making smart technology choices begin in the boardroom, but affect every aspect of a nonprofit’s mission and success. Overall, making smart choices with technology is a key characteristic of a successful nonprofit, as the Charity CFO reports.

The next choice your board can make is considering a board management solution to increase the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness. BoardEffect offers the modern tools a board needs to ensure nonprofit success.

BoardEffect, a Diligent solution, is the leader in providing innovative boardroom technology to nonprofit organizations. Serving more than 14,000 mission-driven organizations, Diligent empowers boards with the tools to drive positive change. Our secure board management software streamlines operations, enhances governance practices, and enables confident decision-making. With BoardEffect, mission-driven organizations can unlock potential, accelerate mission delivery, and make a lasting impact in their communities.

Jennifer Rose Hale

Jennifer Rose Hale has over 20 years' experience with digital and employee communications in for- and nonprofit environments. Her writing and client areas of expertise include education, finance, science and technology.

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