Balancing Act: Inside the 2020 Nonprofit Technology Trends Research Report
To meet changing societal and financial trends, nonprofit organizations must continue to adjust their goals and priorities. What role does technology play in a nonprofit’s ability to raise funds, communicate with donors, and tell the story of mission impact?
Sage Intacct conducted the 2020 Nonprofit Technology Trends Survey to ask nonprofit finance leaders their perspective on the industry, challenges, and technology engagement. The survey sought to uncover insights into how nonprofits use technology to aid in achieving the organization’s mission and goals.
350 nonprofit finance leaders participated in the survey and shared their experiences with technology and how it’s helped drive change and deliver on organizational mission. Mainly from midsize organizations, these leaders represented a variety of nonprofit classifications including human services, education, faith-based, healthcare, and community improvement.
Growth in Funding, Donor Base, and Programs
Survey respondents indicated the biggest increase in funding in the last 12 months came from individual donors, while the biggest decreases came from government sources. All in all, more than three-quarters of nonprofits surveyed experienced flat or increased funding. This is especially good news for the nearly 50% of organizations who expanded program offerings last year. However, more than half of finance leaders noted that rising program costs presented new funding gap challenges.
Finance leaders were also asked about the communication strategies used to engage donors. The survey found that 65% of nonprofits incorporate social media and 42% found that social media helped increase the number of individual donors. Social media also helped increase engagement, attendance at events, and overall awareness of the nonprofit and its mission. But it’s also interesting to point out that 35% of respondents who said they have a social media strategy in place don’t have any results or insights to know if this technology is working. This could represent a lack of strategic tools needed to measure correlating key performance indicators (KPIs).
Biggest Roadblocks to Growth
The 2020 Nonprofit Technology Trends survey also sought to better understand the challenges nonprofit finance leaders are facing. According to the survey, there are many internal technology frustrations that act as serious barriers to mission impact. For example, one respondent shared that technology silos in different functional areas were limiting the organization’s ability to share information. Without a better means of data collection and analysis, nonprofits find it challenging to compete for funding, create more services, and keep up with government regulations like tax reform.
Strategic Tools Used to Support Operations and Drive Growth
The survey asked about the technology solutions nonprofit finance leaders use to support operations and growth. Not surprisingly, the most used pieces of technology are a website, financial management and accounting software, payroll, and an online giving tool. This survey probed deeper into the use of financial management and accounting software to find that more than half of finance leaders said it takes more than six days to close the books each month and 63% find external audits disruptive to the organization.
When asked about the accounting software functionality that’s most important to their organization, respondents indicated their top three needs were the ability to automate financial reporting, the ability to automate tracking and reporting of outcome metrics, and automated revenue recognition. This further confirms that the ability to have real-time visibility and insights into financial data and KPIs is crucial to operations, mission, and growth.
How to Win the Nonprofit Balancing Act
The 2020 Nonprofit Technology Trends Research Report shows that many nonprofit organizations must find ways to balance competing priorities. In particular, one of the key findings and observations of this report examined how the most successful nonprofits are able to balance growing demand for program services with increased competition for funding.
Nonprofit organizations are using several best practices to sustain a positive trend in both program and funding growth. For example, 66% of respondents have increased the number of partnerships and affiliations with other nonprofit providers to increase influence, strengthen and expand services, and streamline operations. Also vital to a nonprofit’s ability to increase funding is executing a consistent social media strategy.
Frequent communication with constituents is vital to donor base and funding growth. Technology plays a key role in helping nonprofit organizations grow engagement with donors. Most survey participants indicated their organization increased the number of donors they reach, the methods of communication they use, and frequency. These leaders understand that communication and transparency is an important factor in preserving trust with donors.
The results of the 2020 Nonprofit Technology Trend Research Report highlight that nonprofit finance leaders must find ways to increase their use of technology to overcome the challenges of manual, inefficient processes. Get the full report and discover how your organization can leverage strategic technology tools to drive change and accelerate your mission.
Nancy Master is a senior nonprofit industry marketing manager at Sage Intacct and is passionate about helping nonprofits achieve mission success. Nancy has more than 15 years of experience in software marketing and close to 20 years of experience working with a human services nonprofit organization.