Expertise Beyond the Numbers

Not-for-Profits Can Leverage Technology Effectively, Not Expensively

Recognizing that not-for-profit organizations face unique challenges SC&H Group and M&T Bank’s 2019 Not-For-Profit Summit focused on helping organizations leverage new strategies and technological advances – even with limited manpower and tight budgets.

The overarching theme for the 2019 summit was “Innovation & Collaboration Driving Organizational Excellence,” therefore the summit kicked off with a keynote presentation by Gideon Taub, founder of Pinkaloo. His session discussed charitable giving modernization and how fundraising trends have created challenges in how charitable organizations fundraise and communicate.

The biggest challenge not-for-profits face, said Taub, is learning “how to support donors who have diverse needs.” By 2020 there will be “five generations in the workplace.” While baby boomers “drop a check in the mail,” younger donors – who tend to be “more spontaneous and less loyal,” according to Taub – give online. Taub said trends such as declining support to umbrella organizations like United Way show us the younger generation is interested in direct impact and transparent giving.

Since baby boomers are beginning to transfer their wealth – an estimated $59 trillion — the time to build relationships with younger generations is now, said Taub. And the way to reach these donors is through the effective use of technology.

After the keynote address, Luke Tilley, chief economist of Wilmington Trust provided an economic overview before Mike Young, Ashley Roccio, and Brina Zinter took a deep dive into new tax and accounting legislations that would directly impact not-for-profit organizations this year.

Tilley zoomed out to look at the global economic picture. He discussed national policy, presidential Tweets, consumer confidence, the federal reserve and their individual and cumulative effects on the world economy.

Joking that economics is called “the dismal science,” Tilley predicted growth that would slow in the upcoming year, but overall, the forecast “really didn’t look that bad.”

Changes to financial statement requirements were adopted a few years ago, Young said, but the full impact of these have just recently reached not-for-profits. “The first clients that had to implement them were the ones with December 2018 year-ends,” said Young, and the organizations with June 30 fiscal-year-ends will face the changes imminently.

Young, Roccio and Zinter walked attendees through the changes step-by-step, translating often-complicated legalese into clear English and outlining and the real-world implications of these changes.

Harris Gofstein, who leads SC&H’s data analytics practice, showed attendees cost-effective ways they can use technology they already own to drive decision-making through data analysis.

“Before you invest” in expensive donor relationship software, Gofstein said, “use what you have. Even Excel is powerful.”

The key is collecting the right data to help an organization anticipate needs, identify trends and quantify impact.

Gofstein challenged attendees to think of three key performance indicators (KPIs) that would help tell their organization’s story and drive the mission forward. “Start with things you can get your hands on today,” he advised. In small groups, participants identified metrics and figured out how much time it would take to collect this data.

“Challenge yourself to help KPIs tell your story,” said Gofstein. And this story will evolve. “These KPIs will change. Once you see a picture, you’ll want more specifics in one area and less in another.”

Using KPIs fosters innovation, a drive that “has to be endemic to the culture,” Gofstein said. “One person excited about technology only goes so far. Bring everyone with you.”

Gofstein spoke about the Las Vegas Fire Department’s experience using monitors to collect statistics, hoping to help fix delayed response times. The monitors “created competition” among the units, an “unintended consequence” that improved performance far beyond the organization’s expectations by “making a game of it.”

Jeff Bathurst, leader of SC&H’s technology advisory practice, said that even if not everyone in the organization gets excited by technology, attendees can create infrastructure to keep current with technological advances and issues. A steering committee of staff members, volunteers, board members or a combination of these groups can evaluate tech needs and plan technology integration.” In the past, technology “was expensive and took a lot of know-how,” but as the tech industry has moved into the cloud, it’s far less of a “headache.” Technology has gotten easier to use and more affordable. For instance, Bathurst said, “if your donor relationship management software is older than five years old, it’s time to re-evaluate your needs.”

Bathurst urged attendees to investigate mobile donation options — particularly for events — and suggested three platforms: OneCause, Snoball and QGive. “It’s well worth your time,” he said, because event attendees are “all about the mobile phone.”

A steering committee also can create a response plan to hacking. Bathurst said organizations should ask ahead of time: “Who do we call? What are our legal requirements? Do we have cyber insurance?”

Although cyberattacks are becoming more prevalent, Bathurst said, low-cost solutions are available. “Your biggest threat is your people,” said Bathurst. “We all do dumb stuff. We’re all in a hurry.” A mandatory training on computer best practices can save far more time and money than a hacking would cost

Bathurst recommended using the malware detection add-ons available through major network clouds such as Google and Microsoft 365. “It may cost about a buck per user,” he said. He also recommended using two-factor identification for remote access and a implementing a verbal confirmation policy for all emails that requested sensitive information.

Bathurst assured the group “it doesn’t take too much effort to stave off cyberattacks.” Hackers, he said, “are lazy. They’ll go on to the next big target.”

Julie Kernan, CEO, Business Volunteers of Maryland closed the summit by discussing corporate social responsibility (CSR), and the importance of forging partnerships between for-profit businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

She shared insights with the group on how to position themselves to align with corporate cultures and shared why it is just as important for small businesses to implement CSR strategies to attract and retain employees. CSR are not just for the “who’s who of Baltimore,” Kernan shared, and Business Volunteers of Maryland is working with non-profits to prove just that.

Our annual Not-For-Profit Summit continues to evolve year to year to meet the everchanging needs of nonprofit organizations. The development of this event is directly attributed to the feedback our attendees provide, but also the insightful information our subject matter experts contribute to the agendas year to year.  If you have any questions or would like to be included in future seminars, please Contact Us.