“A bad system will beat a good person every time.” – W. Edwards Deming
I was talking with a friend a while back who shared her frustration with her organization’s antiquated online donation form. The desktop version isn’t user-friendly and the mobile version is even worse. She is worried they are losing donors who get frustrated at the moment and never return to make their donation. This problem gets brought up periodically at staff meetings but has never really been addressed.
Have you experienced anything similar with your organization’s technology and systems? Maybe you are managing donor information via an excel spreadsheet and it never feels accurate. Perhaps your accounting software is no longer meeting the needs of your growing nonprofit. Maybe your gift processing procedures aren’t getting your thank-yous out in a timely manner.
As your nonprofit travels through its life cycle, infrastructure changes need to be made. Policies and software become antiquated, and systems require an overhaul. Failure to make changes can lead to supporters questioning your sustainability and transparency.
Follow these tips to build scalable systems that support growth.
1. Conduct a systems assessment. Think about the daily operations of your nonprofit organization and examine the systems you have in place to support that work. This will include things like gift processing, data security, communications, managing risk, program implementation, bill payment, and volunteer management. Gather feedback from employees and other people directly impacted by your work. Be honest about areas that are prone to mistakes and aren’t meeting best practice standards.
2. Document your end goal for each area in need of improvement. What does it look like when a strong system is in place? What becomes more effective and efficient? Once you’ve identified your end goal, you can start identifying the steps you need to take to get there. If your end goal is having thank you notes to donors out the door in 48 hours, what steps must take place to achieve that goal?
3. Identify resource gaps. If you can’t implement the steps you’ve outlined, you are likely in need of additional resources. What are they? Do you need donor management software or an updated bookkeeping platform? Do staff members need to have clear procedures to follow?
4. Prioritize immediate needs. Evaluating systems can be exhausting and overwhelming. Prioritize your list based on what is most important. Create a plan for the remaining items so that you are held accountable and nothing gets forgotten. At this stage, it may be valuable to connect with an outside consultant. This will ensure you are being thorough in recognizing your needs so that your proposed changes will support continued growth.
Antiquated systems hinder nonprofit growth.
Be proactive about recognizing the need to change before there is a crisis. No matter how hard you try, a bad system will fail you every time! If you would like to chat one-on-one about your organization’s needs, let’s connect!