How Automation Can fit in your Not for Profit
Not-for-profits the world over face many of the same challenges. How do you further your mission while recognizing budget constraints? How do you improve efficiency with limited resources? How do you balance the investments necessary to keep operations running with the investments required to adapt your not-for-profit to an increasingly digital world?
Thankfully, that same “increasingly digital world” brings not just challenges, but also opportunities for not-for-profits as well. One area of opportunity? Automation.
Automation is a process or technique of making an activity easier, faster, or more efficient through the use of machines or computer programs. In business, automation can help improve efficiency and accuracy while freeing up employees to focus on more important tasks.
Automation can play a big role in improving the efficiency of not-for-profit organizations. Automation can help to streamline processes, improve donor engagement and communication, and save time and money.
The Benefits of Automation for Not-for-Profits
There are a number of benefits to automation for not for profits. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is cost savings. Automation can help improve efficiency, which can lead to reduced costs. Efficiency improvements are not only about reducing human expenditures as software and systems replace manual tasks. Efficiency improvements through automation also accelerate the pace of innovation and transformation across the organization. This acceleration builds on itself, compounding to drive even more cost-effective investments over time.
Automation can also help improve accuracy and consistency in data entry and other tasks, reducing the need for manual corrections. This can free up staff time so that they can focus on more important tasks.
Finally, automation can also help improve communication between staff and volunteers, as well as between different departments within a not-for-profit. Communication breakdowns are one of the greatest time and money leaks in any business. Reducing (or removing) them with automation strengthens the organization as a whole.
Example Use Cases of Automation in Not for Profits
So how can automation help not-for-profits? Let’s take a look at a few practical examples. Even if the use cases below do not match exactly to your specific needs, you should still be able to envision how automation can work in your not-for-profit.
Donations are the lifeblood of most not-for-profits. But processing donations (entering them into databases, issuing receipts, etc.) can be time-consuming and expensive. Automation can help take some of the strain off by handling these tasks electronically.
Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with donors and keep them updated on your work. However, manually managing email lists and crafting individual messages can be complicated. Automation tools can help you automate portions of your email marketing process, from building and managing lists to sending out mass emails.
Event Planning and Management
Not-for-profits often rely on events to raise awareness and funds for their cause. In fact, for many not-for-profits, events are the key component of fundraising. When planning and managing events are a logistical nightmare, automation can help. Automation tools can help streamline the event planning process, from tracking registrations to managing RSVPs.
If your not-for-profit has a membership program, you know how much work it can be to keep track of memberships, renewals, and payments. Automation tools can help by managing membership lists, issuing renewal reminders, and processing payments. With automation in place, individual members can be contacted based on their involvement and support with the right messaging at the right time.
Volunteers are a vital part of many not-for-profits. As a not-for-profit grows, its need for support from volunteers grows as well. Automation tools can help by managing volunteer lists, scheduling shifts, and tracking hours worked.
These are just a few examples of how automation can help not-for-profits. As you can see, automation can provide significant benefits in terms of cost savings, efficiency, and accuracy.
Best Practices for Choosing the Right Not-for-Profit Automation Tools
Choosing the right automation tools for your not-for-profit starts with a framework that has little to do with the tools themselves. As with any strategic plan with the potential to impact your entire organization, starting with the people and processes you have already is key.
Free up your time
Automation should make your life easier, not harder. So look for automation tools that will save you time by handling tasks that you wouldn’t otherwise have time for.
Ease of use
Not everyone is a tech expert. Look for automation tools that are easy to use and require minimal in your not-for-profit.
Make sure you have the resources in place
Automation can be a great way to improve efficiency and save time and money, but only if it’s done right. So make sure you have the staff and budget in place to implement and manage an automation solution.
Consider your needs
There are a variety of automation tools and platforms available, so it’s important to choose one that is right for your organization. Think about what tasks or processes would be most suitable for automation and what type of automation would best meet your needs.
Do your research
Not all automation tools are created equal. Do your research to find the tool that best fits your needs.
Be prepared for bumps in the road
No automation solution is perfect. Be prepared for bumps in the road and be willing to adjust your process as needed.
Remember Staff Training and Communication
One oft-overlooked step in success with automation has nothing to do with software at all. Team members must be trained on new tools. Furthermore, they must be trained on how workflows and responsibilities have changed.
For example, it is not uncommon for a new automated process to be introduced while the person previously responsible for the now-automated task continues on as if nothing changed. This results in lost investment AND lost productivity alike. Training your staff is a key component of making your investment in automation pay off.
Maintenance and support considerations when implementing automation
Another key to success with automation is maintaining the system after it has been put into place. Automation, like any other technology, is subject to breakdowns and requires updates from time to time.
Just as important as planning for the implementation of your automation solution is planning for how it will be supported after it has been put into place. Make sure you have the staff and budget in place to maintain and support your automation solution. Otherwise, you may find yourself back at square one.
Getting started with automation in your not for profit
If you’re interested in exploring automation for your not-for-profit, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, think about what tasks or processes would be most suitable for automation. Not all tasks can or should be automated. Second, consider what type of automation would best meet your needs. There are a variety of automation tools and platforms available, so it’s important to choose one that is right for your organization. Finally, make sure you have the resources in place to implement and manage an automation solution.
When done right, automation can be a great way to improve efficiency and save time and money. But it’s important to choose the right tool, have the resources in place to make it work, and be prepared for bumps in the road. With a little planning and preparation, you can find the right solution for your organization and get started reaping the benefits of automation. To learn more about how automation can enable your not-for-profit to grow into the future, contact Silver Tree here.