Scaling Your Limited Nonprofit Resources

Mar 18, 2016

Atlanta Mission’s Darryl Russ (Director-Program Design) said it best when he said that “we were in no data, no systems, no nothing mode. [But] now we can dream.” That’s how it feels as we nonprofits are working crazy hard to accomplish our missions and make people’s lives better. We have no data, no systems, no nothing; and yet we are expected to grow our impact with limited resources and overstretched time.

So What’s the Answer? Scale

We used to do custom technology work for each and every client. Whether it was building a database or creating a technology strategy. Every project was a unique engagement with its own set of requirements. We spent a lot of human energy to custom tailor our solutions to our clients’ needs. While we felt like we were providing good service, we knew we would not be able to serve more nonprofits if we did not add some standard products to the mix.

We Had to Learn How to Scale, and We Had to Do it Fast

We took all of the great resources we had created over the years for nonprofits and used the best information to create a new standard. For example, we took the most commonly needed functionality from the donor management modules, custom-built for nonprofits, and made this functionality the cornerstone of our Cloud Essentials for Nonprofits. Now organizations who could not afford a $30,000 custom database could benefit from having awesome donor management at a mere fraction of the price. And it has become easier for us to deliver quality solutions because we have templates to standardize the work effort.

As a result of creating a tool for nonprofits to manage donors in addition to their volunteers, events, grants and campaigns, nonprofits have access to an enterprise-quality tool that tracks all of their most critical data. They’re able to have real-time insight into their metrics so they can make informed decisions. For our nonprofit, we are now able to serve at least FIVE TIMES as many nonprofits in a year with the same resources.

Scaling Technology for the Benefit of Other Nonprofits is Our Raison d’etre

We provide useful tools to manage data and track outcomes, particularly for organizations who are working every day to combat poverty. Being able to provide a useful data solution at a seriously affordable price point means that more food banks, shelters, educational facilities, youth empowerment organizations, and many more will get the tools they need to be successful with their missions.

But It Wasn’t All Peaches and Cream

One of the biggest challenges we faced in scaling Cloud Essentials for Nonprofits was making decisions about the content that should be included in the standard database. We had to rely on both numbers and user feedback to get the right array of data that would allow the majority of nonprofits to track their information.

Lessons Learned

We learned that it takes time to create a really good product. (It takes time to sift through what you have already created to find the very best elements.) We learned that user input and feedback is critical to creating any great product/service. We also learned to stay patient during the process but to keep the big goal of empowering nonprofits with technology front of mind.

Photo by Alexei Maridashvili.

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