Nonprofit best practices: 4 ways you can deliver more impact
The nonprofit sector is on a never-ending mission to solve the world’s biggest problems, by reacting to rapidly changing demands as efficiently as possible. But many of them forget that radical change must start from within. Especially as relates to the average nonprofit’s ability to achieve impact.
Improving the world is an infinite task, and huge resources go into external campaigns for nonprofit organizations. In fact, most nonprofits will organize their fundraising activity around the needs of specific projects rather than the needs of the organization as a whole.
But this approach often overlooks the fact that nonprofits can actually increase their impact on the external world through internal innovations.
There do exist best practices for nonprofit boards that you can implement to achieve greater impact from your pre-existing programs – without needing to raise or redirect further funds. In fact, we believe that many leading nonprofits have an unrealised opportunity to drive greater impact by furthering agility and efficiencies in their own operations.
Improving the ways in which funding is allocated, costs are handled, data is processed (and implemented into reports) and projects are managed can all improve the final impact of initiatives, and extend their reach to more people than could ever be reached simply by throwing more money at the problem.
Finding the right technology platform is critical to this mission.
The growing importance of response times is driving organizations to upgrade their infrastructures. This gives them the capacity to respond more quickly to internal and external changes, and to more efficiently address unpredictable fluctuations in demand for their key services. Ensuring their overall impact is maximized even in uncertain circumstances.
What happens behind the curtain is critical to the impact of frontline services. Moving to more sophisticated foundational technology, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, streamlines business processes to yield four hugely important benefits.
1. Anywhere access for greater coordination and agility
Coordinating teams is a huge challenge for most nonprofits, as many are managing staff across multiple office locations and field sites. ERP technology centralizes all operations into a single system, accessible from anywhere in the world. And with the advent of widely-available cloud technology, this access is available with no hidden costs, and no need to manage complex or inflexible IT infrastructures in house.
This technology also makes offline work possible and practical, so business disruption doesn’t negatively impact program delivery when internet connections in the field aren’t reliable. Keeping people connected even when they’re cut off and allowing teams in various different regions and countries to work together seamlessly without introducing inefficiencies to the process.
2. Real-time information to better measure impact
With all personnel working from a central, integrated system, data and approvals can be captured in real time. This means staff can make rapid decisions with the data to support them at their fingertips, focusing efforts where they are most needed. This has the added benefit of eliminating the need for “business by spreadsheet” – with a single source of truth, data need only be entered once, and it’ll be instantly relayed to every part of the business with no risk of accidental miscommunication.
This serves to help eliminate a key source of anxiety and wastage for nonprofit governance – inaccessible and inaccurate data – making real impact on the ground possible more quickly.
3. Flexible operations for high impact in any conditions
Rather than being forced into a one-size-fits-all approach, the right ERP system can be configured by non-technical staff to make business processes easier and more intuitive. This means teams can tailor the platform to optimize their performance, without needing to involve IT.
With the advent of microservice based systems and “no code” functionality, it’s becoming possible for anybody in the organization to take the initiative to improve how their tools and systems operate when they see the need. And to create new tools themselves, radically empowering them to do their jobs more effectively.
4. Instant reporting for nonprofit governance best practices
To prove that initiatives are delivering impact, nonprofits can use ERP platforms to instantly report on performance, ensuring the transparent and accountable allocation of resources. In addition to demonstrating effective decision-making, this also reassures donors that their money is being spent wisely.
This ability to instantly generate reports on any desired data and metrics provides a huge advantage in aspects ranging from governance to regulatory compliance and fundraising. (And it’s helped some of our nonprofit clients save weeks of time on audit preparation and donor reports – time which can be better spent achieving your organization’s goals on the ground.)
Nonprofit best practices: how to know if you’re on the right track
In our uncertain, unpredictable world, nonprofits need to find business systems that deliver the same flexibility and self-sufficiency that their frontline staff demonstrate to make a real difference in the world. In fact, continuing to rely on outdated systems may be costing far more every year than a modern, efficient, and flexible system would cost to implement and run for its entire lifespan.
Many organizations are on this quest to get outdated technology out of their way already, discovering ERP systems that enable dynamic decision-making and data-driven performance at the strategic level, while automating most of the administrative work that gets in the way of high-impact delivery in the field.
Through internal innovation – changing the way they work rather than attempting to change how the world works - nonprofits can change their digital strategy, processes and reporting to a more agile approach.
And the efficiencies they achieve as a result will enable bigger improvements for their core causes, edging them closer to achieving their vision.
Measuring impact for nonprofits: How can Unit4 help
To discover why your organization should embrace the right technology, and how it can capitalize on the opportunities of a digital future, download our whitepaper — "Deliver More Impact".