Unlocking nonprofit potential: 3 key strategies for transformational change
By Rich Berry
Before I started my own company, I worked at Microsoft, overseeing the company’s close process, financial systems, and reporting for the then-approximately 350 legal entities worldwide.
When I joined Microsoft in January 1997, the company's quarterly revenue stood at around $2.6 billion. At that time, our Corporate Accounting team, comprised of 20 individuals, dedicated three or more weeks, often working six or seven days a week, to complete the financial close. Furthermore, we faced significant annual employee turnover.
However, over the course of nine years, Microsoft experienced remarkable growth, with revenue soaring to approximately $12.5 billion. Yet the Corporate Accounting team was now closing the books within a mere three days, and we achieved a remarkable three-year streak of zero employee turnover in the department. Furthermore, we accomplished this without adding a single additional staff member!
How did we do it? By leveraging disciplined business processes, integrated systems, and business intelligence to eliminate the friction in our processes and get timely information in the hands of decision makers. As the saying goes, work smarter, not harder.
Like their for-profit counterparts, nonprofit entities can benefit significantly from projects to improve processes, systems, and business intelligence.
The following are three steps your nonprofit can take to drive meaningful change that will help your organization fulfill its mission – and more effectively make a positive difference in the world.
1. Improving processes for streamlined operations
By analyzing the current processes and identifying areas for improvement, nonprofits can streamline operations, reduce waste, and save time and money. I suggest creating a process map for your organization's essential functions, showing what happens in each process, step by step.
Once you see how things ‘really’ work, you and your team will be able to clearly identify problems or risks, see areas that can be streamlined, and come up with new ways to accomplish the same outcomes more efficiently.
Some key benefits of process improvement projects for nonprofits include:
- Volunteer recruitment: By identifying bottlenecks, implementing streamlined procedures, and leveraging technology, nonprofits can ensure a smoother and more successful volunteer recruitment experience with the same or fewer resources.
- Resource optimization: By identifying areas where resources are underutilized or misallocated, nonprofits can chart how resources are applied and measure their performance. This will help ensure a focus on the highest value activities aligned with your mission.
- Time and cost savings: Streamlined processes eliminate unnecessary steps, reduce redundancies, minimize delays, and ensure you’re getting the most from your scarce and valuable resources. Remember my Microsoft experience? The time and money you save can be redirected toward activities that help you better meet your organization's goals.
Last but certainly not least, carefully document your new and improved processes and routinely check to ensure they are followed. If you discover staff are taking shortcuts in an area, look closely, see if it makes sense, and then write it into your procedures.
2. Enhancing systems and communication
While examining your existing systems, it is also a good time to review your technology and consider implementing new software solutions.
Modern technology comes with a variety of benefits: task automation and workflow, improved communication between team members and donors, and integration between systems (to eliminate redundant data entry). All these benefits enhance your organization’s overall efficiency and ultimately lead to cost savings and improved results.
- Task automation and workflow: Every task that is automated results in additional available time for your staff to spend on higher-value activities. Automating workflows ensure your defined processes are working as designed and completed correctly. Additional benefits of automation and workflow include fewer emails, fewer mistakes, better control, simplification for onboarding new staff, better donor experiences, and less risk.
- Improved communication: Implementing tools like project management software, online collaboration platforms, or video conferencing solutions enables seamless communication, regardless of location or time zones.
- Integration between systems: When your systems are integrated, you eliminate redundant manual processes and streamline workflows. Errors are reduced and data is more accurate because machines don’t make ‘typos’. Integration can lead to improved donor experiences because you can have a unified view of their data and deliver personalized and consistent experiences. Also, integrated systems can scale (grow) to support your organization without having to add additional staff to support the growth.
3. Leveraging data-driven insights with Business Intelligence
Your nonprofit collects a wealth of information every day. But are you making the best use of the data you’re already collecting?
Business intelligence platforms allow you to analyze your data and make timely strategic decisions. Think of the other steps (process and systems) as building a well-running engine and think of business intelligence as the tool that allows you to see the road, drive the car, and win the race.
Business Intelligence can significantly help in these three areas:
- Donor understanding: Business intelligence (BI) helps nonprofits understand donors by collecting and integrating data from various sources, enabling segmentation and analysis of donor behavior. It allows nonprofits to personalize communication, predict donor behavior, and identify trends. The insights you gain will help tailor programs, services, and outreach efforts to meet the expectations of the communities you serve.
- Campaign effectiveness analysis: By analyzing data from past campaigns, you can identify what worked well and what didn't. This information guides future decision-making and helps optimize marketing strategies, fundraising efforts, and program implementation for maximum impact.
- Impact measurement: Establish key performance indicators (KPI) for your programs and initiatives and regularly monitor progress. Measuring the impact of programs on donor engagement will allow you to develop more effective and targeted fundraising strategies.
Determining the first best project for your nonprofit depends on your organization’s specific needs and goals. However, a good starting point is conducting a comprehensive organizational assessment to identify and prioritize those areas of improvement that will have the largest impact.
Boyer & Ritter Operations and Technology Solutions is an interdisciplinary group of professionals that can help you identify and get past the roadblocks between you and your organization’s goals.
If your nonprofit is looking to use staff more efficiently, allow data to drive success, and streamline operational decision-making, please give us a call, and learn how we can help take you to the next level.
Rich Berry is the founder and managing partner of 425 Consulting, a boutique consulting firm that specializes in helping businesses grow and achieve their full potential through process and technology. Boyer & Ritter Operations and Technology Solutions (OTS) launched in 2023 and is a joint venture between 425 Consulting Group and Boyer & Ritter. Reach Rich at 717-761-7210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.