By Shawn Kendrick, Researcher & Blogger for VolunteerHub.com
Whether an organization’s goal is to make money or provide a service, it needs to strive for constant improvement and efficiency. When viewed in these terms, the daily workings of a business and a nonprofit are not so different. Perhaps this is why so many nonprofits are following in the footsteps of their business counterparts and bringing their operations to the digital age. For instance, some are using technology to find improvments in communication, document organization and storage, volunteer management, and donor tracking. Nonprofits are finding that technology can streamline processes related to these functions by making information more centralized and processes less redundant.
Print is still important
Even though scores of nonprofits are moving to digital in many ways, paper still plays an important role. In large part, the days of jobbing out to print shops are gone; organizations now have the ability to produce high-quality documents on their own. With today’s printers and MFPs, smaller batches are now more affordable, too.
Print is still an effective tool and shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, according to Socialbrite.org, a website aimed at helping organizations utilize social media, nonprofits view print material as even more important than Facebook. In an era where so much advertising is done via social media and e-blasts, a direct mail piece actually stands out. The same goes for flyers: you can’t exactly go to a busy intersection and hand out digital advertisements. And, of course, many event materials, such as programs, name tags, sign-in sheets, instructions, etc., are most effective when put in someone’s hands.
In the future, it’s likely that nonprofits will continue to move toward digital. We are already seeing droves of businesses moving their processes and data storage to cloud-hosted solutions. Nonprofits are sure to follow. Also, a few of the items we mentioned earlier, like sign-in sheets, can already be completed digitally. As costs for these technologies decrease, we are likely to see more and more aspects go electronic.
Of course, the success of a new technology depends on its adoption. We’ve all seen cutting-edge equipment go to waste because no one uses it. The rate of adoption of new technology by nonprofits depends mostly on the willingness to adapt and accept change. The important message to convey to others is that these aren’t just “changes,” but that they are “good changes.” Simply put, technology allows us to do more with less, which is a great thing.
Technology can’t reach its true potential, though, unless those using it buy into it. How can you foster this attitude? For instance, giving specific examples of how storing documents digitally will save a department a certain amount of hours is a great way to get acceptance rolling. Planning in-depth training right off the bat will help alleviate the initial frustration of learning new concepts, while providing ongoing tips can help everyone get the most mileage out of your new technology. This is especially true given the typical volunteer or paid nonprofit staff member isn’t going to start out as a power user.
In the end, we can see that the technology trail of nonprofits often follows the same path as small business. Clearly, the landscape of the business sector drives those entities to seek competitive advantage through technology. While nonprofits may not have that particular pressure, they are still accountable to their board and supporters and should likewise take into account how embracing technology can enhance the services they provide.
The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Shawn Kendrick is a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. VolunteerHub is a member of Xerox’s Free Color Printers Program: https://www.freecolorprinters.xerox.com/vhub/volunteerhub.jsp