Advancing Philanthropy

Sponsored Content: Microsoft — Transform Supporter and Donor Relationships with Connected Data

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From the increase in digital engagement to the growing role of foundations and major donors, we can all agree that the face of fundraising is changing quickly before our eyes. Add the Covid-19 pandemic and the current economic climate to the mix, and you get a recipe that combines uncertainty about donor behavior with extraordinary record demand for nonprofits’ critical services. Fundraisers are feeling pressure to maintain and increase fundraising income at a time when organizations with relevant causes are also looking to secure lasting relationships with prospective donors.

Keeping pace with the evolving fundraising landscape requires change management and a balancing act of approaches—new strategies for attracting a diverse demographics of supporters, new ways of communicating and reaching donors through their preferred channels, and increased investments in the professional growth and development of nonprofit staff. And while it isn’t the full answer, technology is a vital part of the solution.

Both new and current donors expect a more modern, personalized experience with the nonprofits they support. The savvy and creative ways that commercial retailers and social media companies reach worldwide audiences are more relevant to the nonprofit sector than ever before. Nonprofit supporters are no longer content with simply making gifts and trusting organizations to use their funding wisely, receiving sporadic updates or showing up in annual report name rolls.

Donors are invested in your mission and want to know the actual outcomes and impact their charitable donations result in. They want to engage in more authentic and purpose-driven ways while receiving information relevant to their interests and passions. To keep up, nonprofits need more innovative and personalized approaches to expand constituencies, maximize contributions, increase grant awards, respond to shifting program needs, and stay relevant in today’s complex philanthropic climate.

Nonprofit staff want to focus on the mission. Technology can enable that. And for many, the most important tech investments are aimed at creating more connected, personalized engagements with constituents and stakeholders—something we agree is extremely important. What they sometimes overlook, however, are the technology decisions and connections that can help to unify their data so actionable decisions can be made.

Connected Data and Systems

Connected data is fundamental to an organization’s ability to learn from what works (and just as often, what doesn’t work) so they can do a better job of sharing stories with donors about the impact of their gifts. Building trust, transparency, and the power of impact-centered storytelling is a superpower that organizations will increasingly need to stay relevant. Nonprofits should expect and demand that their technology applications help them achieve these superpowers. Nonprofit technology solutions should be built on a nonprofit data platform, empowering nonprofit staff to engage supporters through powerful program impact reporting to help development teams communicate how funds raised are making an impact and ultimately, earn lifetime supporters.

Over time, nonprofit teams and organizations adopt new technology to adapt to increases in scale and complexity, and to meet a variety of emergent needs. Many organizations use multiple donor management systems, marketing solutions, and data sharing systems. While using multiple standalone, best-of-breed solutions may have worked prior to this data-at-the-center time we operate in, nonprofit organizations now have platform options (like Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit) that allow them to leverage “best of breed” applications while demanding data interoperability, unification, and program impact measurement as fundamental capabilities.

Operating technology applications in a fragmented, disconnected vacuum is not only challenging for staff (and the program participants they seek to help!), but it is expensive and not meeting the aim of retaining and growing a new generation of supporters. Every missed fundraising connection and program insight left undiscovered means not only disconnected systems and data but missed opportunities to foster trust with donors who want information about your organization’s progress.

The more connected your data is, the greater the opportunity to harness the power of that data, to evaluate the impact of your current activities and chart your mission forward. Your organization’s storytelling will evolve from sharing anecdotes from the field to transparent impact reporting that raises donor satisfaction and results in more future funding opportunities aligned to donor and prospect interests.

From Spreadsheets to a Unified Platform

The National Forest Foundation—chartered by Congress in 1993 to lead forest conservation efforts—believes in the benefits of connected data and is seeing the impact firsthand. When Microsoft started working with the National Forest Foundation, its employees were using spreadsheets to manually track their budgets, restoration investments, and incoming donations. And each of the nonprofit’s regional offices traditionally maintained its own spreadsheets.

In working with Microsoft and threshold.world, the National Forest Foundation is unifying its data across operations from fundraising and grants to contracts and programs. This will allow the foundation’s supporters to gain additional transparency as Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit enables the organization to keep donors apprised of the programs and projects they’re backing financially and show them how their dollars are being spent. In turn, the National Forest Foundation will have more time and flexibility to focus its fundraising efforts on the most immediate program needs.

Our Fundraising Technology Vision

Our vision for the future of fundraising technology is centered on empowering nonprofit staff, their supporters, and program participants with unified, connected data to make more informed decisions that increase authentic supporter engagement. Once you have the right systems and processes in place to understand and engage with constituents, you can continuously refine your approach with tools that will evolve along with you.

By transitioning away from siloed software, you can foster healthier supporter relationships, fundraise more efficiently, and measure program impact on a single technology platform that can scale as your organization grows. Your organization can lay the foundation to attract a greater diversity of supporters, increase retention, and deepen loyalty through impact-focused fundraising—ensuring you can deliver on your mission for the needs of today and the unknowns of tomorrow.

Erin McHugh SaifErin McHugh Saif serves as Microsoft Tech for Social Impact’s global director, product development. Erin directs product strategy, management, and engineering efforts that deliver social impact solutions to over 280,000 nonprofit organizations and UN agencies worldwide. Microsoft’s Tools like Fundraising and Engagement and Constituent marketing journeys, part of Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit, enable nonprofits to remove barriers between marketing and fundraising functions to meet supporters where and how they want to connect. Get a variety of cloud technology offers from Microsoft for your nonprofit: www.microsoft.com/nonprofits.

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