We’ve all seen how industries such as entertainment, media, retail, and even transportation, have had to adapt to the huge shifts caused by technology or risk disappearing. Nonprofits are not immune. Unlike the other industries, we face more difficult challenges to innovate, due to inadequate funding, lack of expertise, and leaders who may be averse to technology.

Communications professionals are often the innovators in our organizations. Being so close to stakeholders, visitors, or donors, we are usually the person who represents the organization, and also the first to learn what people want from our organizations. We are often, due to the catch-all nature of our jobs, the first to be aware of new trends in technology and how that could make our jobs more efficient. However, persuading leadership that such change is needed can be a challenge.

Here are six tactics to get buy-in for your technology projects:

How nonprofit communicators can get buy-in for tech projects #NPMC Click To Tweet

Tie technology into your organization’s goals

Organizations are fearful of spending limited resources on software or hardware that might not create tangible benefits in the short run. Even when there are enough funds, technology is not seen as a priority. To tackle this mindset, tie technology use into your organization’s overall goals.

Take this scenario: your organization is conducting a campaign drive or holding a fundraising gala. You propose that email marketing software can help them reach more people. Start by pointing out how the software connects to your CRM, so you can track when donors are more likely to respond to your campaign emails. Or, highlight how donors are more likely to respond when they receive a personalized email.

Another strategy is to prove that technology provides tangible benefits that can be tracked. For instance, if your organization puts in place an online payment system, it can save staff x hours a week, and thereby, reduce the need to hire new accounting staff. If staff is trained to update the website themselves, the organization saves x number of dollars when you don’t need to hire a web developer to make minor changes on your website. When you put in a password replacement feature on your website, staff receive x less number of calls from frustrated donors and members.

When you use these tactics, you show why technology is necessary, and how it can help the organization achieve its goals in a practical manner.

Tip: spark innovation in your nonprofit by showing its tangible benefits >> How to get buy-in for your nonprofit's tech projects #NPMC Click To Tweet

Help your leaders embrace technology

People have a tendency to close up when technology is discussed, due to their insecurities or lack of knowledge. Not knowing enough about tech can make people feel like they are out of control, and no one, especially at the Board level, wants to show that they don’t have a full understanding of the issues.

To tackle this, present technical information in a user-friendly format, in a way that empowers your bosses. Here’s where communications skills come in handy. For example, in Board reading material, include case studies of successful tech implementations in complementary organizations. Present information using storytelling and infographics. Include fact sheets explaining confusing aspects of technology, and invite questions. Offer to serve as a resource for Board members who might have questions, but don’t want to ask in front of all the other members.

Share examples or case studies

Use aspiration (or envy) in a good way! Organizations such as charity:water are using data to prove how effective their wells are in improving health and water reliability. During a fundraising gala, potential donors were given an iPad that showed a live feed of women and children spending all day making three-hour round-trips to collect water. To increase the impact, each donor’s live feed matched their demographics. For instance, “pregnant attendees were paired with stories of other women who were expecting.”

While not all nonprofits have the resources of charity:water, we can all learn from each other. Our leaders want technology to show results. When you point out how other organizations have achieved such results, they are more likely to want to invest.

Start small with a sample project

As pointed out, leaders need to see proof that technology will work. By creating a sample project or prototype, you can prove that change is needed, and also demonstrate how much effort, time and money are needed to make the change. Giving leaders an actual action plan and visual representation can help support your case.

For many nonprofits, the most important tool on which change is needed is the website. Start to experiment by making small improvements to the navigation, layout or content. Monitor the analytics to prove how the changes you have made have increased conversions and actions taken. From there, present your findings to demonstrate why the organization as a whole could benefit from improvements.

Start small with a sample project + 5 more tips for getting buy-in for technology projects #nonprofit #communications #nptech Click To Tweet

Get support from a champion

Technology change cannot happen with a solo staff person. To be effective, there needs to be support for implementation throughout the organization. To gain such support, start to sound out your co-workers.  Propose new ideas in meetings to see who shares the same views. If necessary, interview colleagues in complementary organizations to ask how they’ve obtained support from leadership to make tech changes.

Find the right time to suggest innovation

When you are proposing change, it’s best to find the right time and conditions in which to approach your leaders. Organizations have their own distinct history, culture, and personalities, which can affect how they perceive innovation.

Suggestions for acceptable times include summer, which is a slower period, in which you could implement new software. Leverage times when you’ve received a great performance review! Other options include budgeting season or the fiscal year end. Avoid periods of turnover, or new staff hirings, as these are often when there is high stress within an organization.

It all starts with one step!

Technology change doesn’t happen all at once. It requires time, mindset shifts, persuasion, negotiation and even, watching people to gauge the right time to speak. Let us know, in the comments, how you’ve implemented tech change in your organization.

6 tactics to get buy-in for your technology projects: tips for nonprofit communicators Click To Tweet
Temi Adewumi

Temi Adewumi

Principal at TAGb Consulting
Temi Adewumi is principal of TAGb Consulting, which provides not for profits with training and tools to improve their websites. With over 15 years in website management, she has collaborated with nonprofit staff and volunteers on website strategy and adoption of digital technology. Frustrated by a chaotic website? Take the 100 Experiments challenge (http://tagb.ca/100-experiments-challenge/) which teaches communicators how to improve their websites by making small, consistent changes.
Temi Adewumi
Temi Adewumi
Temi Adewumi

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