Doing More with Less: How Technology Can Help Nonprofits Battle Inflation

As spring this year gave way to summer, we heard that ‘inflation is butchering nonprofits’.  Well, nonsense.  While historians are quick to point to repeated periods of inflation during the 1970s, there were also significant bouts in the late 1980s into 1990, around the turn of the 21st century, and even before the great recession of 2009.  And most nonprofits survived.

That’s not to say, of course, that times weren’t tough.  The problems caused by inflation rear their ugly heads on multiple fronts.  But as we approach the first quarter of the 21st century, there are new technologies that nonprofits can deploy that can help them effectively battle – and win against – this latest scourge of inflation.

The Problems Caused by Inflation

Most obviously, inflation may cause donors to reduce their gifts or stop giving altogether.  After all, if basic necessities cost more and income is flat or not keeping pace, there will be less money left over to give to charitable causes.

More insidiously, however, is that even if donors maintain their giving, their donated funds won’t go as far, and won’t pay for as much.  During inflationary times, nonprofits sustain rising costs on many of the things they have to pay for simply to operate, including raising staff salaries to help keep pace.

Fewer donors, less revenue, and increased costs would seem to be the perfect storm.  And donors you retain are likely also the retention targets of other nonprofits, who are facing the same challenges as your organization.  Things could get aggressive.

Inflation, less directly, also leads to increases in the demand for services and funding in certain of the tax-exempt subsectors.  In particular, family and human services organizations will need to provide more services to those who find that inflation is profoundly impacting their lives.  Educational institutions will need to supply more scholarship dollars to those parents whose incomes are being stretched.  (I read a recent human-interest story about a hospitality worker who found that a gallon of gasoline cost almost as much as she was earning per hour.  She needed support both from a local foodbank and additional scholarship funding for her child to attend preschool so that she could work her shift.)

Organizations experiencing an increase in demand may have to hire more resources to address that demand – or redeploy them from other departments.  And, inflation may cause nonprofit employees, including new hires, to demand higher salaries – reducing programmatic resources even further.  Or, if raises are not feasible, employees may be lost to the commercial sector.  That increases the number of ‘hats’ being worn by existing employees, potentially reducing both efficiency and effectiveness.

This recital of challenges begs the fundamental question:  how can nonprofits continue to do more (and more) with less?

A Solution:  Data Automation Technology for Nonprofits

Today there is process and task automation technology available to – and purpose-built for – nonprofits.  Automation for data entry, data importing, and data exchange can save valuable time and build valuable redundancy – simultaneously saving on costs and allowing organizations to do more with less.

  • Process automation will save time, reducing the cost and effort of data management tasks. Automation will also prevent data errors, which take even more time to resolve, and which can cause relationship issues if not corrected.  Moreover, automation can preclude duplicates, which can waste postage and collateral (paper stock, envelopes) if not remediated.
  • Saved time can be redeployed to other areas. That could mean not having to fill new positions needed to increase service-delivery, but rather, diverting existing team members internally.  (It goes without saying that data management professionals cannot necessarily become program management professionals, but additional resources provide nonprofit leaders with flexibility and more alternatives for temporary or even permanent staffing solutions.)
  • Operational redundancy means that organizations are not ‘held hostage’ if and when employees leave. Automated data processes do the ‘heavy lifting’ so that if employees leave the organization or need to be redeployed within the organization, the work still can get done with minimal training and effort.  (Note:  even with automations in place, proper training is critical for maintaining business continuity.  When making changes to your data management processes, system expertise is not just recommended, it’s required.)
  • Bonus for inflationary times: process automation results in improved data quality – and better data quality supports improved communication and engagement with donors – helping them keep you top-of-mind and focused on your organization when you need their continued support the most.  Better quality data also supports better data-driven decision-making.

Two Brief Examples

Omatic works with some 3000 tax-exempt organizations to automate processes and tasks, increase efficiency, improve data accuracy, prevent duplicates, and more.  Here are just two examples:

  • Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge deployed automation technology to integrate online donations, peer-to-peer event activity, and tribute gifts into their main CRM database. Even when a team member resigned unexpectedly, the time savings allowed the team to be just as productive and still be able to tackle a number of projects that had always been on a back-burner.
  • Utah Food Bank is saving 4-6 work hours per day by automating data and gift entry – as both services-delivered and donation volume increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other similar stories can be found here, on the Customer Success Stories section of our website.

Remain Effective; Be Ever-More Efficient

Doing more with less has always been an objective for nonprofits – primarily so that fewer resources are expended on operations and more time and funding can be focused on mission delivery.  However, as we in North America – and around the world – continue to live under the cloud of inflation such as we have not seen in more than 40 years, doing more with less will become even more imperative.  And, with the possibility of a recession in the near future, nonprofits will likely survive based on the ability to be nimble and remain effective while being ever-more efficient.

Technology, especially technology that supports process automation is low-cost and can provide time savings and redundancy that will carry an organization through these challenging financial times.  Then, that same automation will continue to be useful once inflation, recession, and the pandemic are way behind us.

For further information on how cost-effective automation technology can meet your unique needs, please complete the form below.

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