Three tips for choosing technology for charities

The technology organisations incorporate is a vital part of how they connect with people. Getting it right is imperative to success, writes Mike Jenkins

Mike Jenkins
Mike Jenkins

It’s unlikely that your organisation’s mission will mention which CRM or CMS you use, but it will mention people – those that benefit from your services and those that support you.

The technology your organisation chooses to run its website, contact management, fundraising or campaigning activities is a vital part of how you connect with these people. Getting it right is imperative to your organisation’s success.

Just as people don’t tend to fit into one group, neither should your technology. This was the consensus when we held a roundtable with a group of charity digital experts recently as part of our new report looking at technology choices for charities.

Experts agreed that, despite suppliers drawing you in with extra features and functionality, there are disadvantages to getting too invested in one system. As Chris Thorn, Head of Digital at British Heart Foundation, explains: "If you have discrete systems that talk to each other, it’s easy to update or replace one rather than doing it all together."

Here we look at how you can use some of the key recommendations from our new report to help you when implementing new technology.

Break it down

Many organisations understand the scope of digital technology and the impact it can have on how they deliver services. Yet it can still be easy to think of technology as one large project. Whether it’s integrating new tools with legacy systems or introducing task-orientated technologies, it’s important to be clear about what you want the technology to achieve. You can then create smaller project-based teams that work closely with suppliers to ensure change is managed effectively and user experience is put at the heart of your decision making process.

Choose the best

Once you know what you want to achieve, you will need to identify the right technology. Technology is always evolving so it could be tempting to stick with a platform you know well, but we all agreed that you must always review new tools against the competition and choose best of breed for individual tasks or areas. Our report highlights some of the popular technology choices among charity digital leads so it’s worth taking a look.

Make it work for you

You need technology platforms that speak to each other. Everyone agrees that integration issues are inevitable, but you can make it easier by using APIs and finding out the options before you invest. This is one of the reasons our experts believe that open source technology – such as Drupal and WordPress – is increasingly popular. It’s reassuring to know that their developer communities are constantly improving integration. Good tools will have good APIs, allowing you to connect with other good tools.

Mike Jenkins is managing director at Positive, a digital agency working with charity, non-profit and educational organisations

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