Integrating technology can make your charity more effective

In the second of a series on digital effectiveness Tim Marsh tackles a key challenge for digital charity professionals - integration

Tim Marsh
Tim Marsh

Intricate relationships exist across charitable organisations that have to be managed well for that organisation to succeed. The press surrounding Kids Company highlights just how important they are to get right: from the role and responsibilities of trustees to the relationships between support workers and the charity’s beneficiaries.

Achieving relationship harmony across organisations is not all roses and chocolates. It takes understanding, support, acceptance, and flexibility. Many charities get this balance right when it comes to people, but not when it comes to managing the relationships between the technologies they use. This is understandable – it’s not easy when you’re battling with legacy systems or struggling to integrate on and offline data – but it is achievable.

One of the main reasons integrating technology can be a challenge is because charities often end up locked into using one platform that claims to do everything – from CRM to CMS. Initially this can seem like a good idea, especially if it looks like this package will save you money. But the reality is you end up using this technology to do a task that it was never made to do. The result is it’s not effective, and so it’s not value for money.

The alternative is to choose the best platform for each task and use integration tools such as API’s, If This Then That, and Zapier to make them speak to each other (see my mini guide to some of the best integration tools here). This can take time and may require extra support at first, but in the long run it will allow your charity to be much more self-sufficient in its use of technology.

One example of this in action is an integration we set up for The Children’s Society to enable visitors to their website to donate regularly via text message. We used a third party API to set this up – in this case from Cymba’s Connected Fundraising platform – and linked it with the charity’s Google Analytics so they can easily see when people are donating. We set it up initially but now The Children’s Society can easily use their analytics to see if it’s effective and manage the technology themselves in-house.

This may sound simple but getting to this point could mean a shift in culture for many organisations, especially if you’re tied into a contract or your staff are afraid of using new technology they don’t understand. This article on choosing technology for charities has more advice on how to approach this. In the end everything comes back to effectiveness. If your technology is not helping you meet your organisational objectives it’s time to challenge your current set-up and begin the process to more harmonious relationships.

Tim Marsh is lead developer at Positive, a digital agency that specialises in charity and not-for-profit


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