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How COVID-19 Is Impacting Nonprofits

A conversation with nonprofit tech consultants

Because so many things have changed in nonprofit technology since the onset of the pandemic, we thought we'd check in with some technology consultants who work with many nonprofits all across the United States to find out what changes they are seeing so far. They confirmed much of what we’ve been hearing anecdotally from nonprofits.

  • Fundraising is a whole new ballgame. We called on frequent TechSoup contributor Michael Stein for his insights on that.
  • CRM databases are increasingly the core of nonprofit IT systems. We've asked Keith Heller about what nonprofits are doing about managing their client and donor data in relation to the rest of their systems. 
  • Charities are turning up their social media presence. As online communication increases in our social distancing world, Julia Campbell provides her insights on what is working out there.
  • Moving to the cloud has become an imperative. Linda Widdop of Tech Impact tells us how and why adoption of cloud solutions is making more sense to nonprofits around the country.
  • Virtual church services are creating new ways of bringing communities together. Lauren Hunter of Church Tech Today tells us how churches are faring in times of virtual services. Her viewpoint might surprise you.

We hope this roundup gives you some sense of what's going on out in NPTech-land currently and provides some ideas on how to proceed in key areas in the coming months.

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Michael Stein on Fundraising

Nonprofit fundraising is dramatically different now during the instant recession and social distancing. The key is to not stop fundraising! See TechSoup's Fundraising in the Time of COVID on why that is. Here are Michael Stein's thoughts.

"The coronavirus pandemic has brought challenges to nonprofits nationwide of all sizes and types. Many have closed their offices, moved employees to virtual work modes, and had to reorganize their programmatic work. Naturally, fundraising activities have been disrupted, which has led to out-of-the-box thinking on how to engage with supporters and donors.

"Many nonprofits have pivoted to a more cultivational mode of communications, keeping supporters informed about activities and programs. Many nonprofits are continuing their fundraising activities using digital and virtual tools, which has increased their use of cloud platforms of all types for campaigns, peer-to-peer, webinars and virtual meet-ups.

"Messaging streams have changed, as nonprofit staff find new approaches to engage supporters during this time. While the pandemic brings financial strains to nonprofits, there has been some positive impact on donor development, as it disrupts traditional engagement methodologies and opens the door for new ways for donors and volunteers to get involved in the causes they support."

Michael Stein

Michael Stein is a writer and digital strategist to progressive social causes since the birth of the Internet. He is currently the senior director of partnerships at EveryAction, a leading integrated digital platform for nonprofits, and a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Golden Gate Chapter.

Keith Heller on CRMs and Integrating Systems

When money is tight, a solid CRM system integrated in your overall IT is a wise investment. We admire Heller Consulting's advice on Budgeting for CRM and asked Keith Heller for his thoughts on how to develop core technology in lean times.

"'What’s our new normal?' and 'What technology will we need?' This is what we are hearing after most nonprofits quickly implemented or improvised solutions to support fundraising, programs, remote working, volunteers, and more. Now, they're assessing the longer-term impact to their organizations in each of these areas. Our clients have started more carefully evaluating the technologies they're putting in place so they don't end up with disconnected systems. The desire for a thoughtful planning process is a challenging but admirable goal during all that nonprofits are managing right now."

Keith Heller

Keith Heller is founder of Heller Consulting, which provides change management and CRM design and implementation services to nonprofits nationwide.

Julia Campbell on Social Media

Social media is so much more important to engage socially isolating constituents than it was a couple months ago. We think Julia Campbell's How to Communicate with Your Donors, Members, and Online Community Right Now is right on the mark. Here are her social media and communications insights.

"The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected how nonprofits large and small are using social media. The major changes that I've seen are nonprofits stepping way outside of their comfort zones and doing Facebook Live streams from their homes, sharing photos of what it's like to work from home, and being brutally honest with their stakeholders about the toll that stay-at-home orders have had on their bottom lines. Nonprofits are sharing helpful information through interviews and education sessions, creating beautiful art and music, and connecting with donors in a much more personal and authentic way. I have also seen quite a bit of fundraising being done on Facebook and Instagram, as nonprofits know that their donors are using these platforms now more than usual, and want to connect with them where they are, on the devices they are using."

Julia Campbell

Julia Campbell works with nonprofits to take their social media storytelling game to the next level. Find her award-winning #501Social Blog here.

Linda Widdop on Cloud Migration and Remote Work

Has cloud adoption finally come of age? Linda Widdop of Tech Impact thinks it just might be time. Nonprofits have suddenly had to do much more remote work, and this is driving IT change, and cloud solutions are making more sense. Tech Impact and TechSoup have been working on how to help charities migrate to the cloud for quite awhile. If you find Linda's insights compelling, check out TechSoup's 5 Steps to Migrate Successfully to the Cloud. Here's Linda.

"Tech Impact saw an initial rush for some work-from-home support from our nonprofit clients, including hardware and remote solutions, but it was both minor and finite. For years we've been actively encouraging our client base to shift from on-premise to the cloud for the convenience, support, security, and reliability it offers, and many of them were well prepared for the lockdown. Cloud solutions are a best practice for most organizations with benefits that will continue beyond the current situation. As more nonprofits begin to recognize the need, they're reaching out to us to help them make the leap. We've also been delivering educational resources to the wider nonprofit community about making the transition to remote work with an emphasis on doing so securely, which is an immediate and pressing sectorwide need."

Linda Widdop

Linda Widdop is the director of client solutions and education at Tech Impact. Tech Impact is a Philadelphia-headquartered nonprofit that provides tech support and tech consulting to charities nationwide. They are a TechSoup partner.

Lauren Hunter on Church Technology

It's hard to imagine that not being able to assemble in church could be a blessing, but that's what Lauren Hunter is seeing. Developing worship teams is one silver lining. Here is Lauren's viewpoint.

"Initially, churches everywhere had to scramble to produce an online church service in a matter of days when most countries went to 'shelter in place.' While this vexed some, others have thrived and continue to blossom in creativeness. Many are fostering connectedness online coupled with offline drop-offs of food and 'thinking of you' notes. It's amazing to see how church is able to continue and families are growing closer worshiping together from home. Technology is the springboard and lifeline to increased faith and stronger families."

Lauren Hunter

Lauren Hunter is editor of ChurchTechToday, an online magazine for church leaders about technology.

We hope you like our brief survey of NPTech experts on the changes in our field since the pandemic crisis. What does this add up to? Nonprofits across the country are trying all kinds of new things to address the "new normal" as Keith Heller puts it. We will of course continue to do our best to suss out what all this means for you. No matter where you are, TechSoup is working hard to get you relevant, up-to-date information and resources that will help you adapt and thrive in a very changed world.

Additional TechSoup Resources