By: John Allen, Director of Global SEO at RingCentral.
Times of economic upheaval are stressful for every business and organization. But for nonprofits, it can be a particularly worrying time. Nonprofits are the ones that people rely on and turn to during a crisis, and you do it all on investments and donations. Budgeting needs to be rethought, staff needs retraining, and it feels like everything should move quicker. All this creates more and more stress for staff and volunteers alike.
However, despite all that negativity, things don’t necessarily need to be as demanding as they may seem. Through leveraging modern technology and implementing the right practices, you can successfully navigate times of crisis.
Use The Right (Virtual) Tech
There is an abundance of technology that can help you in all sorts of ways. As a nonprofit, making the most of technology lets you and your staff focus on more pressing matters and communicate better. Even utilizing virtual business phone service can speed things up and help you reach more people - both from other organizations and the very people you are helping.
If you haven't already done so, using an online meeting platform is highly recommended. Not only can you use video conferencing tools, such as GoToMeeting, Zoom or RingCentral, to train staff, but you can use it to reach your constituents beyond your geographic boundaries. It's also a good idea to invest in a cloud constituent relationship management system (CRM), so you and your staff can continue to build relationships and keep track of your donors without the need to work in a physical office and connect to your organization's physical servers. Just remember that in the modern age, it’s vital to practice online safety and data security, and make sure that your constituents' and staff's data are protected in every way.
Focus on Automation
When crisis happens, more people turn to nonprofits for help and support. Consequently, this means that nonprofits have higher volumes of work to deal with. Automating operations will go a long way in helping you handle the extra workload, since it means that repetitive and time-consuming tasks are done by computer processes, and not your staff. It’s a small investment that gives you the biggest impact.
In addition, automation helps keep things organized, your data consistent and your operation processes flowing smoothly. For example, automating data entry and analysis for remote support staff can help reduce response time and overhead costs. Automating document management helps you streamline workflow processes and provides your staff easier access to your organization's documents. Marketing automation can help you retain donors and supporters, and improve your fundraising efforts.
Automation ensures that when the panic sets in, everything is being done properly. It helps with data entry, analyzing information, and ensures that everything is done according to the standards and regulations you've set in the beginning, thus minimizing human error. These are all vital advantages for nonprofits to have during times of crisis, since it'll help you handle the an influx of constituents, donors, and data. Automation takes the pressure off of you and your staff, so you can focus on mission critical work.
Putting Together a Crisis Management Team
When encountering drastic and unsuspected situations, the first thing you need to do is build your team of experts - your crisis management team. Focus on recruiting people who already have the skills and experience in handling a crisis: leaders who are flexible, agile, decisive, and can handle challenges. And of course, it’s important to work with experts who are familiar with your work, as not all nonprofits and charities face the same problems.
Say, for example, you run a food bank. As more people start using them during times of crisis, you'll want to recruit an expert with supermarket executive contacts to discuss donations. You may also need to recruit an expert who is comfortable with meeting and negotiating with 'big bosses'. Someone who won’t get intimidated by making deals and talking numbers. You may also need to bring in an expert with volunteer management and CRM software experience, in order to organize volunteers to collect and distribute food on a larger scale.
One of the key elements to putting together an emergency team is to modify how your org can work quickly and with minimal impact on the nonprofit. Again, automating processes can help with this, as automation ensures that you and your team aren’t distracted with repetitive work and can stay focused on their area of expertise.
Keep Up Internal Communications
It's inevitable that during times of crisis, tensions are high and people are under huge amounts of pressure. This means having a good culture of communication is more important than ever before, since every interaction needs to be clear and precise to make sure that everyone knows what they are doing.
It could be something as small as passing on the right call center data analytics to make sure leaders are aware of call numbers. Or it could be something bigger like letting team members know how much is available for budgets. Whatever it is, having high levels of communication will reduce mistakes and will help solve issues quicker. This is especially important as, during an emergency, there will be an influx of people turning to nonprofits for help. It is vital you can provide accurate and reliable information to everyone involved.
Using automation will, again, help greatly since when it comes to doing repetitive tasks under pressure, mistakes tend to be made. Using automation to compile your data, analyze calls, and work out donations will ensure that your reports are more precise and that the right data is being used.
When crisis hits, it is easy to become overwhelmed with stress and lose control of the situation. However, by having a contingency plan that can help you navigate unprecedented times, you'll be prepared when bad things do occur. Utilizing the right tech, such as automation, can help save time and allow you and your staff to focus on what counts: delivering your programs and services.
About the Author
John Allen, the “Billion Dollar SEO,” is known for effectively scaling enterprise SEO teams. With over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs, he currently directs all global SEO activity for RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and call center solutions provider. He has written for websites such as Network Computing and Vault. You can follow him on LinkedIn.