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Nonprofit Tech Strategies for the Season of Giving

Guest post By Sean Alpert, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Salesforce

It’s hard to wrap your head around how large nonprofits have become, how many crucial services they supply, and how much funding comes in each year. In 2014, the total giving to charitable organizations in the United States was $358.38 billion – a 7.1% increase from 2013. Now, 34 percent of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, and between the holiday season, new social efforts, such as #GivingTuesday, and the deadline for tax deductible donations on December 31, it is no surprise that December is the busiest month for most charities.

With this influx during the season of giving, the nonprofit industry becomes more competitive. Some organizations have to consider changes to their marketing techniques and donor outreach strategy, but with the right technology and tools, charities are able to keep in touch with donors and successfully promote their programs during the busiest time of the year.

Take disaster relief organization, Team Rubicon. This nonprofit unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to deploy emergency response teams. Team Rubicon relies heavily on charitable giving to increase the number of disasters that they can provide relief efforts to. In order to tackle challenges around managing support and fundraising head on, Team Rubicon adopted a CRM system that allowed the organization to scale and grow revenues.

Team Rubicon’s Tech Hurdles

Team Rubicon began in January 2010 when founders and Marine veterans Jake Wood and William McNulty led a team of veterans into Haiti after it was devastated by an earthquake. While there, Wood and McNulty realized that natural disasters present many of the same problems that confront military troops, and that the skills cultivated on battlefields are invaluable in disaster zones.

In the beginning, Team Rubicon lacked the communication tools it needed to connect with people – both donors and volunteers – on a personal level and during times of need. The organization was still figuring out how to make their grassroots fundraising feel personal while also scaling and growing on a shoestring budget. Additionally, Team Rubicon didn’t have the visibility it required to accurately track pipeline as well as supporter and fundraiser activity. As a solution, CEO Jake Wood turned to Salesforce and adopted CRM technology to redirect how the company approached donors by leveraging a smart donor engagement strategy. With help of generous donors as well as an engaging and personalized donor strategy, Team Rubicon went from a donation revenue of $250,000 in 2010, when it was founded, to $11 million in 2015.

Team Rubicon’s Tech Strategies

In order to scale during times of growth and demand, Team Rubicon focused on the following tech strategies to create a winning donor engagement model:

  1. Don’t Rely on Excel. Team Rubicon couldn’t efficiently track year-to-year donations in Excel or track donor activities as they happened. Excel also didn’t forecast recurring revenue. To improve its ability to track recurring revenue, Team Rubicon implemented Salesforce to see donor activities in real-time. It also identifies top supporters who are likely to give monthly and tracks communication with them in order to increase monthly recurring revenue.
  2. Centralize Data. Improving donor retention means being able to effectively manage and track donor data. However, this can be painstaking if the information is recorded manually or spread out across different databases or programs. By collecting donor interactions into a single database, Team Rubicon is able to prevent repeat efforts when contacting supporters and can save time accessing information.
  3. Make Data-Backed Decisions. Team Rubicon analyzes its donor data to remove any guesswork around its fundraising, improve marketing and operational strategies and make informed decisions to achieve growth.
  4. Don’t Blast Emails. Everyone knows that email blasts result in spam complaints and decreased open rates, and Team Rubicon takes this to heart. It creates supporter profiles and assigns them by Donor, Fundraiser, Advocate and Volunteer which enables them to tailor their donation ask to align with supporter interest.

Team Rubicon’s smart donor strategy is a prime example of what charities and nonprofits can do during busy times such as the holiday season when marketing and donor outreach is competitive with other organizations. Personally, I’m amazed at how much Team Rubicon has grown over the past five years – recruiting over 30,000 volunteers and responding to more than 100 disasters is no small feat. This holiday season, Team Rubicon is continuing its mission by redefining donor engagement for the modern era, using cloud technology to connect with supporters in a way that is personally meaningful to them.