How to Create a Technology Roadmap for your Nonprofit

Steve Jacobson

Chief Executive Officer

Steve, founder of JCA, has provided systems consulting and implementation services to a number of clients, including Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Garden, and the National Constitution Center.
February 15, 2023

Recently, Liz Murray, JCA’s Director of Professional Services, wrote a great piece on what a Needs Assessment is and why you might need one. As she said, taking a deep dive into an organization’s people, processes, and technology can lead to changes that increase efficiencies for your organization. It’s a great starting point—after all, why wouldn’t you want to reduce costs, increase revenue, and/or make your staff more productive? But the key here is that fixing the current environment should only be viewed as a first step. You need to look beyond today and plan for the future. You need a five-year technology roadmap.

What Is a Technology Roadmap?

A technology roadmap is an overarching plan for what technology your organization will need to support its strategic goals. For example, if one of your goals is to grow your donor base by 20% per year for the next five years, you will need your systems to support that level of growth. But which systems will you need? It all depends on how you’re planning to grow. Are you looking to acquire donors online? Are you focused on special events? How about planned giving or direct response? Your technology roadmap will identify which type(s) of systems you’ll need and how they will all fit together in your data ecosystem.

Obtaining a 360-Degree View of Your Patrons

If you’re a nonprofit organization, having unified and/or integrated systems is critical to being able to gain and leverage a 360-degree view of constituents. Tracking supporters through all their various touchpoints—whether they are ticket buyers, donors, members, alumni, diners, or volunteers—would allow your organization to personally tailor communications and engagement strategy based on someone’s relationship(s) with you. But often, this data is siloed in multiple systems. Understanding where data lives, and how it flows, is the first step towards integrating your systems.

Stable, Scalable, and Secure Technology

When building a technology roadmap, it’s critical to design a technology ecosystem that is stable and scalable. These days, it makes sense to choose a cloud-based environment for security, stability, and scalability. But you’ll need to determine what level of access you need to your data, beyond what’s provided through the application. You’ll want to establish a Data Governance framework to monitor the rules related to data access and management throughout your ecosystem. Be sure to review your existing hardware, network infrastructure, security, and internet connectivity that can accommodate your organization’s future growth. And, perhaps most importantly, based on your organization’s needs and preferences, you should determine what level of internal staffing you want vs. external, third-party support.

Reporting and Business Intelligence

A key to leveraging your data is to have an adaptable reporting and business intelligence environment. But oftentimes, data tends to be locked up in separate systems that do not talk with one another. It is highly unlikely that a single application can be used to manage all your organization’s business functions. As such, you will need to exchange data between systems, which will require systems that support APIs and/or other data import/export methods.

A Hub for Your Data

While transactional systems are great at selling tickets or processing gifts, they are not typically structured to provide easy reporting or powerful analytical capabilities. As you look forward to leveraging the data from across the enterprise, consider what type of a data warehouse and/or data cubes—along with appropriate software tool(s)—may be required.

Analytics Tools

Creating a sustainable data framework only provides the foundation for analysis. To better evaluate organizational performance across functional areas, you will want to create dashboards that display key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, how many tickets did we sell this week vs. last week vs. the same week a year ago? How did our annual giving campaign perform compared to budget? Having the proper analytics tools in place will help your organization better measure the success of its operations.

Assess Your Technology Ecosystem

In today’s environment, nonprofits must leverage multiple systems—from CRMs and financial systems to ticketing and POS systems—in a way that is accurate, accessible, and actionable. You need your systems to “talk to each other” but what should they say? When data is siloed, you are unable to get a complete picture of your business. JCA can help you assess your technology ecosystem and find the right solution to achieve a 360-degree view of your constituents.

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