Executive Insights: The Time Is Now for Nonprofit Workflow Automation

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.
December 04, 2023

This blog is part of our new quarterly series, Executive Insights. This series features data and tech trends for the nonprofit community, directly from JCA’s Founder and CEO, Steve Jacobson.

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When it comes to helping our nonprofit clients optimize their business processes, JCA employs a comprehensive strategy. In addition to mapping out an organization’s step-by-step processes, we dive deep to understand the people performing those processes. Do they have the right skills to accomplish these tasks? Have they received adequate training? We also take a hard look at the technology that people are using to accomplish these tasks. Can the software perform the task in its entirety, or have staff had to create workarounds? Basically, does the software help or hinder the staff?

Embracing a Holistic Approach

Our goal has always been to create efficiencies by developing and implementing strategies to make processes run more smoothly and accurately. We aim to reduce the time spent on a task by leveraging software, which has the important side benefit of minimizing human error. However, we are often focused on one specific software application and not more holistically across the entire software ecosystem.

Consider the process employed by a gift entry team. When the team is processing a gift, they make sure that the fund, campaign, and appeal codes are accurate. They make sure that the proper pledge installment is being paid off and that the right fundraiser gets credit for the gift. All these steps occur in the fundraising Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system.

But let’s not forget that there’s a lot of work that happens in other systems after the gift has been processed. A major gift officer may need to be notified that someone in their portfolio has made a gift. Receipt of a tribute gift may trigger communication with a notificant. A matching gift may spur a whole new workflow to not only acknowledge the gift to the donor but also alert the employer of a matching gift request and create a matching gift pledge on the corporate account with a soft credit back to the donor.

Harnessing the Power of Workflow Automation

Chances are that many of these required workflows are manual. But, given today’s workflow automation tools, they may not have to be. These highly accessible automation tools are impressive, and many of them can be used by non-programmers. They can contain sophisticated business logic to handle many different conditions. They can connect to multiple software systems and databases simultaneously, thus creating true end-to-end workflows across an organization’s data ecosystem.

Building these types of electronic workflows can free up staff from having to do tedious, manual, and often error-prone tasks. Instead, staff can focus on more mission-based work and less on inefficient administrative work. Some examples of this might be:

  • Marketing professionals focused more on how campaigns are working and less on data extractions and migrations.
  • Advancement officers building meaningful connections with donors instead of spending time on data entry of meeting notes.
  • Box office personnel helping patrons instead of fielding sales update calls.

A word of caution, though. While some organizations may see automation as an opportunity to reduce staff or cut overhead costs, most of our clients choose to redirect the hours saved to more productive uses. Many organizations also view automation as a net positive for staff retention: employees are doing more interesting work without the frustration they’ve often had to endure.

Organizations find that these automations greatly reduce the number of workarounds that staff have to deploy, thus creating much more sustainable and supportable systems and a happier and more efficient workforce.

Improve Accuracy, Enhance Productivity, and Boost Your Team’s Morale

Are your internal workflows holding you back? There may be a better way. If you are looking for ways to streamline your operations through workflow automation, our experts at JCA can help.

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