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Is “Modernization” Just Another Buzzword?


By Will Schmidt

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

In any industry, buzzwords abound. When it comes to the nonprofit world, we’re used to seeing words like “ROI,” “donor pipeline,” and “soft ask” frequently. While phrases such as these can sometimes feel overused, they tend to gain popularity for a reason.

For example, the word “modernization” is used throughout the nonprofit space, and even on the Classy Blog. Yet when we stop to consider what it really means, we often run into different contexts, meanings, and definitions wrapped into one.

Buzzwords can be useful for brevity’s sake, or for an emotional impact, but it also makes it difficult to pin down the precise definition of the word. Below, we explore modernization in all of its capacities to get at the root of why it’s an important word for nonprofits and how you can integrate it into your organization.

Modernization Defined

The word modernization has a few definitions that all tend to point in the same direction:

  • To make modern, give a new or modern character or appearance to
  • To become modern, adopt modern ways, views, etc.

Summarily, it’s the process of adapting something to modern needs or habits. In the technological landscape we live in, modernization is ever-present. Think upgrades to smartphones, TVs, cars, and even Wi-Fi speeds.

In the context of your nonprofit, the need for modernization could mean many different things. Maybe it’s that your online fundraising software relies on disparate, outdated systems. Or maybe you’re not fundraising online at all, relying more on direct mail appeals. Further, it could even relate to inefficient operational processes that hamstring your fundraising campaigns.

Whether you’re interested in upgrading small pieces of your organization, or a system-wide overhaul, modernization plays an important role in keeping you ahead of the curve.

Nonprofit Modernization

Modernization is more than just buying the newest software offering or blindly jumping onboard the latest trends. It’s about assessing your nonprofit’s current practices and understanding where and how the modern donor prefers to interact with your organization.

The Need for Modern Fundraising Strategies

Let’s start with an example almost all nonprofits are familiar with: direct mail. As the world becomes more digital, analog forms of communication like direct mail lose their efficacy.

Today, if you want people to donate to a campaign, some of the strongest tools at your disposal are creative emails and fun social media posts that point to easy-to-navigate online donation forms.

To modernize your strategy here would be to recognize that modern methods, such as these online tactics, are more likely to attract younger generations of donors. Millennials and Generation Z prefer content and appeals delivered to them digitally.

Old School Meet New School

A possible modernization of the direct mail process could be that you begin to shift your outreach strategy to include more digital outlets. You don’t need to abandon direct mail overnight, but if you recognize that a large number of the population doesn’t respond to it, you can begin to adapt.

Consider merging your offline and online fundraising efforts. For example, you can create an online fundraising page that pairs directly to a piece of direct mail you send to your supporters.

Design the hard-copy mail to match design aesthetic with the online pages you create. Further, include links to the donation pages on each piece of mail you send out. That way, people have the option to mail in their donations, or give directly to the online campaign.

Modernizing Your Fundraising Software

If you already fundraise online, there’s still be room for the modernization of your efforts. While there are countless online fundraising software platforms out there, it’s crucial that you choose a solution that adapts to modern consumer and donor behaviors, offers excellent customer support, and gives a holistic view of your donors.

Few platforms check off all of these boxes. With Classy, you can respond to timely events and trends in a flash. Create campaigns in minutes and give donors the check-out experience they’ve come to expect from top retailers.

Get the Ball Rolling

If you want to modernize your fundraising software, it’s best to begin with some questions that can help determine where you stand. For example:

  • When was the last time your organization discussed the state of your software?
  • Are the products and integrations in your technology ecosystem connected to each other, or disconnected?
  • What does your process look like for creating new campaigns right now? How easy or hard is it?
  • If you stay the course, how will you scale and keep up with the demands of a rapidly evolving industry?

Questions like this can help identify common points of friction at your organization that might prevent you from building more effective campaigns and planning an effective strategy.

As you work through this process and evaluate the efficiency of your current fundraising platform, pay attention to how you and your coworkers feel. If you’re not happy with where you stand, you need to ask one final question:

What does your organization stand to gain from a versatile, streamlined, and more effective platform? Once you’ve answered that question, it’s time to start your search.

What’s At Stake

If you gloss over “modernization” as just another buzzword, you run the risk of not staying current with the trends, insights, and adaptations in the nonprofit sector. Further, you may start to have a harder time engaging supporters and fundraising as time goes on.

The implications are far reaching, and will ultimately impact your revenue. As one of our account managers at Classy, Rachele Aidala, says:

If you don’t adapt to your audience and meet them where they are, you’re leaving dollars on the table. Don’t cut yourself off to new sources of revenue simply because you’ve always functioned in a certain way.”

Rachele Aidala

Classy Account Manager

In your efforts to modernize, try to consider everything from the perspective of a potential new donor who’s never interacted with your organization before. When you acknowledge modern day trends in areas like technology, checkout processes, and design, what expectations might they have of your organization?

When donors find your organization, it’s important to provide a donor experience that aligns with their expectations. With the right tools in place your supporters can discover a beautifully designed donation page, easily locate the “donate” button, and fly through a checkout process that quickly processes their gift.

“Modernization” is so much more than just a buzzword. It’s about being cognizant of the times and integrating forward-thinking strategies into your communications, branding, and online presence. In a lot of ways, it’s your connection to the future of your organization and the nonprofit world.

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The world we live in is constantly and quickly changing. One day, slow cookers are the standard until suddenly a new tool like the Instant Pot is introduced with the power to change consumer behaviors and expectations. For nonprofits, trends are born and change just as quickly.

Pay attention to what drives the world around you in order to modernize your organization and adapt to it. However, it’s important to remember that this word doesn’t just mean following the trends and doing what “in.” Modernization is about meeting donor expectations and behaviors and it’s essential for the long-term survival and sustainability of your organization.

If you want to learn how Classy can help keep you on pace with a rapidly evolving industry, talk with an expert today.

The Nonprofit Growth Guide

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