Software Tech To Accelerate Your Nonprofit Political Reform Efforts

Nonprofit political reform organizations have unique software needs to effectively advocate for their causes, engage with supporters, manage campaigns, and drive impact.

Here are some key software categories and examples of best-of-class software that you should consider to address those needs.

Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)

You likely need a central location to track all of your volunteers, donors, supporters and the like, as well as what communication has ben sent them, how much they’ve donated, and where they engage with you the most. There are many examples of this from the high end and more costly, like Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud which is version of a commercial software that’s more tailored for nonprofits, to low or no cost solutions. The advantage of using Salesforce is that the platform is quite robust and has many features and add-ons by a large pool of third party vendors that you can use. Of course, all of those additional third-party tools also translate to more costs.

Given most nonprofits don’t have the same monetary resources of an enterprise and typically run a tight ship with regard to the cost-to-value ratio they expect, as well as the desire for a solution that’s tailored for the nonprofit space, you may want to look at other solutions like Everyaction, Action Network, or Nationbuilder. These platforms are not only targeted in pricing for nonprofits, they were designed with political nonprofits in mind. Among these, Bonterra Everyaction provides the most flexibility with regard to integration with any third-party, cost-effective solutions for marketing, event management and others like those listed below.

Mind you, if you have no funds, then you may want to start tracking your constituents in tools that are freely available to you like Google Sheets (spreadsheet) or the Microsoft Office 365 Excel that you already use for your personal needs. Just keep in mind that there are some security and scalability issues you’ll hit fairly quickly after you start up and gain momentum. Nevertheless, this is a reasonable choice and place to start.

Advocacy and Grassroots Engagement

If your organization is specifically focused on affecting policy change, then you’ll need to not only keep abreast of current legislation, but also who has sponsored the current or similar / related past bills, and how they’ve voted on them. Additionally, you likely want to mobilize your grassroots volunteers to engage their legislators by writing to them or contacting them via phone and email to express their concerns and wants.

There are a number of tools to consider here and some that clump much of what you may be looking for into a single platform. You would also need to know your budget here and willingness to bypass combing the publicly available content in favor of tools that aggregate the data and may even provide platforms for interacting with your supporters, advocates, and volunteers on a bill.

On the higher end, you’ll find Quorum. It’s designed for organization with higher budgets and the need to mobilize large constituents. If you’re more limited on budget, you should look into tools like LegiScan, LexisNexis or TrackBill.

Fundraising, Donor Engagement

There are two classes of software that you’ll want to consider for your fundraising. One is focused on collecting donations and managing fundraising campaigns. You can think of this as your credit card processing or payment collection method for your donations with the additional tools to gain insight about your fundraising efforts, what’s working and how you can improve your efforts.

Here you’ll want to consider solutions from DonorPerfect and Anedot which include a set of tools for not only capturing funds, but also managing your donors information. If you’ve already signed up for a CRM like Bonterra Everyaction, it’s a matter of enabling credit card processing and creating forms for capturing the donations. Insight about the campaigns can be managed directly in Everyaction or with their fundraising add-ons.

Another one in this category that focuses purely on payment collection is PayPal. PayPal is commonly used for collecting payments by individuals and businesses. Its value lies in how it’s such a common name and trusted by so many folks. What’s more, they offer special nonprofit pricing to confirmed 501(c)(3) oganizations.

The second class of software is for researching who may be interested in giving to your organization, based on their past giving, or who among your existing donors may be able to donate more. In both cases, you’re trying to figure out where to concentrate your limited set of volunteers and staff as well as time and money so that you can more easily and predictably fund your efforts.

A key factor to consider for any tool you select here is how well it integrates your information and helps you dig deeper into either your list of existing donors, or uses your list of donors to find others with similar interests, means and giving patterns. Platforms like WealthEngine and Donorsearch are excellent examples that gather giving and institutional data about donors for various causes and have integrations with CRMs or means of importing your contacts via spreadsheets and CSV (comma separated value) files.

Email Marketing and Communication

Your messaging is crucial to how you can make more people aware of your efforts, recruit more supporters and volunteers and get more donors. After carefully defining your strategy and messaging, and certainly as you’re testing the various messages, you’ll want the means of managing who gets informed when and how. You’ll also want a way to invite people to your various activities, or keep them informed of your efforts via a newsletter.

This is where tools like Mailchimp and Constant Contact come in. They are traditionally used by companies for their marketing efforts which includes the occasional email or even newsletters. They both offer means for managing your supporters list and sychronizing them with your CRM or list management spreadsheets. They also offer various templates for getting a newsletter started, and tools for doing A/B testing of your message. Pricing is competitive in this space and they both offer discounted pricing for organizations that can prove their nonprofit status.

Website & Analytics

As part of your communication strategy, you’ll likely have a website where you present your message, list events and activities, tell folks how they can get involved, and highlight specific advocacy your supporters can engage in. You’ll also want to embed your fundraising forms on your website, provided by your fundraising tool of choice.

The CRM tools already mentioned, like Everyaction or Nationbuilder provide website functionality, though they are somewhat limited. That may be a good start. However, as your needs grow and you wish to better brand your efforts and embed event management, fundraising, volunteer management and other tools on your website, you’ll want to look at stand-alone solutions like WordPress (via or WPEngine) or Wix.

WordPress is used by many organizations big and small, for-profit or nonprofit and likely has the greatest number of add-on software (plugins). Wix, on the other hand, is more user-friendly especially when it comes to branding. They both offer templates you can use to quickly spin up your website with some standard navigation menus and pages.

Additionally, to ensure you know how well your content is received, how your website visitors interact with your website, and how successful your website messaging is you’ll need to use analytics tools like the free Google Analytics.

Social Media Management

No communications and messaging discussion is complete without a discussion about social media. Many people now receive their news and engage organizations via social media, whether we like it or not. This is where platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn among other more specialized ones comes in. Each of these has its own targeted audiences and use for your organization.

There are too many many social media platforms and you have too little time to manage each one individually. That’s especially true when you consider the multiple accounts you’ll have to manage under each platform such as those for the organization as well as for your key staff like your Executive Director.

A better approach would be to use tools designed for not only seeing all of your posts and responses in one place, but also to learn about best times to post, patterns about what messages work better than others, or even respond directly to the messages for each platform from a single location.

Tools to consider here are Hootsuite and Buffer, commonly referred to as social media management tools. Buffer may be a good place to start as it offers a free version for startups, though Hootsuite is the better known name among those who’ve used social media management software and is one of the original tools designed for this purpose with quite a robust set of features. Both tools offer discount pricing to confirmed nonprofits.

Event / Volunteer Management

Aside from your communication and messaging strategy and their associated tools, you’ll likely want to capture sign ups for your events, whether it’s for in-person meet-n-greets, to online educational events or fundraising mashups. You’ll also want the means to have folks sign up to volunteer for these events or your various efforts to bring about change.

Once more, there are two classes of tools you’ll want too look at here. First, it’s the run of the mill event announcement and sign up management tools. This includes tools like Eventbrite and Mobilize, with Mobilize focusing specifically on the reform and nonprofit space. Both tools act as platforms to facilitate event registration, ticketing, and attendee tracking for your events and conferences. Given Mobilize‘s specific focus, they also provide the means for capturing support for online petition signing.

The other class of tools focuses on recruiting volunteers. Here you’ll find tools like VolunteerMatch, which provide you the means to match nonprofits with potential volunteers. Think of these as job boards for the various volunteer roles you may have and want to fill with qualified candidates who are interested in volunteering with organizations that fit their interests.

Survey and Research

There will come a time when you’ll want to survey your supporters or volunteers to gather information about various aspects of your operations and efforts. You may want to understand what they think is working for your events or what interests them most in your newsletters. Or you may be interested in learning where they think you should focus your efforts or how you should change your strategy and associated tactics.

This is where tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms come in. They are user-friendly survey tools that enable you to collect valuable feedback and start your analysis. SurveyMonkey has a very robust set of features around collecting survey data and even suggestions on how to best present the questions, along with taking the guess work out of look and feel with survey templates.

Google Forms is a simpler tool that may fit your budget well (free), especially if you’re already using Google’s set of tools personally or have purchased Google Workspace as your organization’s productivity tool. However, Google Forms is a rudimentary tool that outputs the data in a web page or spreadsheet format and is limited in how the surveys can be constructed. Both Google Workspace and SurveyMonkey offer discounted pricing on confirmed nonprofit status.

Collaboration, Project Management and Productivity

At the onset, when you’re bootstrapping, you’ll likely use your own Google or Outlook account for emails, calendaring, and file sharing. This is a good place to begin, especially given they are free. As your needs grow and, especially, as your volunteers come and go, to ensure communication continuity on messages and various documents you create for your organization and efforts, you’ll want to to start using Google Workspace or similar paid tools for emailing and communication with outside organizations.

Internally, you may also need a central communication and coordination tool like Google Groups that’s included with your Google Workspace or a tool dedicated for this purpose like Asana or Basecamp.

Google Groups is a good place to start, though the interface is quite dated and sometimes confusing. Tools like Basecamp provide a project- and team-based communication and associated features that make it quite easy to manage time-based activities like tasks, documents, messaging, and include integration with other tools you may already be using for your website, collaboration and communications.

All of these tools provide nonprofit pricing on confirmed status.

Login Management

One last tool to consider is a password manager. By now, you’ve noticed the large number of tools you’ll be using, and realize they each have their own associated logins. As a way to ensure that you not only remember the various passwords, but also use strong passwords and have a secure way of sharing them with your staff, you’ll want to pick a password manager from the likes of Bitwarden, 1Password or Lastpass. Bitwarden is open-source though a bit hard to use. 1Password and Lastpass are both well known tools in this space and a bit easier to setup and use.

It’s important for nonprofit political reform organizations to select software that aligns with their specific needs, budget, and long-term goals. In your consideration, we always recommend starting with knowing what are your organizational Mission, short and long-term goals or your north star, and associated Key Performance Indicators. This will help determine which of the tools above are most important to you and should have the more robust set of features to address your needs.

What’s more, depending on where you are on your organizational growth and fund availability, you can choose to start with a smaller set of tools, or a free version of one, then upgrade to the paid subscriptions as your needs and means grow. We especially recommend starting slowly and taking advantage of small gems hidden in the existing set of tools you may be using before using your hard-to-come-by funds on unnecessary features and software packages.

With that said, you’ll likely want to start your paid software selection with a CRM, as this is the hub for all of your organizational information and your contact list management. In reviewing which CRM to use, you should then weigh in your organizational goals and metrics to see which CRM best addresses 80% of those inherently, without the need for additional third-party tools. This will both reduce your overall costs as well as help you laser focus on what additional third-party software and add-ons you’ll need as your organizational needs grow. This is the other 20% of capabilities from the categories listed here.

This sounds involved and it is, but the effort you put in up front will pay dividends as you work through your fundraising, recruiting, event management and, most importantly, bringing about the political and policy changes we all need.

Nonprofits have diverse IT needs, and the best approach to addressing those needs—whether through a consultant, an employee, or a volunteer—depends on the specific requirements and circumstances of the organization.

In fact, you’ll likely rely on all of them at one time or another, and many times you’re rely on all of them simultaneously. Your needs will likely be first addressed with Volunteers and expand to consultants and employees as the needs and successes of your organization grows.

In this article, I’ll explore what can best be addressed by each of these groups and when they should play a role in addressing your needs, specifically in technology (Information Tech or IT). However, these same principles can be applied to other parts of your nonprofit operations as well.

What’s Best Addressed by a Consultant

Specialized Projects: Consultants are ideal for short-term, specialized projects such as implementing a new Constituent Resource Management (CRM) system, migrating to cloud services, or conducting a security audit. This is especially important if you have no expertise on the needed tools and want to quickly set them up or conduct the audit.

Strategic Planning: Consultants can help nonprofits develop IT strategies aligned with their mission and goals, ensuring technology supports their long-term vision. Ideally, the consultant you hire has sufficient expertise about the operations of a nonprofit to also understand the underlying processes that need to be put in place to ensure quick adoption and maximum value, to accelerate your efforts to bring about the changes you have in mind.

Expert Advice: When the nonprofit lacks specific IT expertise, whether in the form of volunteers or employees, consultants can provide guidance on technology selection, infrastructure setup, and best practices. There are many consultant who specialize in specific categories of tools or even a single tool, such as a CRM like Everyaction or Nationbuilder who can quickly assess your needs, suggest a solution and even deploy the technology and train your staff on its use.

Cybersecurity: Consultants with cybersecurity expertise can assess vulnerabilities, design secure systems, and implement data protection measures. This becomes quite important as you begin to encounter resistance or opposition to your ideas on reforms you’re pursuing. You may very well encounter cyberattacks as your opposition realizes how effective your efforts have become. Protecting your data, strategic plans, list of internal activities, volunteers, key contacts and donors becomes highly important in not only ensuring your organizational success, but the health and wellbeing of your people.

Data Analysis and Reporting: Consultants can assist with setting up data analytics tools, creating custom reports, and deriving insights from collected data. Curious how your educational programs on Ranked Choice Voting is drawing in supporters? Are you increasing your donations with the press releases or meet-n-greets? How many people become volunteers after each event? How many become donors and at what levels? Figuring out what data is important to you based on your strategic goals and setting up the right tools to capture and analyze them is where a consultant can deliver much value.

Training and Workshops: Consultants can provide IT training to staff, enhancing their technical skills and knowledge. This is especially important when you want to ensure your staff knows how to best use the tools and processes your consultants put in place. It’s especially important here to ensure the consultant can set up a proper knowledgebase that you can maintain, add to and continue to reuse so that you can free up the contractor to focus on the higher priority tasks where their costs are better justified.

What’s Best Addressed by an Employee

Daily IT Operations: An in-house IT employee is well-suited for managing day-to-day IT operations, user support, troubleshooting, and maintaining hardware/software. Ideally, this is done once you’ve received help from an expert consultant or employee who has helped with your tools and tech selection, training, and deployment.

Network and Systems Administration: An employee can manage network infrastructure, server maintenance, backups, and system upgrades. Most of these tasks should be automated so that they require minimal oversight. Also, the work is typically a one off, especially after the initial setup, and would require very little ongoing effort. Though they may require specialized knowledge from time to time, theses processes should be well documented after the initial setup. If your team lacks the knowledge, then having a maintenance plan with a specialized IT Consulting firm would do the job.

User Training and Support: Most of your software user training should either be provided by your vendors or setup by your consultants at the onset. However, as processes and software are updated, the material will need to be as well. This is where your employees come in. They can provide ongoing training updates and even fill in for answering training questions to staff, ensuring they effectively use IT resources and tools.

Data Management and Backup: Employees can handle data management, ensuring data integrity, and establishing regular backup procedures. Backups can certainly be setup for full automation. With many of today’s cloud providers, in fact, they are already fully redundant and are backed up regularly, requiring very little to no involvement from your employees. Where they would get involved is in retrieving the backups and restoring any files your staff may have lost.

Collaboration and Integration: An employee can work on integrating various systems, ensuring smooth communication and collaboration across departments. Though your consultant will likely setup the initial integrations, as systems change and your organization’s data needs expand, those base integrations and processes have to be updated. If the processes are specialized, large or more complex, then your employees may need to work with a consultant on this too.

What’s Best Addressed by a Volunteer

Overall, anything that’s not time critical or those that can be project-based and timeboxed for limited time periods can be handed off to volunteers. Of course, you’ll have your super volunteers who can dedicate large amounts of time or limited time but over a long-period. That’s rare and you may not find very many of them. And for anything ongoing, you’ll want to rely on employees instead.

Ad Hoc Support: Volunteers can provide occasional support for basic IT tasks such as software installations, troubleshooting minor issues, or setting up new devices. This is especially helpful when you have to ramp up local campaign offices, Get Out The Vote events, as well as rallies and educational events.

Community Engagement: Volunteers with IT skills can help organize tech-related community events, workshops, or training sessions. There’s something quite meaningful when the change makers, putting together a local event, are the local citizenry.

Website Content Updates: Volunteers can assist with updating website content, posting news or events, and maintaining the organization’s online presence. Given these are typically not time sensitive, they can be scheduled in advance and dependent on volunteer availability.

Data Entry and Cleanup: Volunteers can help with data entry, database cleanup, and data migration tasks. They are especially helpful for data entry from local event sign ups that may be done on sign up sheets or at events where you’ve captured business cards from local political players.

Social Media and Online Marketing: It’s amazing how so many folks have become well versed in social media as a result of regular use. If you can attract them, younger volunteers can do an amazing job with managing social media accounts, online campaigns, and digital marketing efforts. You’ll need to ensure they remain on point by working directly with your Comms / Marketing team.

Basic Training: Some of the training that can’t be automated, especially those that require human interaction, can very well be handled by your volunteers. This comes in handy for some of your introductory tools knowledge and live Q&A sessions when you’re onboarding a large group of volunteers for campaigns and events.

It’s important to note that the roles of consultant, employee, and volunteer can overlap, and the right approach depends on your nonprofit’s specific needs, resources, and goals. A well-balanced combination of these approaches can help your nonprofit effectively address your IT needs and leverage technology to advance your mission, especially when you’re time constrained in how quickly you need to move to bring about change.

In fact, you’ll likely start by relying heavily on volunteers. Then, if you have sudden growth, you’ll want to hire and retain consultants as you prepare your funding and budget for key employment roles. Eventually, you’ll have staff for the day to day activities where you have the need to directly manage their actions, relying on consultants for occasional, key, specialized, and time sensitive projects, while engaging volunteers to complete grassroots activities that require an energized base.

Nonprofits have various needs when it comes to day to day operations of their organizations. A good Operations Management can make a nonprofit swim where others sink. The nonprofit’s operations management needs are essential to ensure the organization operates efficiently, effectively, and in alignment with its mission and goals.

Today, I’d like to highlight some of these key Operations Management needs for nonprofits:

  • Strategic Planning: Nonprofits require effective strategic planning to set clear goals and objectives, establish action plans, and allocate resources to achieve their mission. Operations management plays a critical role in aligning the day-to-day activities with the long-term strategic vision of the organization.

    Such planning certainly requires an intimate knowledge of an organization’s Mission and Vision, but also how the organization will be staffed, among other consideration:
    • What are the intended goals of the organization?
    • Who would be accountable for each of the goals?
    • Will the majority of work by done by volunteers or employees?
    • How urgent is the need to achieve the stated mission?
    • What’s the intended timeline for achieving those goals?
  • Financial Management: Sound financial management is crucial for nonprofits to maintain financial stability, transparency, and accountability. This is certainly important for any organization, but especially for nonprofits given the oft limited budgets, especially at the onset of an organization’s founding and early days of fundraising.

    When defining how the funds should be managed, the topic should also include annual budgeting, monthly financial reporting, donor stewardship, grant management, and compliance with financial regulations.
  • Human Resources and Talent Management: Nonprofits need to attract, retain, and develop a skilled and motivated workforce whether those are paid or volunteers. Operations management in this area involves recruiting, onboarding, training, performance management, and creating a positive organizational culture.

    This topics requires careful consideration if a large portion of the work will be completed by volunteers who may have different motivation and irregular availability compared to a paid employee.
  • Fundraising and Resource Development: A nonprofit is nothing without funding, much of which is through fundraising from small donors and institutional donations. Effective operations management in this area involves donor prospecting, relationship management, fundraising campaigns, selection of the right fundraising platform, and grant writing.
  • Program and Project Management: Nonprofits often run multiple programs and projects simultaneously. Think of every public event, fundraising project, software deployment initiatives and volunteer drives that a nonprofit may be engaged in.

    Operations management ensures these initiatives are well-planned, monitored, and executed efficiently, especially with the use of templatized repeatable activities and automating the triggers, reminders and notifications, and even marketing campaigns to achieve their intended outcomes.
  • Board Governance: Strong board governance is critical to the success of a nonprofit organization. Operations management ensures effective communication with the board, preparation of board meetings logistics, and adherence to governance policies and procedures. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point about Program and Project Management since much of the activities for Board Governance fits in with the repeatable activities that require the rigor and automation that a Program Manager can bring to the table.
  • Data Management and Evaluation: Nonprofits need to collect and analyze data to measure their impact, assess program effectiveness, and make data-driven decisions. Operations management in this area means defining the criteria for what data needs to be collected, in what granularity, with what precision. Once these are understood, then Operations must find, select and implement data management systems, conducting evaluations, and using that data to drive continuous improvement as well as report overall organizational progress to the organization’s executives and board members.
  • Technology and Information Systems: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous on data management. Nonprofits require efficient and secure information systems to manage their operations effectively. Operations management includes the selection, implementation, and maintenance of appropriate technology solutions.

    These technologies are varied and can be quite extensive, such as Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), Advocacy and Grassroots Engagement, Fundraising and Donor Management, Event Management, Volunteer Management, Data Security and Privacy Management, among others. For a more comprehensive list, see our future post on What Software Should Nonprofit Political Reform Organizations Consider.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: Nonprofits must adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, maintain ethical standards, and manage risks associated with their operations.

    This can’t be understated.

    Establishing an organization with your state and our federal government as a nonprofit is no easy feat. So, after all of the initial hard work, you don’t want to lose your status with either government entities since to do otherwise would mean losing much , if not all, of your funding, not to mention having to pay any fines and fees for late or lack of regular filings!

    Operations management involves developing and implementing compliance and risk management strategies, as well as defining who is responsible for regular filing, scheduling such activities and ensuring accountability for their completion.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Many nonprofits collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders to achieve common goals. Often times, such relationships are established by Board Members and maintained by your Executive Director and Fundraising staff. However, operations management can ensure smooth collaboration and effective partnership development by ensuring the right systems are in place for management of all related data and communication.
  • Communication and Public Relations: This is another factor that falls into what operations can effect with the right tools selection and implementation. Effective communication is essential for nonprofits to raise awareness, engage stakeholders, and build a positive reputation. Operations management includes the selection and fine tuning of the tools to manage the communication channels and the crafting and consistent delivery of these messages.
  • Volunteer Management: Nonprofits often rely on volunteers to support their initiatives, some more than others. Operations management in this area involves recruiting, training, and recognizing the roles of volunteers, as well as providing the best tools to them to become and remain engaged without having to learn complicated systems and processes that would otherwise hinder such engagement.

As I’m sure you’re beginning to see, Operations Management and Excellence are crucial for nonprofits to achieve their mission and deliver their programs effectively. It involves quite a lot of moving pieces, all of which require careful attention to detail and long-term vision for how the organization can achieve its north star.

I suggest starting by mapping out which of the above are your top three to five needs, then looking for the person(s) in or outside of your organization to help plan for and execute effectively on each. You can read more about whether to hire a consultant, an employee, or recruit a volunteer to fill these needs, weighing in the tradeoffs of each in our upcoming posts in our future posts.

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