The Connected Nonprofit: Using Technology to Manage Multi-Chapter Organizations

For many nonprofit organizations, making programs available to a broader audience through multiple, dispersed chapters is a great idea, but the logistics are often challenging.

For many nonprofit organizations, making programs available to a broader audience through multiple, dispersed chapters is a great idea, but the logistics are often challenging. Within multi-chapter organizations, information and methodologies are commonly siloed within each particular chapter, meaning each is often using its own software, tech stack, or set of spreadsheets to manage everything from volunteers to grant applications to donor relations and fundraising.

This is part of what makes multi-chapters succeed – each chapter finding distinctive ways to work while catering to a regional segment, but it’s also what makes them difficult to manage. The disconnect between chapters creates inconsistencies across the entire organization.

However, when nonprofits can find ways to connect chapters, and when everyone is operating from one source of truth it can improve reporting, outreach, collaboration, and much more.

Here are just a few ways in which using technology to connect multiple chapters can drastically improve the overall operation of nonprofit organizations.

Provides personalized and streamlined volunteer and member relations

Volunteers are vital to the operations of many nonprofits, and members, of course, are the reason nonprofits exist in the first place. Both are the lifeblood of organizations.

However, managing and sharing volunteer and member data is by far one of the biggest challenges multi-chapter organizations face. Nonprofits with multiple chapters are often stuck sending data files back and forth, but never achieving data synchronicity. Who’s a volunteer? Who’s a member? Who attends what events? This alone is reason enough for multi-chapters to consider a connected database platform.

Implementing a universal platform across all chapters helps organizations maintain basic volunteer and member information universally, while also providing easy access to staff assignments and interactions. For example, a nonprofit client management platform like Salesforce can allow volunteers to sign up online and request specific jobs virtually, helping organizations track everything in one, centralized platform.

Ultimately, cross-chapter connectivity improves communication across the entire organization and reduces the need for coordinators to track down and organize volunteers.

Using a connected platform also allows for greater accessibility and management of applicants and members, and the critical data they provide like demographic information or survey results that can be used across to inform important decisions –– at the local and national level. This can also provide nonprofits with a clear view of overall performance across all chapters.

Supports outreach and fundraising tactics

For nonprofits, raising money to support a mission is a never-ending process. There is always a constant push to acquire new donors while maintaining relationships with existing ones. Both require a significant amount of effort, focus, and strategy.

A textbook on fundraising by Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang notes that one major reason donors stop giving is that they perceive other nonprofits as equally or more deserving. Fundraising practices and strategy have a lot to do with this. When donors move from interested and engaged to distant and detached, nonprofits will likely spend more time and more resources trying to replace those contributors as they lapse and move on.

Using a centralized donor relationship management platform to manage critical donor demographic and personal information can help support outreach and fundraising tactics across the entire organization. Organization-wide systems can also assist in reporting the “seasonality” of fundraising and how successful efforts are over time. Overall, according to Salesforce,  using an integrated platform has proven to improve donor retention rates by more than 30%.

Additionally, as it relates to applying for grants, a connected platform creates transparency into applications across all chapters, eliminating redundancies and providing organizations the ability to pull and provide accurate data to potential funders.

Cultivates consistency and collaboration

One of the biggest challenges of managing multiple chapters across a nonprofit is getting everyone on the same page. Even organizing volunteer activity becomes overwhelming at times.

Despite being formed under the same umbrella, cultivating consistency and collaboration within multi-chapter organizations is a top challenge for most nonprofits –– large and small. Nonprofits with multiple chapters are often stuck sending data files back and forth, but never achieving data synchronicity. Those using a centralized system like Salesforce, on the other hand, tend to realize greater consistency and collaboration across the organization with chapter leaders often sharing best practices with one another.

Improves overall reporting and data visibility

Nonprofits rely heavily on reporting to highlight the success and effectiveness of the organization. Not only do these reports provide a more personal look at the work performed by the organization, but they help donors understand how their contributions fit in with the bigger picture.

The problem for many nonprofits with dispersed chapters is that many are using a multitude of programs and methods to maintain data and create reports, leading to inconsistencies, siloed information, and an inaccurate picture of the organization’s performance.

With a connected organization, data and reports are no longer simply compiled, stored, and contained within individual chapters. With tools like Salesforce, it makes it easier for individual chapters to consistently report on impact, and easily track performance in a single dashboard, whether that’s at the national or chapter level. This level of insight allows nonprofits to better track what’s working at the chapter level and consider replicating it organization wide. It’s also key for staying on top of trends and informing any necessary pivots.

A single, connected platform will provide chapters the tools to manage their own databases while also coordinating with organization leadership. Finding one that is both user-friendly and configurable will make growing membership, training, donor relations, fundraising, and communication much simpler to manage. And it can transform an organization for the better.

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