Tools vs Strategy: Where do you invest first?

tools vs strategy

When you look at some of the fundraising challenges you are facing at your organization – what do you think is MOST likely to solve them? Better tools? Better strategy? Or Better content?

Maybe you know you need all three, but when it comes to investing your limited dollars – where’s the first place you sink your money?

With so many new tools at our disposal, I’m guessing some of you turn to tech first. There’s lots of reasons why this seemingly makes sense… it’s concrete, tangible, you go through a specific process to implement very visible changes in your organizations way of doing things. At the end of the day, you can say to your boss, “See!? We did something different!” And you’ve got a shiny new piece of software that should make a lot of things better.

But far too often, organizations rely on that new technology to solve too many problems. Problems that can really only be solved with a combination of tools, a clear strategy and dynamic content.

Organizations start by trying to solve a problem or a challenge – and when the process begins by trying to immediately fix something, the opportunity is missed to envision what you actually want an end result to look like.

Let’s say you are really unhappy with your peer-to-peer fundraising tool. You think the user interface is clunky, you have to spend lots of staff time answering FAQ’s from participants, and because your year-over-year fundraising dollars from these events are dropping, you’re willing to bet a reason for that is the tool itself.

So the next logical step is to find a new tool, right? One that integrates with your database, has a better user interface and makes everything so smooth and seamless that you can allocate precious staff resources to another project.

But if you jump from “we don’t like a tool and we think it’s costing us money” to “let’s just replace the tool and all will be better” then you may be missing some critical steps.

In fact, the best place to start may be with your peer-to-peer fundraising program itself. Have you taken the time to dig into why you are not raising as much – aside from the tool? Do you know how these events are moving your organization and mission forward – aside from the money they raise? Are they still the most cost-effective and absolute best use of your resources when it comes to raising funds? And most importantly, do you know what “turning the program around” and real success looks like? Do you know how you’ll measure it? And do you know when you’ll abandon it if it’s no longer working?

Taking the time to answer some of these key strategic questions means that you’ll not only end up with a clear path to success for your overall program, but you’ll also be answering some strategic questions that will actually help guide your decisions around technology. You’ll know exactly what you need out of a tool in order to be successful, and in turn this will make tool selection just a tiny bit easier.

So I’m curious – for your organization – where do YOU first invest your resources when you are trying to solve a fundraising or programmatic problem? When looking at your tools vs your strategy, where do you begin? What’s worked best for you? And have you gone through a strategic or tool-selection process that has been super successful? Let us know!

Jenn Smith

About Jenn Smith

As an executive for Donordigital and the Watershed Company, and a Senior Social Strategy Consultant for Adobe, Jenn has helped many organizations. A marketing and fundraising professional with 10+ years experience in lead generation, management and donor acquisition, Jenn’s in-depth strategic planning has developed creative communications and marketing campaigns for mission-driven organizations to help build relationships with clients, community partners, and diverse audiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *