On the whole, nonprofit organizations are spending more on interactive solutions this year. And with good reason. Integrated websites are elevating donations to holistic mission experiences. Fundraising platforms are empowering donors to support the charities they love in a manner that suits them best. Mobile and social developments are reaching more constituents and driving increased engagement.

But who is directing the strategy and how are they deciding what to prioritize? Money doesn’t grow on trees after all so strategic investment is paramount.

The Interactive Investment Benchmark Study from Charity Dynamics shows that in about a third of organizations (37%), interactive budget ownership goes straight to the top, being owned by the executive director/CEO.  Ownership by the fundraising (22%) and marketing (14%) departments is also fairly common.

When you dissect the data by organization revenue, the medium and large organizations ($5 million or more annually) tend to structure budget ownership differently. In these organizations, the executive director or CEO is less likely to own the budget (17%). Marketing, IT/operations and the CIO/CTO are more likely to own the budget at 25%, 16% and 10% respectively. Interestingly, ownership by the fundraising department holds steady at 22%.

In terms of how decision makers are selecting their solutions, there are three leading approaches.

  • Priority Rankings: A list of requirements are collected formally or informally and prioritized in to A, B, or C-level importance. Features of potential solutions are weighed against these rankings with or without vendor participation. Used by 25% of respondents, this is the leading method of evaluation.
  • Competitive Bids: Generally a request for proposal is issued detailing solution requirements and needs. Vendors are invited to respond with proposals and pricing, possibly with product demonstrations to convey solution capabilities.
  • ROI Models: Often a component of the selection process, potential and expected multi-year return on solution adoption is projected and weighed against total cost of ownership. This includes not only solution expense, but adoption costs that may include deployment, staff training, new hires and more.

These findings and trends show a growing sophistication in decision making. This is good for everyone: organizations make more strategic choices, use of technology is more effective and constituents are better served through technology.

Learn more about interactive investments in our on-demand webinar on the study’s key findings.

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Originally published in Fundraising Success on May 14, 2014