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2021 Outlook: What’s Ahead for Nonprofits Featured

2021 Outlook: What’s Ahead for Nonprofits Elijah Hiett

If one thing is for certain, it’s that 2020 has been a year full of uncertainty. With the challenges of a global pandemic, economic doubt, and political upheaval – the past year has brought tremendous change. As societal and financial trends continue to shift through 2021, technological updates will be crucial for nonprofits looking to achieve their mission and hit their goals. After an extremely challenging year for the industry, nonprofits must look to improve efficiency, cut costs, and maximize funding—here’s how one nonprofit thrived with all the challenges presented by COVID-19 and how technology will continue to support the industry in the year to come.

Innovation Will Continue to Improve Efficiency and Stewardship  

While many nonprofit leaders have already turned to data to help inform their decision-making and show evidence of impact, much of the technology they currently have in place is outdated and actually hampers their ability to streamline processes. With the increasing need for financial performance in 2021 to sustain funding and impact, nonprofit leaders must turn to innovative software solutions to make it possible to overcome the uncertainty of another year with COVID-19.

For example, this year, like many nonprofits, the Children’s Hunger Fund, a nonprofit working to combat poverty and food insecurity, faced COVID-related operating challenges. However, while they made the transition to remote work, canceled major fundraising events, navigated volunteering restrictions, and conducted their audit virtually, the Children’s Hunger Fund was able to keep business running as usual due to their investment in a cloud-based financial management solution.

The pandemic made the Children’s Hunger Fund’s audit process a unique one this year, as it was done virtually. But, with the help of their cloud-based financial management solution, Sage Intacct, it proved to be the smoothest audit they have ever conducted. With the ability to run reports on the fly, easily track information in one system and have remote access via the cloud, it was an extremely efficient and painless process, that was also two weeks quicker than the previous year.

Automation will Help Cut Costs and Allocate Funds for the Cause

According to a recent survey, nonprofit leaders ranked automation among the top benefits of next-generation software solutions because of the benefits automation offers around streamlining workflow for repetitive tasks such as purchase requisitions or bills that have to be reviewed and signed.

For example, Children’s Hunger Fund was able to streamline much of their reporting work due to automation. Roger Bayramian, CHF’s controller, noted: “Moving to a modern cloud accounting system with Sage Intacct, we were able to eliminate manual errors and increase productivity, cutting down more than 40 hours per month of manual tasks and freeing our finance team’s time for added program analysis and strategic planning.”

The more nonprofit leaders can automate certain tasks in the new year, the more funds they will be able to dedicate to their cause. The adoption of automation technologies will be crucial for nonprofits looking to cut costs, survive the challenges presented by pandemic, and thrive in 2021.    

Measuring Outcomes will Maximize Funding

As the competition for donations continues to heat up, illustrating program and service impact, especially fiscal accountability, will be crucial for nonprofits. Outcome metrics quantify a nonprofit’s return on mission, through a mix of indicators, data collection, analyses, and reporting across multiple dimensions.

For example, this year, multi-dimensional reporting capabilities enabled Children’s Hunger Fund to easily track and analyze when and where each donation is spent, giving their donors an increased sense of transparency and accountability.

With shifts in donor giving due to the pandemic, tracking and sharing metrics that define success and show good stewardship will be crucial for nonprofits looking to build confidence with existing and prospective donors in 2021.

Looking Ahead

Throughout 2021, nonprofits will continue to face plenty of uncertainty and feel the effects of COVID-19. With uncertainty around revenue, larger demand for service and programs, increased competition for donations, among other challenges, investing in innovative, financial management and technological solutions will be vital for nonprofits looking to thrive in the year to come.


Joan Benson, Director of Nonprofit Industry Marketing for Sage Intacct

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