By: Andrew Stanley, VP of Product, Phone2Action
When nonprofit organizations go looking for advocacy tools, there’s usually a tangible reason. Perhaps they want a feature, like text messaging. Or maybe it’s a modernization effort, with a goal of increasing engagement.
Whatever gets your organization into the market, solid integration with your existing tech stack should be a primary consideration.
How your CRM or AMS system shares data with your advocacy tools is important. It ensures that information about your advocates is captured properly and that your system is secure. It also increases efficiency by reducing the manual work of transferring data between systems, and allows your organization to see a holistic view of your relationship with supporters. You’ll know when supporters are donating, volunteering, attending events and participating in advocacy.
Perhaps most important, a solid integration solution allows your new tools to be implemented more quickly.
The Importance of Pre-Built Integrations
To ensure that your new tools communicate properly with your existing system, look for advocacy solutions that have pre-built integrations.
A preexisting integration is created to accommodate customers who want to make quick improvements. It is battle-tested and ready to use. All integrations take some time to implement, but pre-built integrations are designed for reliable, quick setup.
For example, thousands of organizations use Blackbaud Luminate Online for fundraising and marketing. The integration between Phone2Action and Luminate Online ensures that organizations engaged in advocacy can access powerful grassroots, fundraising and marketing tools that communicate with each other. They are also able to see holistically how supporters and advocates are engaging with the organization, so they can more effectively engage them. Organizations like the National Parks Conservation Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement use Luminate and Phone2Action together to create a best-in-breed configuration.
“Moving to a new system does not have to be a tectonic shift," said Jeb Ory, CEO of Phone2Action. "We see organizations do it every day. It’s one of the few things you can do to energize your program in a way that lasts.”
When advocates take action, such as emailing or tweeting a member of Congress, Phone2Action shares that information with Luminate, including basics like campaign name and date; the type of activity, such as email, tweet or phone call; and key segmentation data, such as tags or custom fields. The integration features a dashboard that shows the records that have synced and those that are pending. The result is a system with reliable data flow that can be configured quickly.
By contrast, systems that require custom integration can take much longer. It is true that a custom integration can give you more control over your final product, but it comes at a greater cost in time, money and increased complexity. Custom integrations are also unproven in real-world conditions. Building something from scratch means taking on risk.
How to Shop for Integration
If you are looking for new advocacy tools, here are some ideas to consider:
Begin with your CRM or AMS and find out what pre-built integrations exist. Using a system with a pre-existing integration can be your quickest path to operation.
Choose advocacy solutions that integrate widely. The best advocacy systems integrate with major vendors like Blackbaud right out of the box.
Ask your rep about how data flows into and out of the advocacy system. Avoid systems that require repeated manual work.
Get your technologists involved in the process to assess how your existing system will integrate the advocacy tools you want. Ask them to make a checklist of items that must be addressed.
Of course, custom integrations have a place in the software universe. For large organizations with a full tech shop, it may be a viable option. But customization is a long-term commitment. It takes time to build and then it must be supported for the life of the system. For nonprofits that want professional advocacy tools for this year’s election, a pre-built integration is almost certainly the quickest and most reliable path.