How Nonprofits Can Use App Integration To Impress Donors and Increase Impact

For years nonprofits have been buckling to the intense pressure from funders’ to spend as little as possible on overhead. This, however, leads them to report lower-than-actual overhead rates at times, or to cut overhead to the detriment of the organization.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review calls this a vicious cycle:

“A vicious cycle is leaving nonprofits so hungry for decent infrastructure that they can barely function as organizations—let alone serve their beneficiaries. The cycle starts with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much running a nonprofit costs, and results in nonprofits’ misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems—acts that feed funders’ skewed beliefs.”

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The Stanford Social Innovation Review’s research concludes that “taking action at the first stage—funders’ unrealistic expectations—could be the best way to slow or even stop the cycle.” However, this is easier said than done, as the unrealistic expectations of donors and trustees is an old and well known problem that is unlikely to go away soon.  Nonprofits have already sought to educate the donors on the necessity of administrative costs with low success rates.

Luckily, since the publication of the study by the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2009, another and more effective solution has presented itself. Technology, specifically the rise of cloud applications, has changed the way nonprofits can organize and run. Cloud based apps don’t require nonprofits to make upfront capital investments and they are easy to setup and use, thus reducing implementation and IT costs.

Which Apps Are Best For Nonprofits?

Apps help nonprofits (and for-profits) operate more efficiently, cutting administrative costs associated with keeping running the business on paper and spreadsheets.

Cloud apps are becoming cheaper and easier to use without technical knowledge. A 2012 survey found that 90% of nonprofits had adopted cloud technology in some way – from top apps like Salesforce, QuickBooks and Eventbrite that have targeted product offering or pricing for non-profits or fund raising, donor and pledge management apps like Raiser’s Edge and Click & Pledge that are created  for non-profit.

In the first installment of this series, I compiled a comprehensive overview of the top apps that are helping nonprofits today. While these apps have all been designed to be the best in their space, most do not offer an easy and robust solution for sharing data and working together.

The Case For App Integration and Automation

Nonprofits are involved in multiple activities that influence each other. The goal of these activities is to raise money for program expenses, and to do this efficiently. A typical non-profit will be involved in:

  • Event management
  • Marketing to raise awareness and motivate donors
  • Keeping track of the leads, the donors and donations
  • Sending out thank you notes and refine the mailing lists.

Cloud Apps like Eventbrite, MailChimp, Salesforce, Click and Pledge, QuickBooks, Survey Monkey are already helping nonprofits operate more efficiently. This is a big improvement from the days of spreadsheets and notes. But are they getting the full value out of these apps? The answer is an emphatic NO. Why?

  1. High Administrative Overhead – Data from the different apps are still being copied over by hand, still causing a ton of administrative overhead which these apps are meant to reduce!
  2. Poor Interactions with Donors – Your email campaigns via MailChimp, for instance, are much more effective when  connected with your fundraising app and the information about who donated what and when. This can eliminate those irritating emails to people who have just donated.
  3. Under-Utilization of Apps – Your apps are as good as the data they have to work with. Salesforce helps you communicate better with the leads and donors, but if you don’t have real time visibility on who has pledged and paid you may be having the wrong conversation.

Cloud Apps: Single-Vendor Suite vs. Best-of-Breed

To address these issues, some people have been promoting the use of an integrated suite of apps Jon Zimmerman, CEO and co-founder of Front Desk, said the number one way for small businesses to reduce operating costs is to invest in an integrated software solution. According to Zimmerman, “Instead of cobbling together a host of various components such as payment processing from one vendor, email marketing from another, scheduling from yet another, etc., look for an integrated software solution that fits all or most of their needs.”

Companies like Oracle and SAP promoted this same strategy to its customer base years ago, encouraging them to buy all of their programs from a single vendor thereby ensuring integration. Not only does this solution limit your choices when it comes to choosing the best software for your nonprofit, but it is not a practical or cost effective solution for people already using their choice of apps. Furthermore, most of the best event management, email marketing, donor management and accounting apps on the market are standalone.

Until now, there were only two choices – either buy all your apps pre-integrated from a single vendor or use the best app for each function at the cost of living with the integration issues.

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Workato’s Integrated Nonprofit Suite (WINS) was created to address this exact problem. It offers a pre-built set of common integrations and workflows between the best apps that nonprofits are using in each category. With the WINS, you can choose the best apps for each function from different vendors and make them work together just as smoothly as an integrated suite.

Cloud apps that work together seamlessly will help your nonprofit work smarter in several scenarios. Here are some examples of situations where integration can save your nonprofit a huge amount of staff time and money while making your processes more efficient:


Scenario: You are having a fundraising event where you will auction off donated sports tickets, art, and more. You use Salesforce for general donor management and are using Eventbrite to sell tickets to the art auction.

Integration: When you setup a new event in Eventbrite, you’ll want to set up a campaign in Salesforce.

As people sign-up for your event, you want to add them as members to your campaign and set them up as leads if they are not already in the system as a donor. With Workato you can keep them in sync, in real time using this recipe:

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Instead of scrambling after the event to manually upload the list of attendees into Salesforce, Workato’s integration will update automatically. The recipe will keep an eye out for attendees who already have a profile in Salesforce, thus avoiding duplicates or embarrassing errors such as sending a “welcome” email to a repeat donor.

Related Integrations: Your nonprofit could also integrate other programs when throwing events such as when a person buys a ticket on Eventbrite, they are automatically added to a Mailchimp list. Full Contact and RegOnline can be automated with Workato as well.


Scenario: Your nonprofit often runs online campaigns to fundraise and grow your email list. You use Salesforce as your CRM, MailChimp for your emails, and SurveyMonkey to send surveys.

Integration: When a new contact is added in Salesforce, or when they make a pledge or a donation, you should add them to the right list in MailChimp, or send them a survey. The results of the survey should be used to better target these donors with personalized initiatives. Are you efficient about these interactions? If not, here are a few ways to help you stay on top your donor outreach.

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Sending an email about your work in Kenya to someone who is specifically interested in domestic projects could hinder a great relationship. Nonprofits know how important targeted emails are in order to keep communication open and collect donations. However, gathering all the information you gather about each individual requires hours of manual data entry unless a powerful integration (like this recipe) can do the work for you.

Related Integrations: Wufoo, Constant Contact, A Weber, and more can be integrated for smarter of more efficient engagement with donors.


Scenario: Tax season is upon you and you track your budget and donations in the accounting app QuickBooks.

Integration: When a new pledge or donation is noted in Salesforce, it should also be noted in your accounting app, QuickBooks. This will keep your budget on track and make tax season a lot more manageable.

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Keeping your financial transactions synced between your accounting system (in this case QuickBooks) and the CRM system (Salesforce) is extremely important for your accounting and CRM folks. Without accurate and real time information syncs, donations manager may be having the wrong discussion and the accountant may be in the dark about the real state of affairs in your non-profit. Workato can keep all your opportunities, invoices, and payments updated in real time.

Related Integrations: Intacct, Infusionsoft, or Zoho CRM are other top financial and CRM apps that must be integrated in a similar manner.


Cloud apps have revolutionized how nonprofits do everything – from fundraising to reporting to marketing and more.

SaaS products have lowered the barrier to entry – and therefore the overhead costs – for nonprofits hyperconscious of their spend rate. Still, time and resources are being wasted transferring data among the apps.

Until today, non-profits could either go with an integrated suite of apps from a single vendor or use best applications for each function and deal with the lack of integration. A tough trade-off. With Workato’s Integrated Non-profit suite, organizations can now use best-of-breed apps and have them work smoothly with each other. You can have your cake and eat it too.

App integrations, once expensive and only available to those with advanced technical capabilities, are now available as a service for all businesses. They will increase nonprofit efficiency, by eliminating busywork (reducing overhead), and provide timely information for better decision making (increase scalability and growth), all leading to nonprofits reaching and helping more people.

Visit Workato’s website for more information on the Workato Integrated Nonprofit Solution.

This is the second installment in a three part series on how nonprofit organizations can utilize cloud apps to their fullest potential. Part 3 will give you real life examples of how nonprofits are using Workato’s integration suite.


Image Source : NHS nonprofit board meeting