A discussion about the need for nonprofits to approach automation with careful planning, clear objectives, and a thorough understanding of their processes and data. Ellen Owens Karcsay, advisor at KarcsayGroup.com, shares guidance for nonprofits looking to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of automation and digital tools.

As the discussion unfolds, one of the key takeaways from Ellen’s insights is the need for nonprofits to pause and assess their automation potential before diving in. She emphasizes, “What are we really trying to do here? What are our objectives? What are our goals with quote unquote automation and embedding this into our day-to-day?”, pointing out the need to consider whether the processes being automated are effective and efficient in the first place. She stresses that organizations must understand their capacity and be prepared for the time and resources required for successful automation projects.

Regarding the initiation of automation, the discussion highlights the tendency for organizations to be lured by shiny new tools and platforms. Ellen cautions against blindly following trends and urges nonprofits to evaluate whether a particular tool aligns with their unique processes and goals. She emphasizes, “The idea of the potential and ideating, giving your teams the opportunity to innovate and ideate about what can be.”

The conversation also touches on the timeline and budgeting aspects of automation projects and Ellen recommends dedicating more time to the assessment process, acknowledging that implementation timelines often extend beyond initial estimates. She stresses that automation should be part of a broader organizational strategy.

The discussion shifts to understanding where data originates and its importance in automation. Ellen makes a particular point about the need for a single source of truth and highlights the impact of clean data on the success of automation processes. She shares her approach of mapping processes using “old school” sticky notes and involving cross-functional teams to uncover inefficiencies and redundancies.

The conversation covers not only financial costs but also the human impact, as Ellen advises nonprofits to plan ahead and allocate budget for implementation and ongoing maintenance, underscoring the significance of considering the people side of automation and managing change within the organization.