Nonprofit Technology: Building your tech ecosystem

What is a tech ecosystem?

Nonprofits use technology in many areas of their operation — from event management to online giving to email campaigns and more, nonprofits often have several different tools at their disposal for running their organization. Typical technology tools include:

  • Website
  • Online fundraising tools
  • Email marketing tools
  • Event management tools
  • Donor and volunteer CRMs
  • Payment processing systems
  • Donation or fundraising pages

The combination of all of these tools is called a tech ecosystem.

Tech ecosystems can be arranged in several different ways with an infinite number of different tools. However, there are a few different types of ecosystems that nonprofits typically use.

Nonprofit Tech Ecosystem Types

There are three main ecosystem types that nonprofits typically have. Each ecosystem has its pros and cons.

  • All-in-one
  • Integrated
  • Siloed


Many nonprofits seek to simplify their tech ecosystem by finding an all-in-one solution for all of their technology needs. Common all-in-one platforms include:

  • Neon
  • Bloomerang
  • Salesforce
  • Blackbaud


  • Tool reduction: All-in-one solutions allow nonprofits to reduce the amount of tools they need
  • Data centralization: with one system, data remains in one accessible location


  • Lack of specialization: Typically when a system offers an all-in-one solution, it doesn’t excel at particular tasks
  • Risk: An all-in-one solution can put a nonprofit at risk — if that system is sunsetted, or encounters system failures, their data can be lost


The integrated ecosystem is built by selecting tools that are configured to communicate effectively with each other. Whether these integrations are native to the tool or must be custom-built using an API or Zapier, the key is that data is effectively pushed from one product to the other automatically.

For example, a nonprofit might decide to have their website on WordPress, use Salesforce for a CRM, and have an integration setup to push people who fill out contact forms automatically into their Salesforce database.


  • Top-rated tools: With the integrated approach, nonprofits can hand select their favorite tools for specific organizational needs


  • Steeper learning curve: By selecting different tools to integrate with one another, organizations may find it hard to learn the ins and outs of each new tool
  • Risk: Because integration relies on the synchronization of several tools, this tech ecosystem model can be vulnerable to bugs or lost connections
  • Price: Depending on the tools a nonprofit selects, the integrated model might be a bit more expensive


A siloed ecosystem is one in which various stand-alone tools & products are being used to fulfill a nonprofit’s needs. However, unlike an integrated system, none of these tools are connected.

Most nonprofits do not actively choose to build a siloed ecosystem — it’s typically the first stage for early nonprofits that are finding tools to fulfill their needs.


  • Easy set-up: Simply adding new tools without considering their compatibility with existing ones is quick and easy, and it can get nonprofits up and running
  • Top-rated tools: With the integrated approach, nonprofits can hand select their favorite tools for specific organizational needs


  • Manual synchronization: Data gathered or managed in each tool must be manually imported into other parts of the system.
  • Inefficiency: With a siloed system, organizations run the risk of having messy or incomplete data
  • Error-prone: Given how labor-intensive the siloed system is, nonprofits often run into errors that tend to compound over time if not resolved

Which nonprofit tech ecosystem is right for you?

When considering what kind of tech ecosystem is right for your organization, it’s crucial to consider a few key factors:

Setup Time

When selecting tools and configuring your tech ecosystem, a big obstacle is the setup process.

An all-in-one solution is going to require more setup time before it is able to be fully up and running. The onboarding time for one of these tools can take several weeks, whereas a simple siloed system might only take an afternoon.

Setup Costs

Along with additional setup time, more comprehensive all-in-one solutions may require hiring an expert or paying an onboarding fee to the software team in order to get everything hooked up.

Ongoing Costs

Each ecosystem type’s ongoing costs can be measured differently. For the all-in-one solution, the monthly subscription costs for the single tool may be higher than the cumulative costs for each individual tool being used for the integrated or siloed solution.


The all-in-one solution typically leaves the smallest room for errors or mistakes when it comes to day-to-day management.

Given that all of the tools and data live in the same system, it’s unlikely that things are forgotten or missed. The siloed approach on the other hand is likely to lead to missed opportunities or mistakes given that it falls on administrators to do much of the manual work required to ensure data is being properly stored, updated, and transferred between tools.


As mentioned earlier, the biggest advantage of the integrated or siloed approach comes down to features. Given that each tool in these ecosystem types specializes in solving a specific problem, they are able to invest in the development of more features. An all-in-one tool may indeed provide you with a solution for email marketing, however, it may not have the same level of customization as a tool like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.

It’s critical that your organization understand what features are essential and which are just “nice to have” before committing to an all-in-one tool.

Final Thoughts

The most effective nonprofits understand how to leverage technology to increase operational efficiency, reduce overhead costs, and engage constituents.

Understanding the different types of nonprofit tech ecosystems can be used to help your organization make more impact than ever before.

Have questions about setting up your ecosystem? Contact us to learn more!

The Complete Guide to Investing in a Website