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Non-profits that utilize technology find that it creates engagement, automates the fundraising process, improves emergency response time, and leads to higher levels of success.

Nonprofit Technology

“Before the Parade Passes By,” the great song from the Broadway smash musical, “Hello, Dolly,” talks about getting ready to move out front while there is still time left.  When it comes to fundraising, though, non-profit organizations that don’t jump on the technology bandwagon could indeed find that the donor world is passing them by.  In a world where it seems like donors hold onto every single penny with every ounce of their strength, how can you shake the money tree to get their dollars to fall into your coffers?

Donor and volunteers alike are pulled in multiple directions by the extraordinary number of non-profits looking to capture their attention.  It used to be that local charities only had to compete with each other, and the occasional United Way or March of Dimes appeal.  Now it seems that every local incident, national tragedy, or natural disaster spawns a monumental fundraising effort.  Even donors who previously contributed on a regular basis suddenly find they don’t have enough discretionary income left at the end of their paycheck.

Although certain organizers have no problem starting a GoFundMe page at the drop of a hat, it seems like the more established, traditional non-profits are stuck in a well-worn rut.  They send out the same address labels and yearly calendars, host the same fundraisers, and rely on the same celebrities, but really don’t pay too much attention to building strong relationships with their donor base.  Maybe they have a website, but they shun other techniques which could really raise their online profile and radically change the game for them.

But who says non-profits can’t use technology to raise awareness while doing good? Not Microsoft, of course.  Although they have a vested interest in every entity using technology, they make quite the case for using it properly.  In their white paper, “The New Imperative of Nonprofit Digital Transformation,” they lay out a convincing case for non-profits to follow the lead of their for-profit brethren by incorporating technology into the everyday mentality.

Using Technology Improves Donor Engagement and Participation

Although technology can certainly play a key role in making the non-profit function more cost-efficiently and can be used to keep tabs on volunteer activities, its main benefits can be seen in the fundraising arena.  Take a look at these key ways technology can help raise the level of fundraising to previously-unreachable heights:

  • Technology can automate the fundraising process: Even the most loyal of donors might be tempted to donate elsewhere if they don’t feel appreciated enough.  Instead of performing a mad dance to orchestrate a once-a-year fundraiser, technology can spread out the process of asking over the course of a year.  Your non-profit can create a schedule of events, build messages around them, and close with a giving reminder.  Schedule them into your online system to automatically send emails and update social media pages, and you’ll stay at the front of your donors’ giving queue. Once they take an action, an automatic email can be scheduled to provide the appropriate thanks.
  • Technology creates engagement:  Donors today like to be involved and know what their favorite non-profits are doing. Use regular Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest conversations to highlight your success stories, and show them how their money is being used.
  • Technology builds a data warehouse: Every non-profit organization has one-time donors, regular donors, and everything in-between.  The secrets to success are to make the one-time donors become regular donors and to keep the regular donors captivated.  But this can be hard to do if you don’t know which donor is which, how much they like to donate, or whether they have a preferred donation time period.  Collect data religiously and then use Customer Relationship Management, or CMR, software to build a donor database so your organization can study it, and communicate more effectively to achieve the best results.
  • Technology helps your organization respond in an emergency: Social media is the workhouse of online communications, and your organization can use it to stand out from other non-profits clamoring for a limited audience with limited funding capabilities.  Use your social media network to raise awareness for a specific activity, or respond quickly to a tragic event.
  • Technology gets your non-profit where your donors are:  Donors are not sitting at home waiting to get that next letter from you. They are out and about, performing a wide array of activities, and using their mobile devices to keep up with the rest of their lives.  Use technology to become a mobile-responsive organization, and you’ll be ready to connect whenever and wherever your donors decide they want to get in touch.

How Can Your Non-Profit Get Creative With Technology?

Using the fundamental donor and database management capabilities is the first step to ramping up your non-profit success, but why not get creative and use technology in other ways to accomplish your goals?  Some examples might be:

  • Offer online volunteer sign-up forms.
  • Accept online donor payments easily in multiple formats.
  • Promote online ticketing for events.
  • Sponsor a Facebook fundraiser.
  • Hold a silent auction online.
  • Create a cool app.
  • Automatically Tweet out the results of your next fundraising campaign.
  • Add a “Donate Now” button to your website and Facebook page.
  • Find a partner to promote a matching campaign, and provide updates on creative fundraising efforts on your social media pages.
  • Conduct a quick donor or volunteer survey.
  • Make it contagious. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, the awareness it raised, and the amount of money it garnered?  And it all started with an online video and a dare.  Get your donors involved in doing something creative online, and use the publicity to propel your non-profit to newer heights.

Hitch a ride on a wildly successful online non-profit event by getting involved in #GivingTuesday on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  Now in its sixth year, this event reminds us all of the importance of participating in acts of kindness and makes us wonder what we can give to make our world a better place.  Create your own local challenge under the #GivingTuesday umbrella, and then use social media to drive and direct requested donations of time, money, resources, and talent.  It’s the perfect way to get one-on-one with your donor base and build towards end-of-year charitable donations.  Register online at the https://www.givingtuesday.org/ website, and be sure to download the #GivingTuesday Toolkit for some terrific social media ideas.

Answer The Call of Technology Now

For much too long, technology has been used by only larger non-profits or for-profit organizations to increase communication, maximize effectiveness, and support profitability.  But there really is no reason why non-profits of all sizes should not carefully integrate technology into their everyday activities to help support their mission and ensure compliance with regulatory overseers.

There is no difference in the types of technology that are available to non-profit and for-profit organizations; the only difference is how that technology is utilized.  Non-profits can easily find cost-effective solutions that help meet their unique administrative, communication and service needs.

Michael Johnson , November 8, 2017