Before we take a deep dive into the impact technology can have on nonprofits, I want to share a personal experience I had whilst working in an organization which fundraised for underprivileged children around the globe. Every shift I would randomly select a hand full of children to focus on getting them sponsored. These children had been dealt a bad hand in life and were in dire need of a chance at a normal future.
One of the kids stood out in particular: 6-year old Abdul from Bangladesh. I realized Abdul’s profile seemed very familiar because he had gone unsponsored for a few campaigns. He liked to sing and play with his 7 sisters. He was also one of the two water carriers of his household. Instead of going to school and playing like children of his age normally do, he would spend hours fetching water and providing for his family. I made it my mission that day to get him sponsored.
If you are familiar with fundraising for a nonprofit you know the time and effort it takes to convince donors of your cause. The whole day went by with no support for Abdul, until finally, at the very end of my shift, there was a potential sponsor. The joy I felt was soon foiled because the donor was unwilling to disclose their credit card information on a paper form. The donor left, the booth closed and there went another day without a sponsor for Abdul.
We pour our blood, sweat and tears into the causes we believe in, but if we are unable to gain the donor’s trust, our efforts go moot. The lack of data security and the ill-equipped technology stopped Abdul from getting sponsored that day. Sometimes the flaws in our methodology are obvious, such was the case here, however, often they are not. Regardless, these hindrances do affect the very reason for our participation: the mission.
Manual forms are an example of how technology enhancements are not a luxury but a requirement for the success of the organization. Every organization’s struggles are unique and dependent on the functionality and purpose of the nonprofit. Some nonprofits have outdated hardware, some don’t have an internal cloud-based system, while some don’t even need such services to begin with. It’s important to understand where a technology solution is required and where you can do without. Lack of awareness could mean the difference between a successful investment and racking up technical debt.
Getting rid of technical debt goes hand in hand with adapting to the newest technology, improving efficiencies and mitigating risks. It’s another term for the level of inadaptability of the current technology to the growth of the organization and its goals. As the internet of things grows, so do the donor demands and trends. Today, donors have certain standards for organizations they are willing to trust. They want a clear illustration of how their donations are being used. They also expect your digital footprint to be transparent and trust that their data will be secure, which is why it is a risk to fill out paper forms.
The argument here is that, once the organization’s technology reaches the tipping point, it is important to make changes before you end up consuming valuable time and resources to do simple tasks, deviating from the goals of your organization. To start the journey, it’s important to break down your processes and connect your existing technology to the purpose it’s supposed to serve. It is understandably difficult for nonprofits to incorporate change but very important to bring awareness to its necessity.
The truth is technology is changing very quickly and the inability to adapt to the latest trends could mean the end of your organization. Even in the nonprofit sector where everyone is trying to do good, we know there’s constant competition. We compete for the same donors and grants. We compete against our tight budgets. We compete for volunteers and resources. The competition is real and so should be the competitiveness to stand out and excel. Investing in tech is the way to do just that!
WE Charity’s digital transformation is a great example of using technology to scale impact. Like other nonprofits, WE Charity reached a point where their tech deficit was restraining further growth. They leveraged technology to expand their outreach to more people. By using tools such as cloud computing and virtual service-learning resources, they were able to share their WE Day content with more than 200,000 youth and increase school group participation by 40 per cent. Beyond the external impact, WE Charity was able to increase internal efficiencies to help focus on their mission. They leveraged technology solutions to reduce operational costs to only 10 per cent of revenue, reduce printing of school resources by 50 per cent, save 12 days’ worth of work hours and save thousands of dollars on inter-office travel. With this, they keep their admin rate low and dedicate their time and resources to what really matters.
The future of doing good is digital. You must seize every opportunity to make sure you’re doing the most you can to deliver positive social change. Leveraging the latest technology will not only make your job easier but will also show your donors how much you care. There needs to be champions like WE Charity who can pave a path for embracing technology to increase impact. Let the next be you.
Let’s make sure no kid like Abdul goes forgotten again.