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Disciples of change: How technology can benefit non-profit organizations

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Honesty is a discipline which has seemingly begun to lose its integrity. In a world of ‘fake news’, data incrimination, and political scandals, the deception we face on a daily basis is hard to ignore.

The recent dishonourable affair regarding Oxfam charity in 2018 has instigated public scrutiny regarding the trustworthiness of charities, and the credibility of how investments and donations are spent. It’s forcing the questions of how charities are run, how we interact with them, and how technology can assist in reviving an industry which is needed more than ever. 

Omnichannel power: How technology can benefit non-profit organizations

The demand for cures, vaccines, water, protection of human rights, and basic necessities are all still prevalent high priorities of non-profit organisations. In the UK, the charity Comic Relief in one evening in March 2017 raised a record-breaking 73 million pounds for national and international aid.

From fundraising to generating awareness through social media, donors want to be more integrated in the end-to-end process with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), and see their support helping impact a larger change. It’s not just about the one-time donation; it’s about what we can do to nurture long-term relationships to achieve long term goals.

With technology advancing and demand for global support increasing, charities need to keep on top of these changes by working directly with benefactors and corporations. For the ‘the market of love’ to start seeing large-scale impact and changes accommodated by technology, NGO’s can look to mimic the templates of success championed by businesses to achieve their objectives.

Customer-centricity drives success

Consumers are the driving force in changing how companies adapt to meet new demands, even enabling the rise of m-commerce. With social changes threatening ‘cashless nations’ due to contactless payments, it’s important to understand your customer – not just in what they want – but also how they want to pay.

In 2017, it was estimated that 14% of UK consumers regularly use their smartphone to pay, and this growth is mirrored globally, as well. There’s no exception for NGO’s to not provide donors with modern, alternative payment methods. By making donations simpler, cheaper, and more accessible through these initiatives, their markets will be broadened to new donors.

NGO’s can also utilize technology by creating apps. The UN’s World Food Programme released the app Share the Meal in 2005, allowing donors to instantly make micro-payments to feed a child for the day. Oxfam’s app goes beyond this with data information passed to the donor. After making a payment, customers can view a map showing where their money has gone, and can read case studies about similar communities. By enabling contactless payments and mobile wallets, doors are opened for donors to engage in more dialogue with their chosen charity and to get involved at the touch of a button.

As charities modernize collaborations with donors, they will reap large rewards: By simply making alternative payment methods available to donors, Barclay’s claims that charities could earn an extra £80m per annum

The turn of the century saw the birth of online donation platforms JustGiving and Paypal, which increased NGO’s global footprint. With around 99% of all NGO’s in the UK owning a website, of these 72% accept donations online. To further emphasise this narrative, over $3bn has been raised using JustGiving since it was founded.  

There’s a market for every payment out there, and when NGO’s adapt to these technologies, they’re more likely to succeed and grow. As we see businesses changing to keep on top of their customer demands, the same should be seen in third party sector also to accomplish more.

Digitalization breeds ingenuity

NGO’s positioning themselves online goes further than providing simple services for donors. The messaging and content strategy they showcase enables these organizations to market themselves to more people.

When businesses invest resources into social media platforms, customers sharing through word of mouth online gives them greater exposure. In the UK,  95% of NGO’s utilize both Facebook and Twitter, as well as 62% on YouTube and 52% on Instagram. These numbers show how integral digitalization is for promoting messaging and donations: These figures translate that 25% of donors are inspired to contribute by their use of social media.

Simply put: Digital strategies are at the forefront of every business to support and reach their customers, and NGO’s need to do the same. 

Partnerships support growth and change

Whether non-profit organizations are run at a local, national, or international level, all charities embody principles of team work and community. As NGO’s utilize online platforms to create social groups, they should also look to utilize larger corporations. Working with businesses provides charities the ability to reach more people and acquire more funding. 

Through partnerships, we can apply different levels of expertise on a global platform to meet objectives, incentive the masses, and address social challenges. Going beyond donations and branding by applying successful business models into different industries, we can see how long-term objectives can be achieved through meeting small-term goals.

Partnerships also reduce the silos between NGO’s and the government. In 40 years, statistics show that the third-party sector in the US has not had an increase in funding above 2% GDP. Non-profit organizations are starved of growth because of this, leaving the industry underdeveloped.

Due to minimal funding, charities cannot try innovative marketing methods to build awareness, meaning donations generated cannot increase. Adopting technology within these organizations, therefore, is important to not only reaffirm their place in the changing social construct, but also to answer to humanitarian needs where governments are failing. When charities utilize alternative resources, they will begin to prosper and expand the scope of support for their cause.

Without data, we cannot progress

The backbone of enterprises – which ultimately drive their success – focuses on integrating big data into their business models. Analytics and data are not new concepts, yet NGO’s have been slow to address them. With the rise of risk management models, data is becoming more protected than ever. It is estimated that around 45% of NGO’s use a CRM software to track donations and manage communications with donors and supporters. However, this still shows over a 50% gap of NGO’s not being able to utilize the fundamentals of businesses.

Consequently, NGO’s struggle to provide security for their donors on sensitive payment and data information, while also hindering a high-class customer experience and stunting organizational growth. Could corporations provide more to these organizations with database systems, or platforms at a discounted rate? Donations must be split between what is given to the charity and what is shared with the cause.

If NGO’s cannot access real-time data, understanding best practices for fundraising or donations cannot be seen to drive more traffic. Stunting growth from the start means we see an organizations weakness before we give it the chance to develop on its strengths.

Data will also provide more information via grassroots activities. This is exemplified by Coca-Cola, who through analysing real-time data, could see that local merchants were bulk buying and selling their product in remote areas, contributing to 90% of Coca-Cola sales across Uganda. By understanding their market and consumers, they could apply this elsewhere to further enhance sales and educate communities with skills to enhance their tradesman ship.

However, with data being unavailable to some NGO’s, the areas that need the most support and development cannot be reached by these charities. Not only does data support marketing on a higher level, but also within the community itself, giving the tools and education back to the people to enable them to grow also.  

We continue to see the successful impact digitalization has on globalization. With technology epitomising the forefront of every business strategy today, it’s not so much about if you have it but when to get it. With this new mindset for many businesses, we need to see how to make it more accessible and affordable for industries that require this information more than ever.

When applying these strategies to NGO’s, it’s proven to have worked. But to achieve long-term objectives, these need to become an innate part of their organization and not something which depends on who they work with, how they work or where they get the money from. With the voice of the people raising money for charities every day, we need to see how we can further support the cause and the nucleus of the organization, and not just the prevention.

It is the responsibility of all to support these organizations – be your part in the change.

Tesni Fellows
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April 16, 2018
Tesni Fellows

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