Technology’s impact on the world of philanthropy

In the philanthropic world, we often use the word "impact" to describe the amount of influence a program is having on a community, and how those efforts have contributed to change. The term is used in a number of ways, but generally it illustrates the broader or longer-term results of a nonprofits action -- small or large -- and how it has contributed to a solution.

Ingenuity in technology is helping nonprofits show that impact and their solutions with more quantifiable data they can share with their constituents and their communities as a whole. Ten years ago, critics dismissed impact measurement as too difficult, misleading or simply not important. Today, Charitynavigator.org estimates 75 percent of charities measure some or all of their work, and nearly three-quarters have invested more in measuring results over the last five years. A transformation in the tools that enable nonprofits to measure the impact of what they do has raised the performance bar significantly.

As demand increases transparency in the nonprofit sector, accountability of nonprofit organizations takes the form of procedural accountability; providing information about how money was collected, how it was spent, and what services were funded by it. This disclosure of information builds trust in the organization and the technologies being leveraged to collect data. It is also increasingly seen as a way for nonprofit organizations to build support and communicate with stakeholders efficiently and effectively.

Making Impossible Possible In Engagement

The ongoing transformation of the nonprofit sector via technology continues to evolve the way organizations fundraise, market and manage information. Tremendous opportunities exist for nonprofits to use technology that supports their missions in a variety of effective and scalable ways.

The engagement strategy of a nonprofit should take into account that technology has fundamentally changed our behavior. People now expect to be in continuous contact with both friends and strangers to share their opinions about organizations, missions, causes, etc.

Nonprofits can now deliver services with technologies such as apps, SMS-based programs or websites. By solving a specific problem using mobile or web, they can serve far more people than direct contact alone.

These technology tools can also make a big impact by finding donors for an organization since contributors have to be proactively pursued over a period of time. Digital technology offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage new and current members in order to open up a dialogue, to understand the public’s interests and turn them into donors and advocates.

In general, the larger the gift, the more information the donor requires. Organizations can use technology channels to personalize their approach to engaging major donors and providing feedback.

This intelligence can be obtained via social media about individuals. For example, technology can track Twitter users and provide insights into where those users have made previous donations so that apt engagement strategies can be crafted.

Personalization of communications means that niche groups of supporters can be treated appropriate to their level of involvement and giving. This is where technology has been vital for some nonprofits in capturing a growing group of donors.

Millennials Being Heard

The Internet has become a megaphone for quiet voices; a place where everyone’s opinions can be expressed, disseminated and perhaps refuted. Millennials assume the right to offer an opinion on Twitter or Facebook about an organization, project or cause, triggering dialogue and debate on the Web.

Millennials want results, and they want to challenge and encourage others to give. They use social media to connect real world problems to solutions. They believe in spreading access to digital innovation, eliminating barriers to technology and promoting open sourcing.

Consistent peer voices now often carry more weight than critic reviews and traditional advertising.  Regularly tweeting, updating Facebook pages and posting videos by nonprofits produces effective promotion channels by creating a band of educated supporters that are doing the same.

The Time For Technology

Technology is the lifeblood of any organization. Nonprofits -- like any business -- need to be on the Internet and have access to the best technology available for their organization, in order to give the best possible service to their cause and society. Implementing technology for nonprofits is not easy. It can be costly and confusing, and organizations need to be cautious about wasteful duplication and returns for their investment.  However, when technology is implemented correctly, it automates tasks and helps nonprofits to do more with less, creating real ROI.

Measurement of an organization’s impact is more important than ever. Most nonprofits are started to help people or a cause; not wasting time and money working on barriers which keep them from meeting their mission. Technology is helping some nonprofits dramatically raise the profile of their brand and mission; its adoption is a competitive advantage and an increasing must for those organizations seeking to maintain relevance in a new era.

Image Credit:  Gunnar Pippel/Shutterstock

Erin Shy, VP, Product Management & Product Marketing, Abila, drives the vision and strategy for the Abila product portfolio to enable organizations to more effectively manage their missions.  Over the course of her career Erin has worked with hundreds of organizations consulting on various methods to elevate their fundraising programs and accounting practices using innovative technology. She has helped launch volunteer and fundraising campaigns at both the grassroots and national level. Prior to joining Abila, Erin worked in Accenture's Communications & High Tech Group managing enterprise software implementation projects.

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