The right technology, used correctly, engaging the appropriate people, can help you be a more successful nonprofit manager or fundraising professional. Increasingly, younger people are using technology to gather information, connect, and even donate to the causes that move them. But, don’t forget about Baby Boomers; while they may not be the heavy users of technology that Millennials are, they’re still using and benefitting from a variety of tools that didn’t exist just several years ago.
One of the challenges for nonprofit organizations is to discover the apps and online resources that can benefit them in a rapidly evolving world. Another challenge involves being careful to avoid the potential pitfalls that technology can present.
To help you think a bit more carefully about deploying technology, Maeve Lander, CEO and Founder of PayNow, shares her thoughts below. PayNow for Stripe is a minimalist point of sales app, allowing you to accept credit card payments and donations on your phone. The Australian-based company serves clients in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
The companies mentioned in the post represent terrific examples. However, mention of these companies does not imply endorsement by this site.
You don’t need to be a technology expert to explore how your organization can best leverage technology. There are plenty of experts who can assist you when the time is right. However, you’re in the best position see how technology can benefit your organization and its stakeholders, including donors.
I thank Maeve for sharing some of her thoughts with us:
Technology is as integral a part of daily life as buying groceries, socialising with friends over a coffee or making the daily commute to work. In a recent study, the Pew Research Center reported that 74 percent of all online adults used social networking sites, and this number is expected to grow. One need only look at the massive fundraising effort and success for the Haiti relief fund, for which donors raised $43 million USD through mobile technology.
One significant trend is that users are increasingly accessing the internet by using mobile phones. In fact, as many as 63 percent of adult mobile phone owners use their phones to go online. The average busy person receives 121 emails per day, and checks their phone close to 150 times per day. Of particular relevance to charities, non-government organisations and fundraising organisations, 47 percent of Americans learn about charitable campaigns through social media or elsewhere online.
These statistics highlight a clear need for charities and fundraising organisations to ensure they are keeping up to date with online technology in all its forms, such as websites, mobile phone applications (or apps), email, software systems, and general online presence. If these key communication and operational assets are not utilized effectively clients, donors and other stakeholders may be discouraged from engaging with the organisation or making a donation.
This article explores some of the great benefits for charities and other organisations of using online technology tools and apps as well as some of the greatest associated risks and how to avoid them.
Cloud computing is essentially using the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. The most common cloud computing solutions are offered by Google and Dropbox. The benefits these systems have for charitable organisations can be dramatic. They are often simple, elegant, and easy to use which means a shorter learning curve for new staff and less time spent on IT-troubleshooting. They offer an organisation considerable efficiencies as staff can often use their personal devices after downloading the cloud-based application and the organisation providing authorisations.
Cloud-computing is also well suited to an organisation’s staff who do field work, as opposed to from a centralised physical office, as most systems simply require users to establish a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection. Invest in setting up these systems to make it painless and efficient for people to give their time and skills.
Centralising and Aggregating Data:
To analyse and make use of data with greater efficiency, a comprehensive technology platform can be useful. This system is usually termed a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and can help you keep track of donor communication preferences, manage the frequency of correspondence, and aggregate information. There are basic, yet elegant solutions such as ProsperWorks, which is a general CRM, right up to charity specific CRM packages like SalesForce or Bloomerang.
The benefits of CRMs is that they can help organisations learn more about more people and, therefore, engage with donors to better understand how they want to give, which events are most rewarding for them to be a part of, or for clients, how their needs can be met.
Clear and Easy Information Communication:
Informational apps such as the Red Cross app have been downloaded by millions of people. This clearly shows an added demand for critical information that either wasn’t being delivered, wasn’t being delivered as effectively as it could have been, or is in a format that is more in keeping with modern demands. Creating an informational app might be useful to communicate your organisation’s messages, aims, and goals.
On the other hand, such apps can be expensive to develop and might be limited when compared to publishing information on a website or issuing regular newsletters. Make sure you weigh up the costs and benefits of creating an app against other options that might be more economical or simply more effective.
For example, a useful approach for publishing extensive studies or documents can be that instead of bundling your impact story into one big annual package, break it into small stories shared on an ongoing basis. This can be achieved through newsletter services such as MailChimp where you can even share photos or videos of the people you are serving.
Making the Act of Donating or Easy:
This means making it both easy to do for the donor and easy to administer for the charity organisation.
Traditionally, donations to charities on an ad-hoc basis or at organised events have been in the form of cash which is quick, easy, and trouble free. Nowadays, cash is not as commonly carried and is becoming secondary to the use of credit or debits cards or direct online payments. Don’t underestimate this final step of securing the donors funds. You’ve done the hard work of establishing a connection, creating interest and engagement and signing them up to receive more information or subscription donations. You need to make the payment of funds just as, if not more smooth, transparent and as easy for donors as possible.
Fully tailored systems such as EventHero or EverydayHero can be very powerful and sophisticated. There are also slightly simpler ticketing systems such as Yapsody in the US and Trybooking in the UK and Australia. These systems can demand relatively high fees, although charities will often receive concessional rates. An organisation should also consider whether all the features of these sophisticated systems are required for a given event, fundraiser, or campaign.
Another option is to use a simple credit card payment app, like PayNow for Stripe, to receive donations or payments for events. Apps like this are often free to download, easy to install and use, and they charge relatively modest fees on a per transaction basis. One benefit of an app like PayNow for Stripe is that it can be used on multiple devices at numerous areas across an event.
Before your event or fundraising effort, think whether you need a portable system, pre-ticket sales or at event sales, and consider your accounting and reporting needs.
Depending on the nature of the charity involved, maintaining privacy can be on the top of the list of potential risks. There is often a perception that technology increases the risk that private information of the charity or its clients might be inadvertently released.
However, it is worth keeping in mind that the number one cause of data breaches is actually human error. The cliche example is the diligent office worker who creates a 30 character long impenetrable password, but writes it down on a label stuck to their computer monitor! In this regard, education and awareness of the inherent risks of technology and its limitations is critical to its successful deployment, the aim of which is to create business efficiencies and improve effectiveness across an organisation.
Cloud computing systems, by their very nature, utilise record keeping on off-site servers. If your organisation has legal obligations to maintain private client or customer protocols, ensure that you research whether the system you are interested in provides adequate guarantees and assurances over maintaining privacy.
Apps can also present privacy issues, depending on whether they require the user to input personal or sensitive information. It is particularly important to check that apps or services your organisation may use for processing payments use secure encryption methods to protect the credit card details of your donors or customers from being fraudulently used.
Fear the Luddite:
A less obvious risk charity organisations may face when it comes to using technology is a fear in the technology itself. There are often perceptions of risk that technology will somehow take over, replace human choice and creative thought or that individuals will be unable to adapt. This fear can stymie advancements and prevent an organisation from maximising productivity through the use of some wonderful advancements.
One way to avoid this pitfall is to pilot technology extensively before rolling it out completely across an organisation or on a broader scale. Elijah van der Giessen, Community Manager of NetSquared, an organisation that mobilises communities and technology for social change suggests that charities take a dual track approach by investing deeply in a core set of technology that enables you to more effectively achieve your mission but also commit to always running quick, low-cost experiments with new technology. This is a great take home message for organisations that might be sitting on the fence when it comes to adopting a new technology. This can be very easy to do with many apps being free to download and some software offering free trial periods.
Apps and other online technology can be wonderful tools for charities and not-for-profit organisations to streamline operations, better communicate and engage with clients and donors and can make the day-to-day practical side of accepting payments quick, easy and secure. In particular, the use of mobile technology is increasingly the primary way users find out about charities, engage with them and make donations. While there are real risks to using technology, these risks can be appropriately managed through education, research and with the help of some guiding tips discussed above. Above all, charities should not fear adopting new technology as the benefits can be highly rewarding.
That’s what Maeve Lander and Michael Rosen say… What do you say? •
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