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What's your problem? Or how technology can make your life easier

Anna Chistyakova looks at the common issues charities name when adopting technology and offers a fresh view on the transformation process.

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Here at nfpSynergy we have been mulling over a rather interesting, and widespread, paradox: while non-profits understand that technology is important in driving their future as a sector, they often don't see much use for it in their own organisations.

Our data shows that 96% of charity professionals agree that technology is important for their external communications and 91% feel the same about fundraising. This is not surprising considering recent success stories like the Twitter campaigns #icebucketchallenge or #nomakeupselfie.

Only a few years ago, campaigns like these would have been hard to imagine. Today, the clever use of technology allows campaigns to go viral in hours, bringing in sizeable donations without a big monetary outlay. Yet, these cases are rare. Charities, as a whole, are still proving to be slow in their adoption of social media and technology.

The reasoning? Non-profits name many barriers to this adoption - time, budget, unclear return on investment (ROI), lack of support from the Board - are just a few of them. The usual suspects. Yet I would argue that these barriers should be turned on their heads. I say that the more technology-savvy you are, the easier it is to find time, budget and support from the Board for new ideas. Let’s look into this further.

 

Skills

Technology has made the acquisition of new skills easier than ever before. For example, a five minute tutorial by Boomerang (a browser plugin that adds time-awareness to email) can help you increase your productivity when dealing with an overloaded inbox. Countless blogs can explain a myriad of things - from how to solve problems formatting in excel, to how to engage with different audiences.

For even more complex technical problems you can find a volunteer. By hiring a young graduate with the required skills you obtain a useful resource in both programming and the "what young people want" fields. Our research shows that young people donate just as much as those aged between 45 and 54 years old. It makes your young engineer a great asset to your organisation.

What's even better, there’s plenty of supply to meet demand. Surprisingly, one of the biggest websites for volunteers in the UK, Charityjob, offers more than 450 volunteering positions in Fundraising and less than 90 in IT.

 

Small budgets

Big charities often have the advantage as to early adoption simply because they have greater financial flexibility. However, technology provides a great opportunity for smaller charities to get their voice heard. It is now possible to target messages to a specific audience with only a small investment.

The secret to using social media platforms is to choose those platforms that are right for your organisation and use them to full capacity. Post updates regularly, be consistent and keep it rolling. Engage every day, respond to follows, shares and comments. Share relevant and interesting news via your channel. Explore everything a platform has to offer - for instance, YouTube has a non-profit section for call-to-action buttons.

Start small, but be social when going social.

My personal favourites are Unicef YouTube channel and RSPB Facebook page. I can always find something new and interesting there and so I return often.

 

Return on investment

It’s never easy to know if an investment is going to pay off so use technology to test out your idea. Discover if it works before investing a substantial amount of money and time on it. If there is one place where it’s possible to start from scratch – it’s online. Use your audience as focus groups, A/B test your messages and methods of communication.

Top tip – always measure your progress! Always. If the idea works - scale it. If you don't see the results, move on to the next idea. There will be many that don’t work, but you can always keep testing.

A good example of a charity that tested out an idea is The Pillion Trust.

This video cost the charity only £500 but, in a few months they had received £163,734 in donations, which represents a whopping 32,647% ROI. The video did more than just help them to raise enough money not to close the shelter, it also reminded the public about the issue in such a clever way that it easily converted them into supporters.

Had it not been a good idea, they would only have lost £500, a day of work, and would have started on another idea.

I believe that the use of technology is key to addressing the issues of a limited budget, a lack of time and limited human resource. Perhaps, what we really need is a passion for it, a trust in it. If we treat new technology as a solution to our issues, rather than continuing with the often clunky tools that we have been putting up with for quite some time now, technological transformation might become an exciting rather than a painful process.

Don't you agree?

Anna Chistyakova
 
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