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How technology is changing the way we look at nonprofits

Technology is changing the way we view things — even the way we extend a helping hand.

Charities, foundations, and nonprofit groups are slowly, but surely getting into the hang of getting digital help to keep up with a growing audience and possible benefactors. Nonprofit groups have definitely come a long way from the traditional donation-dependent framework to a tech-savvy entity that makes technology work for them.

In 2016, Lloyds Bank’s UK Business Digital Index report showed that only 51 percent of charities in the U.K. are capable of grassroots digital skills. Although small at that time, it was still a 9 percent improvement compared to 2015.

The increase proved to be a preview of things to come. A new study, the Status of U.K. Fundraising 2018 Benchmark report, showed that 83 percent of charities and nonprofit organizations now have a solid, working digital platform, while 45 percent now have the option to get donations via SMS.

Aside from digital donation platforms, charity groups and foundations also use digital technology for their marketing needs. In fact, 79 percent of charities admit to using social media for much of their fundraising endeavor. This platform is best represented by successful online projects like the “No make-up selfie,” where celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez posted photos of themselves without makeup to raise awareness and eventually, funds, for Cancer Research UK. The project raised £8 million.

A great advantage of the social media platform, along with other digital initiatives, is that it is now easy to track the success of projects or the foundation as a whole thanks to available metrics that help measure engagement and conversions.

Open to innovation

Aside from metrics, technology has also resulted in a number of innovations that have added significance to select nonprofit groups.

One example is the Royal Society for Blind Children’s Wayfindr app, which started out as a product that helped young, blind people navigate their way indoors.

The app is now referred to as the Wayfindr Open Standard, which provide a way for tech companies to create a working indoor audio navigation system. The innovation of the app basically opened the opportunity for the Royal Society for Blind Children to go bigger and work with tech giants like Google, which funded the app.

Another organization, Exponential, Inc. (XPO²), a cause-related technology marketing startup founded by French-American businessman, Dom Einhorn, has also simplified yet pushed the potential of crowdfunding via a unique digital platform.

Through XPO²’s website that basically promotes crowdfunding and impact investing, people who visit the site are encouraged to support XPO²’s partner charity groups through direct financial support and via “cashless contribution.” For the latter, the basics are simple: install XPO2 Cashless Contribution extension on your browser, choose a charity or cause that you would like to support on the website, and then choose to purchase products or services from companies affiliated with XPO².

It’s a very simple setup that intelligently incorporates crowdfunding with e-commerce, helping not only the nonprofit organizations and charity groups but also the corporate groups in XPO²’s platform. To date, XPO² has over 1,200 participating merchants, ranging from tech companies andcommercial giants to emerging markets. The whole setup allows them to promote a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, as well as save up to 40 percent in marketing costs.

The XPO² platform is part of Einhorn’s “fundraising disrupted” concept because unlike other NGOs who rely a lot on contributions and donations, applying XPO²’s unique impact investment opportunity allows charities and foundations to think and treat their group like a real business and in a way, also help themselves become more sustainable.

XPO² has also launched its own rewards-based crowdfunding campaign, which aims to raise $500,000. The funds will enable the company to support more NGOs, especially because it shoulders the marketing and PR costs of promoting their causes.

A new way of running charities

Currently, based on a Blackbaud and Institute of Fundraising report, online contributions make up only 14 percent of the total funding of most nonprofit groups and charity institutions (behind direct cash and check contributions and grants), but this could very well change in the next couple of years or so.

According to Blackbaud VP for Data and Analytics, Steve MacLaughlin, “We know that offline giving is still larger than online donations, but there is a clear shift happening. The most valuable and loyal donors are engaged through multiple channels and give both online and offline. Charities need to be responsive to donor channel preferences.”

This is probably why there has been a significant increase in nonprofit groups searching for chief digital officers. They know the need and potential of building an online profile, so most of these foundations are seriously willing to invest in such talents.

However these organizations aim to use technology to their advantage, one thing is for sure: the digital age has broadened the possibilities, not only for foundations to grow, but for people to show that they care.