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Here’s How Tech Savvy Nonprofits will Succeed in 2023 and Beyond

by Meghan Dankovich, CEO at Charity Dynamics and Jamie Bearse, CEO at ZERO Prostate Cancer

The nonprofit world is a resource-constrained environment. Keeping up on technology seems out of the question for most. Sometimes spending on digital and technology resources are among the first line-items to slash during budgeting.

Nonprofits that can zig when others zag by effectively using tech are quicker to succeed in fundraising and building communities. Tech-savvy organizations strengthen belonging to a cause and unite their communities with ease and efficiency. Here’s how those nonprofits are doing it in 2023:

Donor Centers

We are increasingly living in alternate digital realities. It makes sense that when we click on a cause we care about that we should feel at home. Building a donor center where constituents can: log in with ease, receive a personalized welcome, and manage their level of support of the cause they love makes them feel like an acknowledged member of your community. Think about it: We’re on our phones all the time and have come to appreciate a one-stop hub that makes our transactions frictionless. In a click or two we want to see our total engagement history with the organization. Know how much we have raised to date. Control how often and how much we give moving forward. And have total autonomy over the flow of messages and updates we receive. When we can seamlessly click on our favorite charity’s website and interact with a true donor preference center that recognizes us and empowers us in this way, we are delighted by the experience.

Virtual Events

You can never go home again. Charities that thrived on live events in the pre-pandemic days will see success now but only by integrating creative and engaging virtual events into their calendars as well. Organizations that are new to events must build both. Let’s face it – 90 percent of TV is boring. A growing number of us have grown up with the internet and have been immersed in the metaverse and find it engages us on a personal level. Organizations that can produce interesting virtual events for constituents where we can personally connect with others will succeed in propelling their missions forward. It’s done in a couple of ways: 1) Hybrid events where we reach cause supporters in-person and at-home. 2) Fully virtual events like concerts, comedy shows, auctions, gaming, and even interactive sessions like a coffee hour or a support group. Either way, virtual experiences will continue to grow in popularity and nonprofits that can meet people where they are will draw in new supporters and retain those who can’t attend in-person events.

Project-Based Fundraising

Always start with authentic story-telling that makes an emotional connection with others who are drawn to the cause but also show the impact. Setting up project-based fundraising with a finite ending simplifies the process for donors and fundraisers. This approach is especially worth considering for organizations that attract a lot of small donations. Project-based fundraising enables these donors to see the impact they’re making instead of getting lost in a sea of donations. Organizations like Donors Choose, Operation Homefront, Charity Water, and others continue to grow and reshape the way we help teachers, and veterans, as well as our behavior toward sustainability. The donors of organizations like these are given very clearly defined needs and are invited to share in the success of closing the need gap.

Artificial Intelligence

When taking an AI like ChatGPT for a “test drive”, we were shocked by its capability. OK, Jamie was more than Meghan because this is her industry but utilizing AI is becoming far more than just having a chatbot sit on your homepage. AI systems can help nonprofit organizations make it easier to communicate with donors by automating repetitive tasks (freeing up staff to work on programs or talking with donors), personalizing electronic communication, and analyzing data to gain insight into donor trends and behavior. We asked ChatGPT “How AI gains insights into donor behavior” and it said, “Predictive modeling: AI algorithms can analyze past donor data to identify patterns and predict future behavior. This can help organizations identify which donors are likely to give again, what type of campaigns are most effective, and how much a donor is likely to give”. It also said, “sentiment analysis: AI can analyze the tone and sentiment of donor communication, such as emails or surveys, to understand their opinions, needs, and expectations. This can help organizations tailor their communications to better meet the needs of their donors.” AI does have ethical concerns and there are numerous instances of AI bias. Like most business leaders, we want government regulation to define and prevent AI bias and educate and train data scientists to recognize and root out AI bias. Considering all of it is happening sooner than we think, we’d be remiss to not give consideration to what it could mean for our space.
Cybersecurity Assessments
Since we’re talking about technology, it’s worth bringing up that most nonprofits don’t have a directors and officers insurance policy that covers cyber attacks and lack documented procedures to manage a cyberattack. Assessments that scan your organization’s IT for weaknesses are critical so we can identify and fix them before someone can leverage them. Technology firms go through these assessments as well – as you should expect them to – but social good organizations in particular must put a high value on integrity by keeping donor information safe and secure. Those are valuable relationships you don’t want to risk. There is no excuse not to. Costs of these types of assessments are less expensive than one may think and there are a growing number of volunteer resources available to help organizations protect their data.
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