Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.
Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz
New technology is consistently emerging and transforming how we interact with the world. Whether it be social media, digital media, data analytics, information technology or virtual volunteerism, nonprofits have a multitude of pathways to integrate technology into their organizations to improve and advance their social missions. Technology in the nonprofit sector is historically integrated more slowly than in other sectors, which stems from many nonprofit organizations having restrictive budgets and a more traditional or conservative mindset. However, if these organizations invest in technology adoption, they will reap the financial, operational and innovative rewards.
By integrating technology to automate and take over a variety of organizational responsibilities such as administrative tasks, a nonprofit and its employees can focus on the mission. When individuals are not bogged down with minuscule tasks, they can channel energy into the goals of the organization, creating a better work-life balance and overall morale. The turnover rate in nonprofits is higher than that of the public sector due to the lower pay and high hours worked, so finding ways that technology can alleviate some of that work for employees will in turn lower hours and keep people mission-oriented.
Social media, digital media and data analytics
Social media, websites, email and data analytics are great starting points to improve effectiveness in the services a nonprofit is delivering. Social media is a simple and inexpensive way to share the story of your organization, foster relationships with the community, maintain a consistent conversation and communicate the impact being done. Websites and email are means that almost every organization is utilizing, but the key is to maximize the capabilities of these tools. According to Nonprofit Quarterly, “Nonprofits overwhelmingly (88 percent) said their most important communication tools were email and their websites.” Nonprofits have this mindset because their primary goal through these forms of communication is to generate donations.
Data analytics is an emerging and incredibly valuable tool that will be beneficial for a nonprofit organization. Data let you to dive into a variety of things, first being donors. Data allow an organization to understand who is donating, why they are donating, their likelihood to donate again or increase their donation and much more. As noted by Ally Marotti in an article in the Chicago Tribune, “Data is at our fingertips now. Everyone is using it a little bit,” she said. “The ones who are using it effectively are the ones who are digging into who’s giving and why they’re giving.”
Secondly, data helps you track successes and failures within programs and an organization as a whole. It will open your eyes to what is working and what needs to be changed and improved upon. By knowing the areas in which an organization falls short, leaders and staff can learn from mistakes. Having data to support the work being done fosters an environment of trust and credibility with the public, stakeholders and donors, allowing them to build confidence in an organization – leading to continued support both financially and by continued volunteering.
Nonprofit organizations are always looking for new and creative ways to recruit and retain volunteers. By using social media, you can foster a relationship with volunteers and create an environment in which they feel appreciated and will want to continue to share their time and efforts with you. Organizations can also shift training, tracking and communication to a digital landscape where volunteers can do things on their own time and contribute in their own ways, making it easier on organizations to have tools easily accessible for their volunteers. It takes the responsibility off full-time staff to manage these tasks and allows for them to shift more focus onto their social mission. Additionally, offering the opportunity for virtual volunteering gives individuals who might not be physically able, are elderly or unable to commit significant amounts of time the chance to still be involved in the nonprofit. Having these volunteers do tasks for the organization online can help free up time for other full-time staffers and use their skills to improve operations within an organization.
Nonprofits have endless ways technology can be integrated into their organization that will simplify processes, provide insight into operations and allow organizations to have a deeper and more complete understanding. Technology is the way of the future and the quicker it gets integrated, the more successful, knowledgeable and impactful the nonprofit will be.
Alexa Schnoor is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Schnoor is an avid sports fan with a desire to serve her community and a hope to end sexual assault and domestic violence everywhere. Currently working as a Corporate Partnerships Activation Coordinator for the Dallas Stars, she hopes to use her Nonprofit Leadership and Management degree from ASU to marry her two passions: educate young athletes across the country on the meaning of consent, and teach them how to be allies for victims and change the stigma of behavior by male athletes. She also has a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and loves to travel, play with dogs and bake.