Illustration of writing an article on a laptop

ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How can nonprofits use technology to increase their impact?

According to 2019 research by Meredith Kavanagh, nonprofit leaders believe that some of the top investment priorities for their organizations that year were more advanced technology (e.g. CRM system, online fundraising platform, etc.) and a stronger focus on online fundraising. However, according to Yale Insights, when it comes to nonprofits, only 11% view their organizations’ approaches to digital as highly effective.

According to Mark Hrywna, mobility is among the top drivers and benefits of the cloud. Mobility is huge, enabling a mobile workforce with nonprofits having people in the field, and collecting data and interacting with the data and apps anywhere. That is going to be one of the greatest benefits to nonprofits that they do not yet realize: the ability to mobilize using the cloud.

Clearly there is a gap between what nonprofit organizations identify as priorities and how they rate their effectiveness with technology. Technology can be used for a variety of tasks across organizations to help them increase their impact in the sector and the communities that they serve. The Chronicle of Philanthropy states, “The nonprofit sector has not yet figured out how to navigate these thousands of new tools. But it should, because they’re incredibly powerful. They can nudge up your ability to get stuff done. Someone can make a 10 or 20 percent improvement in productivity, and when you start to add those numbers up, they really matter.”

Four recommendations for nonprofits that are ready to increase their impact by using technology:

  1. Nonprofit leaders, including board members, must benchmark their organization’s current technology effectiveness through the use of NTEN’s free benchmarking tool and agree to work on the areas of growth that are identified and to continue using the tool to measure progress.
  2. Review their strategic plan and incorporate goals that are tied to increasing specific types of technology that will further the mission of the organization and increase the impact of the work that they do.
  3. To commit to expanding the use of modern technology, leaders must create a vision that includes the use of technology. Use transformational leadership traits such as being a role model for the use of new technology, survey organization staff to identify training needs, familiarize themselves with the tools they are already using, and get comfortable with and create policies and procedures that include the use of technology.
  4. Gain staff buy-in. Yale Insights states, “Because it is going to involve culture change, leadership is going to have to come from the top. It’s going to involve pushing people places where they’re not necessarily comfortable. Nonprofits need leaders who are willing to take these risks and to understand the value it will have over the long haul.”

Angie Moore found that, “By 2020, your customers will be managing 85% of their personal relationships online. Nonprofits must embrace social media 100%—but not just as a communication or fundraising channel similar to others. Marketers and fundraisers need to think of social media as a growth channel, a multi-generational channel, a referral/word-of-mouth channel, a brand reputation channel and a channel to create real dialog versus just talking to constituents. Nonprofits should be highly encouraged to facilitate the use of new platforms of service delivery to increase their impact.”

Alexandra Oropeza earned her master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management from Arizona State University in May of 2020. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from ASU. She is a program director at Child & Family Resources, a nonprofit organization in Arizona. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time gardening with her 2-year-old daughter, reading, and volunteering as a Regional Council Member of the Northwest Maricopa Council for First Things First Arizona and as a Steering Committee member of the Health Improvement Partnership of Maricopa County.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog