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Digital Trends for Nonprofits

16th October The Wheel organised Future Waves – a special event that brings together Non-for profits and IT experts and showcases how voluntary organisations and social enterprises can use emerging digital trends and technologies to grow their impact and support.

The event was very well attended and many insightful ideas and innovative processes were presented through Plenaries and case studies with an emphasis on sense of community, mutual support and sharing ideas to reach a common goal. Three issues seemed to be reemerging throughout the conference – undermined trust and charities; justification of directing finance towards IT; and lack of “know how” when employing digital to advance growth.  Luckily for all present those issues were addressed. Here is a 3 minute read and quick overview of solutions presented.


People that donate want to help, they feel the need to be involved. They should be able to know how their money is helping, they believe they are making a difference and, they definitely need know that they are greatly appreciated for it.  Recent scandals involving various charities and 30% of all funds missing are undermining trust. As a result people are less inclined to donate.  Complete transparency is one way to tackle this issue. Niall Dennehy from AidTech presented a game changing solution.

AidTech is a company that employs blockchain technology to achieve complete transparency while handling donations. Blockchain technology, to keep it simple –  transfers data while disabling anyone without permit to interfere with it. This data can be anything – money or an identity or various information. Or an identity connected to aid allowance. AidTech developed a platform that gives a digital identity (like an ID card) to people in need. Those digital identities are then awarded certain funds which are completely traceable to their source. The proteges can then redeem the funds in allocated places. Simple and doesn’t require any existing infrastructure, training or language skills.  Clients and partners can now distribute digital entitlements across the world and eliminate fraud and corruption.  AidTech even took it a step further and made it possible for donors to trace and see exactly where their money went, and even get a text message when their funding had been employed to help others. Complete transparency – for those who want it.

Justification of Financing

Funding is scarce, no charity has money to spare and donations are very difficult to get by. The question is how to present reasons for justified costs. Whether they are CEO salaries, or acquiring backup systems, or developing digital marketing, how to explain why they are necessary? Tricia Nolan from Volunteer Ireland and creator of I-Vol explained how Salesforce software was used to build the foundation of the biggest volunteer base in Ireland.Same software is used to extract information, acquire insight and also present value and reasons for further funding.

I-Vol is a network of 30 volunteer centers and information services that match volunteers to roles within community. They also support organisations on all aspects of volunteer management from recruitment, training to consultancy. In 2004 Ireland had 5 volunteer centers and absolutely no data base and no IT infrastructure. One of the issues the Volunteer Centre was encountering was that the center would manage to gather many signatures of people willing to volunteer but then failed to distribute where they were needed in a timely manner.  An approach was made to Salesforce to come up with a solution which would handle all the necessary information. Salesforce CRM allows you to award various tailor made metrics to each entry, such as how many hours people want to volunteer, how many times a week/month, in which area etc. Then it allows you to contact and distribute those entries as needed. Later on, survey tools and forms were plugged in making it one huge source of information. Today I-Vol has 8000 organisations registered, the system enables you to send emails, share information, best practices and ideas. Salesforce CRM also allows you to monitor many entries and all interactions with them, follow progress, dissect them, draw statistics and put them in good use. The Volunteer center did extensive research on the benefits of volunteering and found it helps with cases of mental health disorders, with employability issues and advancing personal competences when looking for employment. I-Vol managed to present the value of the work done in concrete data. The information shown is beneficial for many reasons. For example, current annual funding towards enabling volunteers to do their job is around 3 million. The number of hours volunteers manage to do within a year is around 840 000, when multiplied with the minimum living wage it amounts to 7.5 million euros. I-Vol was able to demonstrate the value of what they do and also provide accurate statistics to show they stand by their story.  So not only is the volunteer work helping in all spheres of society it is also making cost savings to the government.

The “know how”

Technology advancements are unstoppable, and some have already harnessed the benefits and seized the opportunities technology brings. Emily Duffy from Uplift and Darragh Doyle from Foodcloud presented great examples of employing digital software and hardware to reach their goals.

Uplift is Ireland’s fastest growing multi-issue campaign organisation. They are a community who tackles many issues and shares progressive values. They believe in people powered action. To tackle different subjects Uplift is exploiting all digital marketing at hand emphasizing that it gives you a wider audience, allows you to tell your story and the stories of the people you are fighting for.  It also allows you to respond quickly to current affairs and then direct peoples’ energies into fighting for a resolution.  Google spread sheets and Facebook are simple tools, used at  a right time they can gather more signatures than a carefully designed fundraising initiative would. Bottom line is not to be perfect but to act, digital marketing campaigns require time to give fruitful feedback. Create pilots, follow results, see what works and what doesn’t. The point is to get the message across, have impact, not to look perfect.
Another good example is Foodcloud – an online platform that links stores with a surplus of food to charities that will then come get the food and distribute to the ones in need. It is simple to use and helps reduce food waste. The technology behind it is a cloud server.

Software such as Salesforce, and Microsoft Office365 will save you time and resources and upgrade your system and organisations performance. Cloud technology can be used to set up platforms, share information, keep backups and your business going. Switching to digital is hard, there is no easy way around it but it’s a new tool that is now available and even though traditional marketing does produce results, best practice show that the combination of traditional and digital actually work best. You just need to get nerdy and dig in. However, there is some help available to get you going and it’s all free. Digital Charity Lab has a whole section on their web page – of discussions and best practices regarding digital marketing. Salesforce donates their CRM system to all charities and also has a section which will help you with marketing automation. Microsoft is giving Office 365 essentials as well as shared online storage, and there is also a portal which can be accessed with plenty of helpful information. support IT gives free consultations regarding IT infrastructure, GDPR compliance and best practices for business continuity.

For more information contact us, we’ll be delighted to share the knowledge and have an  IT requirements conversation with you.

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