How Non Profits Use Technology


Nonprofits apply technology in a number of areas and appreciate its application in communicating with stakeholders, and in raising funds.

The 2019 Global NGO Technology Report makes for interesting reading for the excellent and voluminous data about how nonprofits (or to use their term – Non Governmental Organizations or “NGOs”, I’ll use the terms interchangeably) use and regard technology in communication and fundraising. (You can read the complete report here.)

What makes for even more interesting reading is the description of the differences in the use of technology and the differences between regions.

For example, globally five tools were rated the most ‘very effective’ or ‘somewhat effective’ in communicating and fund raising by respondents. Websites were rated ‘very effective’ or ‘somewhat effective’ by 86% of respondents; followed by Social media with 84%, Email updates with 82% and Videos and Case studies with 81% and 76% respectively.

Take a look at the survey results below:

Whats fascinating is the rating of different tool – Websites and Social media received almost the same scores. Websites are a tool for communicating with inward-bound respondents, while social media is a shout-out. Similarly email updates, a mature technology considered a ‘legacy’ tool received similar scores to social media and videos – both technologies that emerged a generation after email.

What this implies for nonprofit operating models is the need to have communication and fund raising capabilities across a range of technologies of different vintages, and not just with the latest. This can also be advantageous since the cost for NGO of using these more mature tools could be lower than that of their more technologically advanced corporate brethren. In this short post I wont get into how to define the choices for an NGO, but suffice to say it would depend on the strategic direction that the NGO sets in terms of programs and donors.

Another fascinating aspect which the Report covered is how the usage of these five top tools varies with different regions. The Report categorizes the world into 5 regions – Africa, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Europe, Latin America & Caribean, and USA & Canada. The rating of the most important tools in each region can be seen in the figure below.

For example, a Website is considered the most effective tool globally EXCEPT in Latin America where Social Media AND video outscored it. Similarly while Social media was the second most important across Africa, Asia, Europe and the most important in Latin America, in the ANZ region Email Updates were considered the second most important tool while in the USA/Canada region Case Studies were considered the second most important. In the Africa region, Annual Reports are, uniquely to this region, an important tool but absent from the top 5 elsewhere. Similarly in Europe Infographics are in the top 5 tools but are not as important in any other region.

Each region thus indicates a very different assessment of the top 10 most effective communication and fundraising tools. NGOs operating across different regions will therefore need to adopt a localized communication mix strategy in each region. It also means that NGO’s trying to quickly leverage lessons from other geographies to their particular country may not see the benefits they expect.

Thus, while nonprofits can, and do, use various technologies to communicate and raise funds, the mixed channel and content preferences means a standard ‘global’ template for communication and fund raising is unlikely to emerge.