Whether you’re running a nonprofit or interested in volunteering for one, technology can make all the difference in whether you fail or flourish. With the Internet essentially serving as the easiest, most efficient and most widespread form of modern communication, making sure that your nonprofit is technologically equipped to handle volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries can help your cause and boost awareness.
Easy Accessibility to Information
Getting the word out there about your nonprofit is one of the most difficult aspects of the business. With so many nonprofits competing for donations and volunteers, you want to make sure your information is easily accessible. Dealing with paper forms can be a hassle. While there is not much you can do to make submitting grant proposals easier, you can streamline the volunteer process.
It’s neither cost-effective nor efficient to have your volunteers fill out paper forms that must be printed, faxed, or scanned. If your volunteers have Internet access, managing forms with Google Docs or online surveys is a much easier route to take. While some of the people you serve may not have access to a computer with Internet, you can still eliminate a great deal of paper and postage by taking to the Internet for the majority of your volunteer recruiting or feedback.
I worked for a nonprofit that primarily used Survey Monkey for its questionnaires for both volunteers and those helped by the nonprofit. Paper forms were available, but were used for less than 10% of the survey collection. Collecting and assessing the data is also much easier with free online survey generators or Google Docs.
Also, when recruiting volunteers, make sure to keep the sign-up process short. Stick to the basic information initially, and when volunteers show more interest, go in for the rest of the info you need. You can also use online forms for these purposes. Follow up with basic information about your company through email within 24-48 hours, but don’t bombard them.
The Mobile World
With the ever-evolving world of iPhone app development, it’s certain that developers will continue to develop apps for the nonprofit sector – apps that will benefit all of your volunteers and supporters who carry smartphones.
Charity Finder, though not perfect, is an excellent prototype for where mobile philanthropy could go. So far, 1800 nonprofits are featured on Charity Finder, meaning that someone has only to click the ‘Support’ button to send them money. You receive a receipt and year-end tax statement in exchange. Additionally, sites like Empowered.org allow you to manage volunteer coordinating, fundraising, event planning and chapter management all in one place, for no cost.
Leverage Your Use of Social Media
While social media is not a magic genie for getting the word out about your organization, when used correctly, you can cover a lot of marketing ground at no cost. Creating a Facebook page or Twitter account is not enough. You have to be actively involved in updating it and using it to strengthen awareness of your brand. Potential volunteers may check you out on the web before actually committing to signing up for additional information. A lack of timely updates could reflect a lack of passion on the part of your nonprofit, a lack of organization or carelessness. Sure, that is not the case, but your digital image is a potential volunteer’s first impression.
You should also not assume that one person should be in charge of managing your social media on top of their other work duties. Many companies are now hiring people with the specific titles of “Social Media Manager” or “Social Media Marketing Specialist” because frankly, it can be a big job. Instead of passing this task off onto the recent college grad, ask everyone to pitch in and submit content whenever they can. Additionally, there is a difference between social media use and social media marketing. Don’t use your site just for promotion, but use it for overall engagement and communication. Try to communicate directly with possible volunteers, do giveaways, share things that interest you, even if they aren’t directly related to your nonprofit. Give your social media efforts a human touch.
Stay committed to whichever technological venue you choose. It does require effort on the front end, but the payoff will certainly be worth the investment.