Partner at Cognita Partners. Founder of award winning "Society Labs". Former CTO at Made In JLM.
Across the globe, businesses are shutting their doors, laying off employees, and hunkering down financially in hopes of reemerging when the current pandemic eases. Unfortunately, it isn’t going to be easy, and many won’t make it. Non-profits are finding themselves in the same position.
Non Profits may not all be required to shut down, but they are facing difficult financial decisions as major revenue sources are drying up just as these organizations are seeing spikes in the need for their services.
The unfortunate reality is that non-profits are dependant on the financial surplus of generous donors, and those excesses are quickly being depleted. There are too many charitable groups in need of funding and a steadily shrinking pool of available resources.
Fundraising events, a mainstay of the industry, have been canceled. Government restrictions on large groups preclude commonly used tactics. To make matters worse, these same restrictions are making it difficult, and sometimes impossible for these organizations to deliver the services people depend on.
It’s a painful situation for them, and many fear they may not survive if the coming recession drags on for an extended period of time. In light of this desperate situation, non-profits may need to embrace alternative methods for securing funding and providing services, and the adoption of digital technologies may be the answer.
Prior to the current situation non-profits around the world dabbled with service digitization. But charitable organizations are often the last to benefit from developing technologies. Unlike their for-profit counterparts, non-profits often don’t have the benefit of excess capital. They frequently operate on shoestring budgets and earmark nearly all of their funding to carry out their mission. Transitioning to a primarily digital operating model simply isn’t realistic.
COVID-19 is changing that. Many struggling organizations are now realizing that a well-developed digital infrastructure is the best defense against their current predicament.
Fundraising must evolve from face-to-face interactions into the digital realm. Non-profits must find ways to appease donors and secure funding without the need for live events. Those that have already made the transition have discovered that data is critical for improving online fundraising activities.
But more importantly, philanthropic organizations need to find novel ways to deliver services to the public that reduce dependency on close personal contact. In order to do this effectively, they need a deeper understanding of their audience — what they need, why they need it, and how they can be reached more efficiently. Data analysis is critical for this purpose, too.
For-profit companies have been plumbing their data to gain a competitive advantage for years. Non-profits don’t generally face the same sorts of survival pressures. But in the current climate, these strategies may be exactly what charitable organizations need to keep afloat.
It’s a multi-pronged approach. Non-profits should begin granularly tracking open rates, response rates, and donation rates for each and every promotional campaign and tactic. They need to collect information on their donors to determine who donates, and why. This will allow them to segment their audience and target personalized digital messages that increase the effectiveness of every dollar they spend.
Simultaneous with this process of gaining a profound understanding of what motivates their donors, they should explore their beneficiaries. Data analysis can shed light on ways to deliver services more efficiently, to help limit social contact.
Meals on Wheels People in Portland Oregon, for instance, recently shuttered a number of their local meal locations in favor of a touchless home delivery service. By delivering a few days worth of meals at once they can serve their community with equal efficiency while keeping them safe. The data doesn’t lie.
The more non-profits can lean on their data for organization-saving insights the better prepared they’ll be to weather the current storm and come out leaner, more agile, and better prepared for the post-COVID-19 realities to come.