Digital innovation is taking over every facet of our lives, every sector of every business. Machines have become smarter, social media has become an essential part of our lives; even businesses use the internet to promote their brands. This innovation is also seen in NGOs, improving how they function and reshaping how the world sees them. Those organizations that are able to adapt to these technological changes will thrive in the quickly emerging digital world; others will struggle to keep going.
If you’re wondering why NGOs need to understand and implement tech innovation, consider the fact that Gen Z and the Millennials — the current “ruling” generation — are the most socially aware generation the world has seen. Incidentally, they are also the generations that are the most active on social media, both as consumers and businesses. This means that social media and other digital methods are the most efficient way to reach out to them for social causes.
Here are all the other ways NGOs can benefit from tech innovation.
1. Bigger Reach
It’s no secret that the introduction of technology, specifically the worldwide web, has expanded our world while bringing the people closer together. Now you no longer have to wait for days to get a letter from your loved ones or stop distance from forming relationships with people on the other side of the world. NGOs can use this to spread awareness about their cause further than just their locality or their city.
Designing an eye-catching, easy-to-navigate website is the best thing you can do for your organization because it will act as your virtual office. Here, you can put up forms to seek out volunteers, add a button that allows visitors to donate, and publish blogs on topics relating to your cause to raise awareness. Since anyone with an internet access can open up a website and go through it, your word will reach people in places where you physically can’t be. An added bonus is if you make a mobile site for smartphone users.
To add to that, having pages and accounts on social media platforms will help you reach out to the users of those platforms, most of whom are already socially aware and willing to help.
2. Targeted Audience
Another great feature of technology is that it gives you access to tools that help you reach out to only those people who have a higher potential to help; these people are your target audience. There are many ways to figure out your target audience. You can go onto social media platforms and look through the groups related to your cause to find the members who are active and/or are a part of multiple groups.
Another way is to go by geographical demographics. For example, if you’re having an event, like a marathon or a drive, in an area out of your physical reach, you can gather the volunteers from that area (that you got through your social media or website) and co-ordinate with them to get participants and more volunteers. You can even assign a few of them to handle any legal or official business regarding the event. Since these volunteers know their locality better than you do and are, hopefully, active there, they will know exactly who to pick out and pursue, thus forming your target audience.
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3. Build Trust
Trust is the foundation of the credibility of any NGO; your donors need to trust to do donate their hard-earned money and get nothing in return, your volunteers need to trust you to put in their time and efforts in without getting paid, and you need to trust them to do their job and not cheat you.
Social media — and the internet in general — is a great way to build this trust. Volunteers and donors can Google you and go through your websites, social media pages, reviews about you, and decide if you are trustworthy enough to give you their money, time, and efforts. On the other hand, you can go through their online presence to ensure that the people you’re forming a relationship with are legit.
Continuous and consistent interaction with donors and volunteers, both potential and current, on social media not only boosts the trust that they have for you but also acts as a legitimate way to communicate with them when needed. It is, however, important to remember that virtual communication does not replace face-to-face interactions so you still have to attend events and meetings from time to time.
4. Streamline Donations
Donations are one of the major sources of income for NGOs. Fundraising through events, shows, and other traditional methods can be exhausting and time consuming, not to mention the big dent it puts in your budget. The digital alternative to this is simply adding a “donate now” button to your website and on any social media platform that allow it. Sure, you may get only a small amount per person but given that sheer amount of users online, this small amount has the potential to accumulate into a large amount in little to no time.
5. Enable Aid
The recent Kerala floods  showed us that people are more than willing to go beyond simply donating and get their hands dirty for social causes. As an NGO, you should not only aim to giving aid but also enabling willing volunteers to do that same. Drives, educational sessions, and other traditional methods are one way to do so, and you should do them regularly.
However, you should not ignore the digital options. Content is one way you can digitally educate volunteers; publish blogs about emergency care, conduct webinars and podcasts for viewers, educate your social media followers with interesting posts. Another, bigger scale project you can take on is developing apps that will be helpful in emergencies. You don’t even need to be a professional developer to build such apps; tools like Google Developers help you through every step of the way, all you need to know is the basics (which you can learn through YouTube tutorials and blogs).
For NGOs, it is important to have proof of every transaction you make and every donation you receive. Writing each transaction down, saving each receipt/invoice, and storing previous books of accounts is not only tedious; it is also a waste of time, money, and paper. An easy way around this is to go digital. Excel sheets are easy to organize, the online ones are accessible to your whole team (and anyone else you wish to include), you can easily take back ups on hard drives and clouds, and it frees up lots of space in your physical office for other equipment.
You start an NGO with a good cause in mind, because you want to help others. However, to bring substance to that cause, you will have to put in efforts and appeal to people. The only way to do that is to change and evolve with the times, with your audience. You may think that, because you are an NGO, you are exempt from adapting technology but the truth is the exact opposite; as an NGO, you should be the first to inculcate tech innovation or be ready to face the uphill struggle without it.
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