Business Strategy

The danger of being comfortable: Nonprofit

When we think of businesses most likely to be disrupted by technology, oftentimes that doesn’t include the nonprofit world. Most associate nonprofits with cause-driven, old school ways of thinking and sometimes tired operation models. You’d think that the message alone would be enough to drive yearly fundraising goals and when applicable, attendance. If it’s something worth caring about, it runs itself… right?

Wrong. You can find all kinds of nonprofits across the board – from the one person shop operating out of their home, to the multi-billion dollar hospital in your nearest city. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. However, they all have one thing in common: the need for technology to impact their bottom line, and ultimately the success of their cause.

No matter the size, there are three things that each nonprofit must focus on to be successful. Technology is a key component for each in order to grow and be sustainable over time. 


Whether you need $100,000 or $1 billion to operate yearly while serving your mission, money is a huge piece of the nonprofit pie. Without appropriate funding most nonprofits will not make it 3-5 years. Donor databases are the heart of communication with key constituents. No database looks the same, and they are constantly evolving with the giving climate. Technology plays a huge role in what these look like for different organizations. But a database is worthless if you don’t have a message.


What are you doing, who are you doing it for, and why is your donor a big piece of the puzzle? These things have to be communicated creatively, clearly and often. What are you using to do this? Technology. Email, social media, mobile apps, interactive campaigns and targeted mailings are all derived from modernized forms of communication. Who are you talking to? Beyond donors, it’s critical to have an audience.


As you well know, not every person starts off as a donor. Some people are initially interested in your story and mission. You’ve piqued their curiosity because something you’re doing has hit home for them. It’s important to track these unique visitors and followers, with the ultimate goal of turning them into donors. This too is done by technology. Unique software is built every day to handle this specific information and to turn it into effective action. How can you do this for your nonprofit?

As you might have already learned in our disrupt series, if you aren’t thinking about these things, then another nonprofit is. It’s critical for nonprofits to be current, relevant and intentional about their donor relations. As your donor focus changes from one generation to the next, your engagement models need to reflect message relevancy. 

Here are a few examples of organizations disrupting the nonprofit sector:

Human Rights Campaign

Since its early beginnings in 1986, HRC has provided help for families with LGBT parents and/or children, hospital treatment for those who need it and workplace equality. Through current social change, they’ve been able to mobilize their audience by empowering them with a signature equality image overlay for social media profile photos. This was done by the construction of a simple mobile app called Picture Equality, which millions have participated in since. 

American Red Cross

This organization knows that its audience is mobile, boasting 11 applications in the App Store. When emergencies strike, you aren’t always sitting at home in front of your TV or your computer. Most likely you are moving around, being socially active, or just “unplugged” in general. Even in an unplugged state, the majority of people still have their smartphones handy. Through the apps that the American Red Cross provides, users are always a few taps away from safety information that could save their life, or of those they love. ARC disrupted their sector by becoming the number one resource in emergency situations by allowing their tools to be easily accessible no matter where you are. 

Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

Since its inception in 1982, Komen has spent over $1.5 billion for breast cancer education, research, advocacy, health services and social support programs in the U.S., and through partnerships in more than 50 countries. This has primarily been achieved through their events and races organized all around the world. They remain a leader by continually finding new ways to interact with their audience, primarily through mobile applications. Their 16-week and 24-week race training programs are heavily downloaded and utilized by race participants, allowing Komen to stay engaged throughout the process. In March of this year Komen also announced their newest app, Share the Journey: Mind, Body and Wellness after Breast Cancer Treatment. This iPhone app gives post-treatment breast cancer patients the ability to keep a personal diary of the after-effects of their treatment, while contributing to global research toward more effective therapies.

How is your nonprofit keeping up with the tech-savvy donors in your space? Traditional means of fundraising will soon be a thing of the past. Do you have an idea that will keep you relevant to your most prized donors? We’re here to help brainstorm nonprofit solutions with you.

By Jen West