In fact, getting exactly what you need is how Brooks Lambert, Founder/CEO of Qwikon, Inc describes his use of technology in 2012. He works with the Best Day Foundation, which arranges activities for children with special needs, and his organization, just like many other non-profits has unique needs.
Specifically, his organization often has last minute changes to location or updates to weather conditions that need to be communicated to the both the volunteers and participants. Brooks found that most off the shelf items didn't meet the unique needs of the Best Day Foundation, he explains, "Many of our volunteers dont have email. Plus, email can fail the recipient might not open the email or they open it too late." Yet, the organization didnt have the resources to phone everyone involved in an event.
For Brooks the solution was a text message system. He found that both participants and volunteers checked their text messages within minutes or receiving them. Now any changes to the event are quickly and easily conveyed to all who are participating.
Other non-profits; such as College Summit Southern California, which helps students navigate the college going process, used technology to provide users with a way to make a complicated process easier. Brian Rosenbaum, the Community Engagement Coordinator for College Summit explains, CSNAV is our online platform that helps students navigate the college-going process. It is the fully integrated web component of our classroom curriculum,which allows students to complete career planning, college planning, high school planning, and financial aid planning activities. Everything the student needs is stored online and accessible 24/7.
Success in using technology is a matter of finding which technology works best for your organization, and Brittany Martin Graunke, CEO of ZealousGood.com agrees. She says, "I think there are many resources available to improve efficiency and impact in the non-profit sector - we just have to apply them effectively." The ZealousGood website focuses specifically on helping non-profits and donors streamline their in-kind donation process, and making it even easier for their users ZealousGood is launching an iPhone application soon.
Social Media and Reach
As in prior years, social media remained a priority for non-profits. Adrienne Mazzone, with the Transmedia Group and who works with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation describes how the organization used Twitter to create more awareness for the foundations, Through Twitter, they were able to reach out to over 60,000 people in a matter of minutes. By doing so, the organization not only reached people interested in the cause, but media outlets that retweeted to their hundreds, and thousands of followers. Its a chain reaction for a great foundation!
Some organizations go one-step further, using technology to help them customize their current technology. For example, according to Data Scientist Bob Filbin, DoSomething uses Optimizely to test which DoSomething products are most effective. Bob elaborates, "Visitors to our website are randomly assigned one of two versions of a web page, allowing us to see which version provides more value to our users. This is particularly valuable for testing new products. Before spending the time to create a full product, we can test a lightweight version. If the test is successful, then tech can build a robust product. If the test isn't successful, we just saved ourselves hours of development time, which equates to big cost savings for our organization."
In 2013, non-profits will certainly continue to find ways to use technology to make a difference in their organization and with those they serve.