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From-Thanks-to-GivingWhat will the next generation of nonprofits look like? Throughout my two-decade career in the technology and digital marketing industries – much of it spent working with charitable organizations as clients – I’ve been consumed with not only finding the answer, but shaping it.


For many reasons, nonprofits are not known as bastions of efficiency and innovation. Hamstrung by budget limitations, many organizations continue to rely on the legacy technologies and paper-based process that have served for them for decades in fundraising, capacity planning, and donor relations. But that’s beginning to change – in part, because those long in-place tools and systems haven’t necessarily served nonprofits (or their donors) particularly well in terms of productivity and costs.

I founded 121Giving, an eCommerce marketplace and social good-driven product crowdfunding platform, to help nonprofits address their efficiency issues – and to harness the power of technology for across-the-board improvements in each of the following areas.

Donor Engagement through Tangible Giving

Today’s donors want to do more than write a check; they want to feel involved and connected to the causes they support. By embracing crowdfunding, many nonprofits have already made it simpler for new donors to give online. Yet crowdfunding alone doesn’t do enough to motivate and engage today’s donors (especially younger givers, who are more skeptical of nonprofits than their elders and who increasingly expect full transparency in all of their digital interactions).

The next generation of nonprofits needs to make the act of giving more direct and tangible in order to keep younger givers active, engaged, and motivated long-term. Donors feel most connected to a cause when they can see the one-to-one impact. The key is taking crowdfunding beyond the money to the actual acquisition and use of the resources a nonprofit needs to serve its community.

Better Resource Management & Planning

On the opposite site of the giving coin is getting. According to recent data, 74 percent of nonprofits collected less than $5,000 in valued goods from their last donation drive, and 54 percent raised less than 25 percent of their intended goal during their last online fundraise – a clear indication that nonprofits’ current fundraising processes, efforts, and systems aren’t helping them get what they actually need.

To evolve into a more efficient future, nonprofits need to rectify that. By creating custom wishlists for the actual items they need, and making it easy for donors to purchase them at discounted prices from partner brands, nonprofits can conduct a more efficient fundraises. From there, they can allocate their resources more tactically to ensure their capacity is focused more holistically on serving their causes – not just on raising the funds to do so.

Measuring Impact

Ultimately, making a stronger impact in their communities is the aim of every nonprofit organization and donor alike: 58 percent of Americans say it’s more important for an organization they support to have an impact on the issue than for them to be familiar with the organization; and from impact investing and corporate social responsibility to concepts like “return on mission,” the philanthropic ecosystem as a whole is more focused than ever on making every dollar count.

To maximize use of their resources, nonprofits need to think more like businesses by making their operations measurable and transparent. With new technologies, nonprofits can cultivate stronger data and leverage it to optimize their processes, lower their overhead spend, execute smarter marketing campaigns, and more. Ultimately, every extra ounce of efficiency benefits not only individual organizations, but the nonprofit sector as a whole. Doing better nonprofit business means doing more good for communities – and that’s what I hope the next generation of nonprofits will be all about.


Mark Courtney is the Founding CEO of 121Giving, an eCommerce marketplace and product crowdfunding platform that unites charities, donors, and brands in support of a more transparent future of giving.


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