(Charise Flynn is the chief operating officer at Dwolla, a payment network that allows any business, organization, or person to send, request, and accept money. Dwolla reduces transaction costs and offers free tools, making it a popular option among a new generation of nonprofits.)
A few clicks on a screen brings up a familiar face — your sister, two thousand miles away, ready with her weekly update. With a few taps on your smartphone, a taxi pulls up and speeds you to your favorite restaurant to meet your spouse. Another few taps, and you deposit a little extra in your babysitter's account after she agrees to stay late with the kids.
Smartphones, instant access to information and entertainment, and a host of digital technologies are changing the way consumers think, feel, and act. This poses unique challenges and opportunities for many industries, including the nonprofit sector.
According to a recent survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, 42 percent of nonprofits say they lack the right mix of financial resources to thrive and be effective over the next three years. It's a finding which strongly suggests that nonprofits need to rethink the way they raise funds.
Let's face it: the Internet is everywhere and with all the connectedness comes new, affordable opportunities for nonprofits to expand their reach, reduce the friction associated with fundraising, and collect more donations from more people.
Spontaneous Donations and Social Media
Everything about direct mail and sending a donation to a nonprofit via paper check screams friction — and the steadily falling number of checks cut, from 37.8 billion in 2002 to 18.3 billion in 2012, illustrates the point.
But if paper checks are an analog technology whose time has just about gone, the Internet is enabling nonprofits to reach new donors and provide them with a quicker, safer, and more pleasant donation experience. For instance, a Donor Perspectives white paper from Blackbaud recently noted that 80 percent of survey respondents make "one-off" donations online, underscoring one of the most important aspects of digital technology — its ability to reach people "in the moment."
Did you see President Obama's video on Vine thanking the Batkid for "saving" Gotham City? A growing number of businesses and influencers are using Instagram and Vine to market their products and services, and nonprofits can learn from those efforts – showcasing inspiring photos and videos that illustrate your organization's impact can be a powerful way to move followers to action. In addition to the traditional social media tools, nonprofits should also look into new platforms such as Thunderclap, which uses crowdsourcing to amplify a nonprofit's message and make sure it reaches the right audience.