Without a doubt, technology has changed the way we work and communicate. But has it affected the way we volunteer? And why is it critical for nonprofits to be aware of cultural shifts and adapt accordingly? According to a recent Salesforce Nonprofit Trends Report, 85% of nonprofits surveyed believe technology is critical to their organisations’ success. However, only 23% have a long-term vision for how technology will be used within their organisation.
The traditional social sector is a decade behind the business sector in digital transformation.” Nonprofits commit to social engagement, but their management systems and technology are often outdated. This could be due to three factors: nonprofits frequently underestimate the overhead value, place an imbalanced emphasis on frontline work at the expense of other aspects of the organisation, or simply fail to recognise the importance of technology in our current social climate.
According to studies, 87% of Americans use the internet. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, mobile phones accounted for more than half of all website traffic, with 90% of that time spent on mobile spent on apps. According to studies, app engagement is four times higher than mobile web browsers. People are not only spending significant amounts of time online but also opting for mobile technology that can be easily accessed while going about their busy lives. To thrive in this digital age, nonprofits will need to catch up in technology such as the blender render farm.
How has technology enabled non-profit organisations to work efficiently?
One of the most significant advantages of technology for nonprofits has been the ability to simplify and automate processes, allowing paid staff to focus on what is most important – their mission. In this article, I will explain how technology has enabled his organisation to work more efficiently in each of the four C’s of disaster relief:
- People cannot go where technology can. Some organisations use drones to map affected areas in collaboration with city, county, and state emergency management agencies. Previously, all of this was done by helicopter or plane. Drones enable these agencies to collect real-time data, which aids in recovery and planning efforts.
- One area where technology can aid in rapid mobilisation is communicating the need for assistance. In a matter of minutes, a text, an email, a notification via an organisation app, and a phone call can all be sent.
- Technology has enabled organisations to collaborate more effectively, reducing duplication of effort and increasing overall efficiency. Many organisations use Crisis-Clean-Up as one of their tools. It is a website that assists disaster relief organisations such as Samaritan’s Purse, Team Rubicon, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and other Volunteer Organisation Active in Disaster (VOAD) members in coordinating recovery efforts. The website receives information from homeowners as well as requests for assistance. Disaster relief organisations can “claim” a work order online, ensuring that needs are met quickly and maximised resources.
- GPS tracking is another area where technology can help mobilise volunteers. Samaritan’s Purse’s Disaster Response Vehicles are equipped with GPS (DRV). Each DRV has a tracker that can be accessed via a website or app. This allows for a real-time feed of where teams are so that if an urgent need arises or a team completes a job faster than expected, a new work order can be distributed to teams working in the same neighbourhood.
- According to an article, technology has also helped streamline the volunteer process’s front end. The registration process is a challenge for any organisation that relies on volunteers. Technology has helped to alleviate this bottleneck by allowing volunteers to sign up online and complete the necessary paperwork before arriving.
- Volunteers will continue to play an important role in disaster relief. As technology becomes more integrated into this critical sector, the need for specialised skills and digital volunteers will become more common. Drone pilots, communications experts, logistics leaders, and supply chain managers are a few examples of volunteer opportunities made possible by technology.
How has technology given rise to digital volunteerism?
In recent months, it has become clear that digital volunteerism is here to stay. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of online volunteer opportunities and pushed digital volunteerism to new heights. Three areas where we have seen an increase in volunteer demand are:
- Tech volunteers
- Volunteers with technological expertise are increasingly valuable not only in the nonprofit sector but also in the healthcare and educational sectors. During the pandemic, small businesses and restaurants even sought assistance from tech volunteers to help them survive. Organisations that are short on staff or skills request skills in everything from website design to digital communications. During the pandemic, the state of New York even called on volunteer “technology SWAT teams” of developers, data scientists, and other techs.
- Virtual volunteers
- As the pandemic caused social isolation, the world began to shift daily life online. Professionals held meetings using Zoom platforms, schools began teaching online, and churches began live-streaming weekly worship services. Similarly, as people became wary of serving in person due to health concerns, volunteer opportunities became virtual. Across the country, people were looking for online tutors, researchers, translators, and even call-centre representatives. One organisation in Florida even recruited volunteers to make phone calls to isolated and lonely seniors.
- Social media volunteers
- Many nonprofits cannot develop a social media strategy due to limited budgets, small teams, and overwhelming workloads. Despite this, research shows that 55% of people who engage with a cause on social media will take action. To meet this critical need, many organisations are turning to volunteers. The Red Cross has discovered a way to use social media volunteers to address the blood supply shortage during the pandemic by asking people to serve as digital advocates on their behalf.
- Surprisingly, the social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought people closer together digitally. It has increased virtual volunteering, spawned relief efforts from the grassroots to the community level, and inspired corporations to become more charitable.