Charities are resourceful but they often operate only in the present – experimenting with new things and allocating time to reflect those things is a luxury. They need to look at new ways of delivering services. This means diversifying income, adopting creative working practices and working with new audiences, which includes finding new ways to engage volunteers and to utilise them in more meaningful ways.
As income levels increase, so too does the inclination to volunteer
Successful innovation is more about people and partnerships than the latest technology. That said, new technologies and innovations pioneered by people and organisations outside the voluntary and charitable sector are creating new ways in which people can support this sector. Technology is a powerful tool for social good but it’s under utilised in the charity sector. An understanding of digital technologies is vitally important for all organisations and new technologies are fundamental to drive and increase support for charities and to attract more donors and volunteers. The increasing uptake and decreasing costs of technology have opened up huge opportunities to deliver accessible, affordable services at low cost – a particularly attractive proposition in the current economic climate.
How can the potential of digital technology be exploited to develop new tools and services, which extend the reach and impact of charitable work, and can ultimately help more people?
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) created the world’s first app against global hunger – ShareTheMeal, which enables people to “share their meals” with children in need. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, each year the organisation reaches 80 million people with food assistance in about 80 countries. WFP is 100 per cent voluntarily funded, and their administrative costs are among the lowest in the non-profit sector – with 90 per cent of donations going directly to WFP operations.
Oxfam, the global poverty reduction charity, plans to harness the power of the smartphone to bring donors closer to its work. They recently launched the app My Oxfam, designed to make donating easy and rewarding, and to bring supporters closer to the charity’s projects, offering a new level of transparency and aiming to help regain donors’ trust.
OpenIDEO build communities that work together and design solutions to the world’s big challenges. They do this by convening global communities (thousands participate) on the OpenIDEO platform who are empowered to take action, and inspire their local communities to get involved in tackling global issues.
Google.org works to extend the reach of nonprofit innovators by connecting them with a combination of support, including funding, tools and volunteers from Google. The innovators are those who have made the biggest impact on the communities they represent, and whose work has the potential to produce meaningful change that can scale.
TechForGood is a global organisation operating in Israel and South East Asia that supports social-tech entrepreneurs, who use technology to tackle social problems, providing them with everything they need to scale up and build successful, profitable and impact-generating global companies.
Innovation should build on existing experience and resources, and supplement the traditional ways of working rather than replace them. Skills and resources gaps can be filled by drawing in people from outside, which is where volunteering comes into play. Exploiting technology enables a greater pool of volunteers to contribute – whether in the corporate or charitable sector – and to do so in ways which have far greater reach than traditional means.