Nonprofit Work Is Changing

Philip Manzano • Mar 02, 2017

And I’m proud to be a part of it. The post Nonprofit work is changing appeared first on Keela.

I’ve had the great honour of being part of the nonprofit community for quite some time. Whether it was as a volunteer, a donor, a supporter, or as a worker on the frontlines. Today, I work at Keela , a team that dedicates itself to helping nonprofit organizations achieve greater impact through technology. I didn’t set out to have a career that was forever linked to this sector — but it looks like this is where I’m supposed to be working.

I can say, without hesitation or doubt, that I love the nonprofit community. But it doesn’t come without frustrations. I’ve learned a lot over my short time working in the sector, and I still have a lot to learn. But one thing that is undeniable: nonprofit work is changing, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

It’s an uphill battle

There are tons of things you can support. And for every little thing, there is likely a charity for it, competing for donor dollars and attention. If the problem stopped there, then it would already be difficult. But it gets compounded further by the skepticism that ubiquitously follows nonprofit professionals. It didn’t take long for me to realize that fighting perception was just as big a part of the job as getting the word out about a good cause.

On the very first day of my first job working for a big nonprofit, a few things welcomed me at my desk. I had a dusty computer (similar to the first one my family ever owned) and a set of instructions on how to combat some of the most common misconceptions about the organization I was working for, and the truth about where the money goes. Two things became painfully evident:

  1. Technology was going to be an issue
  2. The work we are doing is well known, but not know well.

The most common question I got during that first year was about “overhead” and the idea that all money should be spent on the cause, and not the people raising the money. And to be honest, I struggled with this idea as well. It wasn’t until I came across Dan Pallotta’s popular TED talk “ The way we think about charity is dead wrong ” that I finally found a proper response. This one idea that transformed the way I communicated to donors about my work:

  It’s not about the size of the slice. It’s about the size of the pie.

It takes money to raise money – to attract top talent, and retain them. It costs money to get your message in front of the right people. And if doing this enables you to raise more money, and create a bigger impact – then that is what is important. Of course, this doesn’t mean that spending is not monitored or scrutinized. It just means that spending on nonprofit staff or marketing is not inherently bad.

But getting this message out became a big part of my job, and it took me away from what I really wanted to do: tell stories of meaningful impact in the community. There were real problems that my team was solving, and instead I found myself talking about misconceptions about the sector. It was frustrating.

Technology is helping

It was at this point that I realized just how important being efficient was to the business of nonprofits. Efficiency is always important. But that’s doubly true when you’re dealing with people’s lives. And in many cases, we were. Any time spent on administrative tasks or fighting battles that weren’t worth it, meant time spent away from the daily grind of making people’s lives better. So it was clear — we needed to find a way to do good, better.

The image of a toolbox came to mind.

Human beings are extraordinary. Their stories of resilience and innovation can inspire you to change the world. They can do just about anything with creativity and will alone, given enough time and the right set of circumstances. But equip them with tools, and they get to their goal a lot faster, and do the job more effectively. You can twist a screw in with your hand, but if you have a screwdriver, that task becomes a lot easier. You can do more — the right way.

So we needed tools to get the job done; tools to boost our efficiency so that we could focus on what mattered most: the people. And the good news is that there are tons of tools out there. From fundraising pages, to project management apps, to comprehensive suites that allow you to send out email campaigns. There is no shortage of solutions.

We picked a few of them, started a few free trials (because — we’re in the nonprofit sector, and free is golden!), and began seeing our work move along smoother. We spent less time on admin, and more time in the community. When you’re in the business of people — every second counts, and now more of those seconds were spent on solving the most pressing issues facing the community.

Technology was changing the game and it was time for the sector to embrace more of it to do even more good.

Your bottom line is different

The business of nonprofits is impact. This is what drives your success. Whether it is impacting individuals, or animals, or the planet, or anything else that you care about – impact is what you want. Nonprofit teams work hard to move the needle for a cause they care about. They advocate for that cause, and build teams of ambassadors to join them. When this is your metric for success, you need to build a culture that enables you to acheive it. And I’ve learned that technology plays a huge role in that.

Since joining the team at Keela and learning more about the #npTech community, I’ve seen a huge shift in focus. I am seeing modern nonprofits who fully accept technology as part of their day-to-day work. Not only as a means of boosting efficiency, but also as a way to tell their stories more effectively. And as a communicator, that excited me. I’m seeing nonprofits share stories of impact through video, pictures and even virtual reality — it’s amazing. Donor teams are finding new ways of engaging their stakeholders, making them a part of their work, from world’s away. Nonprofit teams are becoming advocates on social media, and influencers on blogs.

Technology is changing the way nonprofits work — for the better. And I’m part of a company right in the middle of it.

So, while I’d love you to check out Keela, and everything that it can do for you (and it does a lot !) — I am happy enough knowing that you are getting your message out to more people; changing more lives; driving more impact.

That will always make me smile.