Over the past few decades, technology has permeated our lives in every possible way. It has revolutionised the way we read, shop, watch movies, etc. It has also transformed several sectors in a variety of ways. This is especially true for a country like India which has the second largest internet user base in the world. But large sections of the country remain untouched by technology and the benefits that its usage brings. The social sector in India with close to 3.3 million registered NGOs remains one such frontier that still hasn’t undergone large scale digitisation. Technology can be harnessed in different ways by NGOs based on their size and functions, but there are some common advantages that not-for-profit’s can derive by utilising it correctly.
Much of what an NGO does is based on data collection, analysis and dissemination. Dealing with large amounts of data can often be a grueling task. This is an area where technology can be extremely effective for NGOs. Electronic communication devices can make data collection easier while its organisation can be facilitated by services like big data analysis. Cloud computing has revolutionised data storage and can be effectually utilised by the social sector as well. Information stored on cloud based platforms can be accessed anywhere, at any given time. Audits and impact assessments can also be made easier and cheaper. Such services would, in turn, promote the streamlining of NGO operations, which will undoubtedly lead to efficiency and transparency.
In this digital age, having an online presence has become somewhat of a prerequisite and certainly increases an organisation’s legitimacy. A website or something similar contributes towards an NGO’s image and will enable it to reach out to and attract donors and volunteers. It also gives potential donors easy access to an NGO’s past, ongoing and future projects through which they can gauge the impact of an NGO’s work. A digital presence is also a cheap option for grassroots NGOs to publicise themselves and acquire follow-on funds. It will also make it easier for companies looking to fulfil their CSR obligations to select NGOs that have websites/online profiles with relevant details regarding contacts, activities undertaken, addresses, partners, etc. An online presence also provides a strong means of communication which can be helpful in several ways. It enables NGOs to announce and endorse campaigns and thus attracts volunteers. These days when e-mailing thousands of people is as easy as e-mailing one, fundraising and marketing can be made quite simple.
Often NGOs find it difficult to train new employees and volunteers due to time and monetary constraints. Online training can be a viable option in these cases. This will allow NGOs to have both quality and quantity when it comes to volunteers. The appropriate usage of technology can also assist quick decision making with applications that support video chats. Digital collection platforms can be utilised to automate information collection and redistribution which in turn can drive efficiencies within the organisation.
Online portals can help in the easy collection of donations and volunteer registrations. It can reduce the distance between NGOs and their most important stakeholders, their supporters. A perfect example of the effective usage of technology by an NGO is South-Africa based Cell Life. Their programme utilises mobile technology to improve the lives of people infected with HIV. Health workers monitor a patient whom they visit at home, using data enabled mobile phones they record the patient’s medical status and other relevant factors. This data is transmitted to the central database where care managers use a web-based system to access and monitor patient information. There are several NGOs in India that would benefit immensely from process-digitisation, which is likely to introduce new efficiencies, simplify collection, storage and analysis of data and allow for a wider level of engagement across employees and beneficiary groups alike.
Both businesses and not-for-profits are similar in the sense that they operate under the same constraints of time and budgets. It is obvious that businesses that have been quick to adopt robust IT systems are more likely to succeed than those that have not. The same applies to non-profits. In the modern, digital world, there are several, relatively cheap technology solutions available in the market and it is in the interest of NGOs to invest in digitising their operations.
www.NGOimpact.com is a great starting point for NGOs looking to develop a strong, credible web presence and reach a much wider pool of donors, corporates, philanthropists, volunteers etc. The website facilitates digital connections and ease of funding access for NGOs – sign up now and create a solid profile to attract new funding!