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August 19, 2020

Nonprofit view: Tom Kane of Chicago addresses why tech necessary to keep funding afloat

As the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions have dramatically changed how we live and work since March, it’s become increasingly more difficult for many enterprises to adjust to mandatory restrictions in ways that allow them to conduct business in a profitable manner. While some companies have effective measures in place to continue their workflows and others are adjusting to the “new abnormal,” as some are calling it, there are many organizations that have been completely stifled by the current situation.

Among them: nonprofit organizations. The lifeblood of virtually every nonprofit’s existence is ensuring that they have sufficient funds to continue to serve their audiences and clients in accordance with their missions. As the CEO or development director of any nonprofit will tell you, it’s not easy to continue to serve and have the financing to do that during a time of catastrophe, especially when so many are asking for donations and corporate gifts and competing for the same grants from governmental bodies.

Nonprofit organizers are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of their budgets, especially when under normal circumstances they rely heavily on in-person events that simply cannot happen in 2020.

“For people who rely on a nonprofits' services, the needs for funding have not changed,” explains Thomas Kane, a wealth manager from Chicago who has long been active in philanthropic activities, both in his hometown and around the world. “It’s really difficult at a time like this.”

Sara Peperno, president and CEO of Northeast Sight Services concurs: “A big piece of the money that we raise every year is special events.”  Sara goes on to say, “We’re working on a replacement for that. Things are changing constantly through all of this.”

Fortunately, technology has been playing major roles in supporting numerous nonprofit organizations.

“It’s wonderful that we’re able to use technology to reach out to supporters, raise funds and help organizations continue to operate,” says Chicago’s Thomas Kane.  “In times like these, especially when COVID-19 is creating an evolving situation with varied impacts across the states, nonprofit organizations can turn to some alternative ways of sourcing donations.”

A few examples that he notes include the following.

Online Crowdfunding

Organizations and causes of all types have been taking advantage of the free GoFundMe online fundraising platform since 2010, when the Redwood, CA (News - Alert)-based company first launched its innovative -- and free to use -- approach to helping those in need raise money. Since then it has helped raise more than $9 billion in donations. Since its inception, a number of similar platforms have been introduced.

GoFundMe has proven to be extremely helpful in fundraising during recent months. Among the organizations that have turned to GoFundMe during the pandemic are the Orange (News - Alert) County United Way, which is using the platform to support its pandemic relief fund. To date, the organization has received $4.8 million dollars against its $5 million goal. It works, which is likely why GoFundMe bills itself as the most trusted free online fundraising platform.

Social media.

Some of our favorite social media platforms, including Facebook (News - Alert), Instagram and Twitch, have been very active in supporting nonprofit organizations. Kane adds that the platforms’ live streams can be a great way to take an event virtual. “This can not only help the organizations raise funds but also show their audiences that they’re still active, despite current events,” he says. “Some platforms even allow you to add a link or a donate button.”

And of course, Facebook’s fundraising pages and posts also offer good ways to encourage donations and social sharing of fundraising.

Web-based fundraising platforms.

Digital technology has long been used by nonprofits to raise funds. Many organizations purchase or subscribe to services that integrate with their websites all year round. This past April, OneCause, an Indianapolis-based company that provides online and event fundraising, launched new virtual resources and services specifically designed to help nonprofits navigate their fundraising during the pandemic.

These include, according to the company, making available “experienced fundraising consultants and virtual event managers to support moving fundraising online with a virtual run of show, strategies for communication and promotion, and overall best practices for leveraging online tools such as microsites and live streaming.” The company also created a virtual COVID-19 virtual response center through which it provides information about how to pivot to online fundraising. Part of this initiative includes a weekly webinar series to which 12,000 fundraising professionals have tuned in.

One thing is for certain, the pandemic has required everyone to improvise; and as online support continues to grow and expand, it may eventually become the preferred way for all nonprofits to solicit support.


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