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Technology as an enabler in the social sector

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Technology-based platforms enable even small sums to be donated to NGOs via online payments from anywhere in the world, thus encouraging people who can afford various amounts to donate, even in different currencies. (Photo: Pixabay)

There are hundreds of NGOs in India that are striving to make a measurable impact for the greater good. But running an NGO comes with a number of challenges – of which raising funds is a major one. Other issues linked to this are getting volunteers on board and maintaining a long-term relationship with them. Unfortunately, this sector has lacked substantial transparency, and not all NGOs are involved in serious work with large-scale impact. Technology has helped organisations take a step in the right direction and has enabled ease of connectivity amongst various stakeholders. This is helping to highlight those who are engaged in meaningful work for social good and develop long-standing relationships and funding methods based on reliable figures.

According to a recent Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report, India has at least 31 lakh NGOs, which is more than double the number of schools and 250 times the number of government hospitals. The report also found that less than 10 per cent of the NGOs have complied with the requirement of submitting balance sheets and statements of income-expenditure with the Registrar of Societies. Due to this, even those who are engaged in great work find themselves under scrutiny and face issues to do with credibility from the government and potential volunteers or donors. In order to bridge these gaps, many social service platforms have taken to adopting digital strategies, and it has helped in more ways than one.

In the past, NGOs have mostly had to depend on on-ground and direct fundraising activities, which isn’t feasible in the long-term as it uses more funds at once, in addition to being logistically unfavourable. Additionally, funds received by NGOs are rarely received in steady streams. As a result, they have funds for a couple of months in the year, and in most other months they run completely dry since funds are used up quickly. This makes it extremely difficult to maintain and manage their programs, campaigns and activities as well as to retain talented people working for them. It’s the same in the case of volunteers and corporates, and social entrepreneurs since most people are unsure of how to reach out to NGOs and vice versa.

A report by Bain & Company found that more than 40% of high-net-worth individual givers aimed to increase their contribution towards philanthropy over the next five years. This further indicates that people are willing to donate towards causes they believe in, and having the right channels to facilitate this is the need of the hour. Thus, with the rise of online marketplaces pertaining to the social sector, NGO, donor and volunteer activities can be streamlined. As a result, it is possible for these three categories to work together, with limited barriers thanks to an additional, virtual, ecosystem.

Technology-based platforms enable even small sums to be donated to NGOs via online payments from anywhere in the world, thus encouraging people who can afford various amounts to donate, even in different currencies. These online platforms also employ multiple channels to communicate with current and potential stakeholders. These include social media, emails and SMSes to disseminate information and help advocate NGOs and spread awareness about the meaningful causes they are championing. According to the 2017 Global Online Technology Report, 92% of NGOs have an official website, and 78% of them are smartphone friendly. Many players in the social sector have tapped into this, by taking to online platforms that have apps as well, for further accessibility.

As a result of having everything under one roof, social service platforms make it easier for individuals (volunteers, donors, social entrepreneurs etc.) to get involved with causes they care about, as well as generate interest for other causes. Further, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) by social service platforms has proven to be a great facilitator as well. One such platform for social work is online marketplace-SociallyGood, which employs AI algorithms to recommend social causes based on a users’ interests. Individuals can also filter NGOs and causes based on their focus and are shown trends in their location based on Geo maps and Geo fencing features. This helps with targeting volunteers and donors that NGOs are often in need of, as it provides easy access to all the information they need about a cause and how to get involved.

Corporates often get involved with social work as part of their CSR activities. Platforms for social work enable digital logging of participants, impact made, and the scale and reach of work. Making use of the robust measurement processes available on these platforms can help CSR and HR departments keep track of company and employee involvement. Additionally, NGOs can ensure timelines are being followed for every project and campaign.

Using technology, NGOs can achieve their targets and function smoothly all year long. Existing volunteers, donors and social entrepreneurs will be able to take their causes further and spread the word to new people. Having continuous involvement will mean better strategies and insights for NGOs, from individuals across professions and age groups. In turn, getting involved is a short and simple process which is a matter of a few clicks, and getting regular updates can help ensure that users stay involved and engaged with NGO activities on a long-term basis.


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