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4 Innovative Technologies Fundraisers Need to Understand

The disruption will help resolve distrust and smooth moves management

The charitable sector generally lags behind other sectors when it comes to adopting innovative technology. But several new (and not so new) solutions are finding new purpose in the development office. Here’s what you need to know about the four most disruptive technologies for philanthropy.

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Contactless payments

What is it? A secure method for making a purchase or donation via smartcards (also known as chip cards), by using RFID technology. 

Why does it matter? More payments to charities are made with cards than cash. This shift to cards and phones will change the game for organizations that rely on cash donations. Moreover, 35% of millennials say they would give via contactless payments if the option was available. 

Payments shifting to cards and phones will change the game for organizations that rely on cash donations.
Do you rely on cash donations? Your organization will need to adapt.

One early example of this is The Royal British Legion ‘tap the poppy’ campaign, which allows people to donate by waving their phone in front of a donation terminal. Contactless payments could easily be incorporated into auctions and other special events to give donors a unique experience. Early reports suggest that average donation amounts may be higher with contactless payments than with cash.

Who’s using it? Cancer Research UK and Oxfam The online fundraising software JustGiving has a product called TapDonate™.

Artificial Intelligence

What is it? AI is a broad term used to refer to a variety of processes like machine learning and analytics. Artificial Intelligence specifically refers to computers simulating human intelligence. 

Why does it matter? More data than ever is available. Meanwhile, computing has become increasingly powerful, making our ability to work with very large datasets more productive than ever. This means predictive models can consider much more information than ever resulting in more precise outputs. This could radically change our very imperfect approach to donor management. From improving the timing of solicitation to building more productive partnerships with donors, the promise of AI is to deliver mass personalization. This will make moves management more precise and streamline back-office operations. AI will also help nonprofits to process and deliver outcome data related to their effectiveness and, over time, this transparency will become the new norm.  

Artificial Intelligence could radically improve the current, imperfect approach to donor management.
Artificial intelligence could radically improve donor management.

Who’s using it? UNICEF, Life After Hate, PAWS, Human Rights Watch. Primitive kinds of AI were incorporated into early versions of prospect screening software. We’re now seeing vendors begin to include AI 2.0 in enterprise software, such as Blackbaud’s SKY AI™ and SKY Analytics.™

Virtual Reality

What is it? VR can bring your work to life for your donors in a powerful way. It provides a total immersion that tricks a human brain into feeling the virtual experience. 

VR can bring your work to life for your donors in a powerful way.
Virtual Reality can provide total immersion experiences for your donors.

Why does it matter? Imagine walking a potential donor through their named wing that hasn’t yet been built. International relief causes can put donors into far off lands or situations they would normally have trouble understanding or empathizing with (like pumping water from the well they funded in a rural village in Senegal). VR is already being deployed to personalize donor experiences and bring campaign ideas to life. This will only continue to grow in the coming year.

Who’s using it? British Veteran’s charity SSFA, Smile Train, Back on My Feet.

Digital Currency

What is it?  Also known as Cryptocurrency, it is an alternative to dollars or gold which are controlled by banks or the Federal Reserve. Individuals, not institutions, control cryptocurrency.  

Digital currency processors, or wallets, don’t charge processing fees and the underlying technology, known as blockchain, allows for complete transparency.
Several nonprofits are taking advantage of cryptocurrency because it offers complete transparency.

Why does it matter? Digital currency processors, or wallets, don’t charge processing fees and the underlying technology, known as blockchain, allows for complete transparency. This means donors and the public can trace nonprofit transactions to track results and ensure honest stewardship. Most of the charitable sector doesn’t yet accept digital currency but as digital currency continues to create wealth it will fuel increasing interest in cryptocurrency donations. 

Who’s using it? The Red Cross, United Way, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Greenpeace, Wikimedia Foundation and Save the Children.

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