Image shows volunteers handing items to kids.

Empowering Nonprofits Through Challenging Times

It’s not always the most visible sector, but nonprofit organizations bring in over 10% of the gross domestic product in the U.S. and employ more people than most other industries (behind only retail and food services). On top of the direct employment they provide and the beneficial actions they take in society, nonprofits are also good for the economy by their indirect effects: they enable others to contribute to the broader workforce, create more jobs through goods and services they consume, and encourage additional economic activity through events and positive associations. So empowering nonprofits to operate successfully ends up creating good for everyone. The obstacles caused by Covid-19 have made it a challenging time for nonprofits—but it’s a hopeful time as well.

The State of Nonprofits Today

Nonprofits and charitable organizations have often operated with limited budgets and unspecialized staff. The drawn-out pandemic we’ve all witnessed has brought a whole new set obstacles to add to these challenges. Health concerns and distancing measures have kept volunteers from coming in at the level they used to. Many fundraising events were cancelled when initial shutdowns took people by surprise. Individuals who might have otherwise donated have lost jobs and are struggling financially. But on the other hand, with some flexibility nonprofits have found ways around these hurdles. Many groups were able to convert their fundraising events to virtual settings, and a majority of those that did were able to reach their fundraising goals. And people who had the means were not deterred from giving charitably last year. In fact, donations for set days like #GivingTuesday went up.

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The Importance of Digital Presence

In order for these accomplishments to happen, nonprofit groups have needed a good online presence. Like the fundraising events that organizers were able to adapt, much of volunteer work has taken place virtually, and also with success. The ability to contribute and communicate remotely is especially valued by women and the younger individuals of Gen Z. And one of the things that groups have realized generally over the past 18 months is that virtual options allow for more people to join in. Considering all these things, it looks like many virtual events and opportunities will continue to go on even after Covid-19 is under control. In this age of flexibility and virtual reach, it’s crucial for nonprofits to make a digital transformation if they haven’t already.

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Platforms for Empowering Nonprofits

Many nonprofits don’t have IT experts on hand and are preoccupied with working on their missions, and this can cause some to delay moving to more digital environments. Empowering nonprofits with platforms that make it easier for them to make that move is one way to boost all of the benefits that come from their work. Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Nonprofits has allowed charitable organizations to take on big tasks in more manageable ways. Its Common Data Model (CDM) for Nonprofits, available on GitHub, was built with input from leading nonprofits around the world. Made to align with the International Aid Transparency Initiative standard, it focuses on program delivery and measuring impact.

Image shows a nonprofit volunteer working with children.

The Fundraising and Engagement solution improves workflows for groups working on those crowdsourcing projects. It provides insights for improved campaigns and support throughout the fundraising process. Organizations can use it for multiple types of fundraisers, such as annual donations, recurring gifts, and event management. Data management, payment processing, and business intelligence tracking are securely run through Microsoft Azure and Power BI.

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Then there’s the Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator, which is a suite of templates, sample apps, and connectors designed just for the kinds of situations nonprofits face. These are intended to facilitate app development and reduce costs for partners who work with and for nonprofits, ultimately providing better platforms for them in less time. To bolster these tools, Microsoft works with a range of partners who specialize in technology and social good. And what’s especially helpful is that under Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact program, most charitable organizations qualify for some free licenses for Dynamics and PowerApps, and a 75% discount after the free ones.

For examples of organizations that have benefited from these tools and discounts, check out this feature article on groups like The Contingent, Right to Play, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

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