Technology and empathy are invaluable resources that help humans understand other humans. For nonprofits, a combination of the two is especially important. With efficiency, human compassion, and the ability to deliver consistent, measurable results top of mind for nonprofits, running your organization without either can be risky.
Technology enables nonprofits to reach (and serve) more people, more efficiently. Digital tools help collect and analyze data as well as streamline processes. Conversely, hard work and empathy alone cannot solve challenges on a large scale. To make strides in solving issues like poverty, access to clean water, and equal education, nonprofits need both.
SEEING PEOPLE BEYOND THE DATA
Predictive technology is an invaluable tool that improves nonprofit success. It enables nonprofits to gain a deeper understanding of constituents and drive decision making on a more personal, individual level. For example, a nonprofit that helps prison inmates reenter the workforce can manage the success of each constituent through a case management software with predictive capabilities.
Data gathered from the case management system may show that one participant has been unemployed for eight months. Throughout this period, he or she has been to several interviews but has never progressed past the first round. With predictive analytics, the organization can identify this pattern in their data. They can then assist the participant with their interview skills to help get over the hurdle of the first round.
Combining technology and empathy allows organization to run a nonprofit using creative and innovative strategies. However, it’s up to the humans looking at the data to take action. Technology helps nonprofits see data points and patterns. Empathy mobilizes them to act and make a positive change.
DATA-DRIVEN RESEARCH, HUMAN-CENTERED STORIES
Often, nonprofits will share stories about how their organization has helped participants or the community to raise awareness of their mission. To create these stories, nonprofits need data-backed research to prove their impact. However, to share these stories with respect and empathy, nonprofits must have compassion.
Telling your constituents’ stories means that it’s up to you, the storyteller, to strike a balance between data-driven and human-centered, numbers and narrative. For instance, simply stating that you helped survivors of domestic violence and showing data or statistics is ambiguous and unemotional. These figures mean nothing if their worth is not explained. Build a story around the data and research, but keep humans the focal point of stories (and all of your organization’s strategies).
Data gives us proof of efficacy, while empathy allows stories to resonate on an emotional level, creating connections between humans while driving awareness and action.
ENSURE TIGHTER DATA SECURITY
In order to truly understand how to run a nonprofit with technology and empathy, organizations need to put data security at the forefront of their strategy. Nonprofits collect and manage a large volume of sensitive data on a daily basis. It’s crucial for organizations to take the appropriate measures to protect this information.
For instance, when constituents engage with a nonprofit, they often speak candidly and disclose personal details, assuming the organization will handle their information ethically and with empathy. Many nonprofits use a digital case management system to store data but aren’t sure of how they collect and store information. Is it stored on local servers or in the cloud? Does the case management software align with data security guidelines that your organization has to follow, such as HIPAA?
If your software provider isn’t secure with data, this tells your constituents and potential donors that your organization isn’t secure, either. Ensure your provider’s technical abilities and commitment to tight information security and ethical data storage align with your organization’s values. Proper data security is a reflection of how you treat donors, staff members, and most importantly, your constituents. Treating data sensitively and ethically plays a significant role in how to run a nonprofit successfully.
HOW TO RUN A NONPROFIT WITH COMPASSION AND INNOVATION: A BALANCING ACT
You can be a results-oriented, data-driven organization while still employing ethical and empathetic processes. A balancing act between the two is the key to driving positive results for both your organization and its constituents. Together, these factors are bridging the gap between emotion and efficiency and providing the necessary actionable insights needed to transform the social good sector.
In a rapidly changing digital world, technology is our ally and empathy is our moral compass to truly drive change.