It has become apparent that nonprofits have been hit hard by the shutdown on two fronts. Federal programs have furloughed government workers who enable and distribute the funding plus the government cannot pay the grants and other support payments agreed to for programs, including those serving homeless youth, that need to continue running. But nonprofits, even with their coffers running low, continue innovating using technology to build ways to bridge the gaps. The efforts come on three fronts:
1) Crowdfunding and Directed Giving to Enhance Donations
With funds already low because of sequester cuts, getting donations to keep programs running is essential. It has been made easier with a variety of resources, sites and tools. Scientists have turned to crowdfunding to keep their research underway and many have left federally funded research teams to startup new ways to acquire donations and publicize their efforts. The beauty of crowdfunding is that many small donations are aggregated to make a big impact for a nonprofit organization.
Directed giving (where donors can pick the organization, cause or even a particular person that they want to help online) offers nonprofits a great way to market their efforts and demonstrate how funds have already helped to solve social problems. In one example, thousands of domestic violence shelters rely on government funds and are now facing the real threat of shutting down. Sadly this catastrophe comes during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Many shelters are taking advantage of technology to set up online directed giving campaigns.
2) Social Media Campaigns
Sharing stories and connecting with supporters keeps nonprofits moving forward especially through the budget fight storm. It’s not only each organization’s own Facebook and Twitter accounts that have been lighting up with with stories shared about how the government sequester and shutdown are impacting service providers; the sharing and retweeting connects organizations allowing them to learn from each other and build efforts together. It also bring forward ideas and information, such as sites that are tracking the changing funding environment. Social media is being used privately by furloughed public officials to continue getting the word out about volunteering and offering humor as they try to cope. (Justin Herman, who usually works as the social media guru for the General Services Administration, started the Twitter updates #shutdownbeard.)
3) Connecting the Concerned
Emails and websites may not be the newest technology around but they are making it easier for people to both donate and volunteer. Many furloughed workers are choosing to provide volunteer work during the shutdown and use websites to share public service activities. And, to connect these workers with paid opportunities, https://www.unfurlough.us/ has taken off (after starting as a Google doc circulated among startup companies in DC). The online and traditional media engines are jumping in now, too, with special content on their own websites when they see Twitter postings explode on subjects like the shutting down of Head Start programs around the country and the possibility that military death benefits may not be paid.
All this publicity has brought some saviors to stench some of the wounds. But the efforts to get help to nonprofit organizations may be too little too late for some and others won’t have the knowledge of how to leverage technology. Provide your expertise or fund one of the organizations to keep the help flowing.
Patti Dunn is the founder of Survive The Streets, a crowdfunding site that prevents homelessness currently running a pilot program in Seattle. This nonprofit’s Razoo campaign raises funds to build out its directed giving platform so Survive The Streets can expand to additional cities.