Gesture’s Marketing Manager, Brandon Stec, shares his insights on the nonprofits using tech in order to advance their causes.

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How are nonprofits using tech to advance their causes?

From Blue Sky, June 24, 2016

13312688_885091221634516_3279902828349351207_nNEW FEATURE: Blue Sky has teamed with Chicago startup Hearken, an audience engagement platform for newsrooms, to find out what you want to know about startups and technology. We’ll answer simpler questions in “Ask Blue Sky” and report others in longer stories. Let us know what you want to learn! Here’s our latest question, from Anonymous via Hearken.

Nonprofits are using technology and data to reach more diverse donors in different ways, said Brandon Stec, marketing manager at mobile bidding company Gesture.

The Westmont-based startup provides technology to nonprofits that brings their silent auctions and ticketing platforms online. That can give people the ability to easily donate and bid on their phones, or reach people who aren’t even at an event.

But these days, nonprofits tend to go further than that, Stec said.

They’re using social media to tell their stories and reach donor bases in ways beyond just asking for money. That builds strong relationships with donors, he said. Just sending an email doesn’t cut it anymore.

“Email is almost archaic these days,” Stec said. “Everything is communicated through social media or text messages.”

Chicago Cubs first basemen Anthony Rizzo’s Family Foundation is an example, Stec said. The foundation, which raises money for cancer research and support for families, tweets often about its events and campaigns. Rizzo not only retweets the info from his account, but also shares the story about his own battle with cancer.

Nonprofits tend to adopt new technology slower than other companies, Stec said, partially because they have restrictive budgets. But the ones that move quickly have seen greater increase in donations and activity from new donors.

Charities have tapped into tools like Facebook’s “Donate Now” button, and have learned what platforms to use to reach certain demographics. They’re also learning to read data and put it to work.

“Data is at our fingertips now. Everyone is using it a little bit,” he said. “The ones who are using it effectively are the ones who are digging into who’s giving and why they’re giving.”

The work in nonprofit data analytics often lies in understanding people, said Christine Campigotto, applied data science manager at data analytics startup Civis Analytics. That could mean volunteers, donors, activists or the people receiving the charity’s service.

Nonprofits that already know a lot of information about their donors can analyze the data to better understand what kind of geographic and economical trends are driving them, she said.

Those without much data can gather information through surveys, and use that to find where their services are needed, she said. For example, Civis conducted a survey for a nonprofit that helps those without health insurance. The survey results told the nonprofit where people that lacked health insurance lived.

Most organizations track return on investment through multiple channels. Pulling those together allows nonprofits to make more informed decisions on the best ways to spend their money, and identify the most worthwhile donors to target.