2021 was a year with cycles of recovery and disappointment; and 2022 may be starting off in the same fashion. With an acknowledgment for a continuation of our new normal, here are the top low-cost technology tools created to help non-profits successfully integrate technology into their operations in a hybrid and technology-heavy world.

According to a McKinsey & Company study where they surveyed 100 executives across industries and geographies, pre-COVID-19, 99 per cent of employees anticipated working in the office more than 80 per cent of the time. There is a trend that employees expect to be in the office less, post-COVID-19, with only 10 per cent of workers anticipating working from the office in a post-COVID-19 environment.

Whether non-profits are adopting the hybrid model might still be unknown. However, one thing is certain, the rise of technology is an essential part of how Canadians shop, interact, and work, and is something non-profits cannot afford to ignore anymore. I would love to highlight some companies offering low-cost or free technology tools that will allow non-profits to adopt technology seamlessly and manage the change in consumer habits.

1. Vome Volunteer

Ron Segev, the co-founder and vice president of partnerships at Vome Volunteer, along with his co-founder and chief executive officer, Samuel Fagen, started their company while completing their Bachelor of Commerce degrees at McGill University. They originally created the concept to allow high school students to schedule their mandatory volunteer hours within their community. From there, Ron and Samuel talked to non-profits and listened to their needs during the global pandemic. Non-profits told them that they wanted an end-to-end solution to manage onboarding, screening, schedule shifts in one place, allow volunteers and non-profits’ administrators to interact within a safe and secured platform, and have automatic reminders of upcoming volunteer dates, as well as the ability to digitize applications and keep track of forms. Ron and Samuel were able to deliver and rapidly innovate their platform to offer these features to non-profits today. Vome Volunteer is based in Quebec with over 40 active clients across Quebec and Ontario.

“We’re extremely proud of how the Vome platform has helped empower non-profit organizations to streamline their volunteer programs while simultaneously making it easier for volunteers to engage and connect with NPOs. We believe that the right tools and technologies to recruit and manage volunteers are not only imperative for organizations looking to increase each volunteer’s engagement and impact but can also significantly strengthen communities as a whole.” – Ron Segev VP of Partnerships, Vome Volunteer

What’s in it for the volunteers?

Any community member can sign up and browse the public opportunity board. Vome centralizes all the volunteer opportunities and helps volunteers track their impact (i.e., they have a resumé of their previous volunteer experience: when they volunteered, volunteer role, and the number of hours volunteered, with administrative verification). Since Vome’s launch last spring, over 300 volunteers have registered on their website, and they are eager to find non-profits to volunteer with. Ron and Samuel learned that volunteers loved simply scheduling their shifts through the app by speaking with them. Volunteers also enjoyed having a specific place for all the volunteering communication, so there was no confusion between different volunteer coordinators about the volunteer’s commitment and availability for shifts. The volunteers also love the push notifications.

Why non-profits love it

The app helps with volunteer engagement and volunteer retention. By automating certain reminders, there is less manual work for the administration teams, and volunteers are also more engaged with the non-profit. Vome Volunteer gives non-profits the right tools and volunteers the right tools; non-profits can serve more of their communities, while volunteers feel more empowered in their roles.

Platform costs for non-profits

Free Version: Allows non-profits to build volunteer positions, create seamless sharing tools, application screening, manage forms & interviews, use integrated chat rooms, and onboard volunteers.

Professional Version: In addition to everything in the free version, the pro version also offers integrated scheduling, hour tracking, on-site check-in, volunteer profiles, custom database, mobile app, and reporting tools.

2. Green Apple Gives

Christopher Tufford is the CEO of Green Apple Gives: a digital fundraising platform for organizations such as charities, non-profits, and other community-based groups to generate new recurring revenues from spare change and cashback rewards from their stakeholders’ everyday spending. It works like a rewards program for organizations that fundraise.

The pandemic has accelerated our society’s trend toward cashless transactions. When combined with the digital native mentalities of younger generations, organizations were already struggling to find new ways to engage. Green Apple Gives provides organizations a way to fit in perfectly with a digital-first lifestyle.

Chris has an 11-year-old son who does high-level sport karate. James’ competition team does fundraising to help offset the cost to parents. In 2019 they did fundraising BBQs, used clothing and electronics drives, sold raffle tickets, and had t-shirt sales – lots of old-school, in-person, and parent-organized types of events. But last year, they didn’t do any of those fundraisers, which cost the team $20k in lost contributions. But this isn’t just a problem for James’ karate team, and it’s not just a problem during the pandemic. Modernizing and digitizing fundraising is a massive problem for organizations everywhere! Green Apple Gives is based in Ontario but is available all across Canada. Currently, they have 15 non-profits signed up and 2000+  donors onboarded.

“We are extremely excited about how Green Apple Gives’ digital fundraising platform can help nonprofits and other community groups modernize and digitize their fundraising programs.  Over the next 5 years, we plan to create the largest cashback rewards platform in the world that includes all retail sectors.  From large multi-nationals to small local businesses, bricks and mortar stores to online only businesses.  We want to help make giving as easy and seamless as possible for organizations and their supporters so it doesn’t matter whether they’re dining out or ordering in.  Donors can simply live their lives and we’ll take care of the rest to help them support their chosen cause!” – Christopher Tufford CEO, Green Apple Gives

What’s in it for the donors?

Donors can regularly donate to their non-profit of choice through a few methods: spare change round-ups, cashback rewards, in-app direct donations, and QR code donations.

Spare change round-ups allow donors to round up their daily transactions so that they can give their spare change to any non-profit of their choice. If your coffee is $5.60, you can donate 40 cents to your charity of choice.

Cashback rewards allow donors to purchase products from eligible retailers and then earn cashback that is automatically donated on their behalf to their choice of charity.

In-app direct donations allow donors to send a one-time or recurring donation to non-profits with a quick touch of a button on a secure and beautiful platform.

QR code donations will allow donors to scan a QR code from non-profits during live events and donate on the spot. Digital payments are becoming the preferred way to pay and donate in the global pandemic’s cashless society.

Platform costs for non-profits

There are no monthly/annual fees, no signup/cancellation fees, no hidden fees, up to 95% revenue share, low $0.075 transaction fees, and access to all of Green Apple Gives’ services.

3. Small Business Mentor

I had the pleasure to speak with Michael Funkhouser, the founder of Small Business Mentor. Michael’s passion for marketing started from the age of 10, and in the last decade and a half, his love of marketing has allowed him to have a successful career at the age of 26. Small Business Mentor is a cumulation of Michael’s marketing career and his passion for helping others grow their businesses. Michael saw that marketing agencies were acting unethically and taking advantage of small businesses and non-profits, and he wanted to be a trusted advisor. He asks the hard questions, so non-profits starting to learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), website building, and marketing have a mentor to hold their hand every step of the way. Small Business Mentor aims to help give everyone who wants to start or grow a business the opportunity through resources and education. Their platform expertly vets resources to ensure agencies are ethical, transparent, and accessible.

Michael started Small Business Mentor for the mom-and-pop shops and those who haven’t decided on a business name yet. The neighborhood dry cleaners and the 20-year-old E-commerce superstars. It’s for those who are branding and re-branding. It’s for those just starting and those who want to retire. For the seasoned entrepreneurs and the 40-hour week, “There has to be something more to this life” lunch break brainstormers. It is for the lemonade standing, car washing, lawn mowing, looking out the window dreamer. Michael created Small Business Mentor to inspire entrepreneurs to do more, think outside the box, and succeed in their passion.

Why non-profits love it

Small Business Mentor is a completely FREE resource for non-profits to leverage. Non-profits who are lost on where to start can request a free digital marketing audit from Michael. Michael will then choose agencies that match the non-profit’s needs to provide additional free digital marketing audits.

Key Highlights of Small Business Mentor:

  • Businesses can now get personalized matches with agencies that industry experts have vetted.
  • Small Business Mentor will help businesses find software and other resources that match their needs, budget, and goals.
  • Small Business Mentor has a blog with new content every day focused on helping educate current or aspiring business owners.
  • All agencies and resources are vetted and audited by experts using ever-growing criteria. Services are required to be ethical, transparent, and accessible.

Success story

The budget has always been one of the key reasons non-profits do not invest in SEO, creating user-friendly websites, and marketing. One non-profit reached out to Michael, not knowing how they could reach more donor engagement, and he was able to help them increase website visitors by 200 per cent. Michael helped the non-profit research the keywords that would allow the non-profit to optimize their site, and helped them write up a grant application to help them obtain funds to afford an agency’s services. With Michael’s help, the non-profit could get on the front page of Google and leverage the SEO equity they already had. Stories like this are what Michael is passionate about and why he started Small Business Mentor. He could make a difference and see entrepreneurs perform better than ever. He is excited to help more non-profits gain the exposure they deserve.

4. Dialpad

Craig Walker, the founder and CEO of Dialpad, and founder of Google Voice, started Dialpad 11 years ago, and now has offices across North America and almost 1000 employees. Dialpad is a unified communications platform that connects teams through voice, video, messages, and online meetings, providing a comprehensive suite of advanced features to help streamline business communications and improve productivity. Some big brand names that use Dialpad include Motorola, Uber, T-Mobile, Twitter, and Stripe.

“Dialpad’s mission and my philosophy is one and the same: Do the right thing. By unifying our Dialpad for Startups, Tech for Black Founders, and NPO initiatives under one banner of Dialpad for Good, we aim to serve as a diversified support system for growing companies,” said Craig Walker, CEO, and founder of Dialpad. “It is incredible to see the financial impact Dialpad has made for these businesses over the past year and is even more humbling to help communities of innovative entrepreneurs.”

“Dialpad is built for the future of work. Work is not a place you go, but rather a thing you do. Given the global pandemic, remote work and hybrid work is not a passing phase, and it is the future of work,” said Craig. Dialpad keeps telephone costs low for non-profits and onboarding time low while providing a seamless user experience for the admin, volunteers, and donors.

Product offerings to Canada

Dialpad is rolling out a broader initiative for 2022 globally. Dialpad donated a bunch of equipment, computers, and other in-kind donations to help non-profits upgrade their technology, and it was a very successful campaign in 2021. Below I’ve outlined what this new initiative, titled Dialpad for Good, entails:

  • Dialpad for Startups

Dialpad for Startups provides qualified startups with 10 free, lifelong seats of Dialpad Talk (business phone lines) and Dialpad Meetings (video conferencing). Discounts on phone lines continue while video conferencing is always free. The business phone system includes a main company number that donors and volunteers can call, a sales line, customer support lines, and conferencing capability. Dialpad will enable non-profits to operate like a real business where hours of operations can be listed, and there can be a different number for each department.

  • Dialpad non-profit

Dialpad is committed to supporting the excellent work of mission-driven non-profit organizations and created the program to offer large discounts on our flagship software to organizations working towards the betterment of social services, environment, health, development, culture, advocacy and support, and access to education.

Success story 

Big Brothers and Big Sisters Lone Star is a non-profit that recently implemented Dialpad Talk into its operations. They loved how Dialpad Talk directly connected to Salesforce and how Dialpad logged calls and text as activities, which streamlined their communication and improved their productivity. They also loved the voice transcription and recording options, which they used for quality control. Finally, they love the analytical data for calls and texting, allowing managers to review productivity.

5. Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact (TSI) Program

Erik Arnold is the CTO of Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact Program. Erik has 25+ years of experience in the tech industry, and was also part of Bill Gates’ innovation group, which looked to tackle barriers like funding and lack of partner organizations. In 2017, he joined the Tech for Social Impact Program. Microsoft also ensured that TSI would reinvest earnings from the commercial engagement with non-profits into grants paid out to non-profits. In the last fiscal year alone, Microsoft’s TSI Program donated US$2.5 billion in software and services to non-profits. The TSI program went from serving 60,000 non-profits barely 4 years ago to more than 235,000 non-profits today. Non-profits can leverage this program to obtain all of Microsoft’s services for free to help them upscale their technology in time for 2022. Canadian non-profits leveraging the TSI program include Canadian Red Cross Society, Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, and Right to Play. I was blown away when talking to Erik and hearing his story. It is incredible to see someone passionate about driving change and genuinely caring about social change at the top of an influential organization like Microsoft.

“Rather than expecting non-profits, with strained resources, to shoehorn commercial software into their organization, TSI technology is built specifically for what non-profits do most. It’s a one-stop-shop for engaging and developing donors, reporting back on program efficacy, security, and more.” – Erik Arnold, CTO of Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact Program

Platform offerings

As part of the TSI program, Microsoft provides all non-profits access to Microsoft 365 (free up to 10 users) and US$3,500 worth of Azure service credits (annually) to help with cloud integration. Microsoft also grants 5 non-profits seats to their engagement and low code tools. Furthermore, in 2017, Microsoft also released their Common Data Model for Nonprofits, which is essentially a Rosetta Stone that helps non-profits relate data across applications and platforms. It is the foundation for all of the technology Microsoft creates for the sector. Finally, non-profits can also access free best security practices training webinars, obtain a free security assessment, and receive Account Guard. Account Guard helps protect against nation-state attacks against non-profit organizations. Per my discussion with Erik, “it’s an unfortunate reality that if you look at the 50 most targeted organizations on the planet at any given time, about 30 per cent of those are going to be non-profit organizations. They’re considered soft targets, but also they work sometimes, and controversial areas that make them an attractive target for cybercrime.”

On November 2, 2021, Microsoft’s Cloud for Nonprofit became generally available – it brings together M365, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, Azure, and LinkedIn, making staff collaboration, fundraising, volunteer management and engagement, and program delivery more efficient. Non-profits can leverage the data to accomplish their missions better.

There are 4 easy steps to take advantage of the non-profit offers. Step 1 is to complete the registration form and provide proof of non-profit status. Step 2, Microsoft’s local partner will contact non-profits for additional information. Step 3, non-profits will receive an email of their eligibility results within ten (10) business days. Step 4, eligible organizations will receive an email with the link to Microsoft Nonprofit Hub where the non-profit grant and discounts will be.

Success story

Microsoft’s TSI program allowed Right to Play to scale from 100 to more than 3,000 new stakeholders per month, managing a broad and international portfolio of donors, engaging them in new ways—and building better programs and serving more than two million children every week. The shift from manual and paper processes to digital workflows allowed Right to Play to improve operational efficiency and programmatic efficacy.

Conclusion

Accounting for the switch to hybrid events and hybrid working has become inevitable for non-profits to think about in 2022. Not leveraging and integrating more tech-forward practices is something non-profits can ignore moving forward. The 5 organizations discussed above live and breathe the collective vision of helping non-profits transition to more technology forward practices and are eager to help. Make the first step in implementing technology tools that can change the prospects of your non-profit.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Wendy Jing
Wendy Jing - Media Manager, Green Apple Pay. Chuyue (Wendy) Jing graduated with a Bachelor's of Commerce from Queen's University. She has a wide array of experiences from auditing, consulting, and marketing and she is passionate about the startup and nonprofit sector.