Good Bitcoins And Big Data: How NGOs Use Digital Tools


Artificial intelligence to help the visually impaired, fundraising in cryptocurrency, CRM for donors, and user-friendly sites – following the example of business, charities are increasingly introducing new technologies. We will inform you about the main topic.

Until three months ago, no one could have predicted how the operating conditions of all organizations would change in 2020. The coronavirus and quarantine measures have pushed companies to go online on a massive scale, and NGOs are no exception. Many processes had to be urgently transferred online. At the same time, new digitalization tools had to be introduced not to lose the effectiveness of the assistance provided and preserve the transparency of work. Alena Kuratova, head of the Butterfly Children charitable foundation, talks about how digital technologies are helping the third sector.

AI And Big Data

According to a study by the Istoki Foundation, only 4% of Russian NGOs use artificial intelligence capabilities in their work, and another 3% – Big Data. But the situation is gradually changing.

With the support of tech companies, doctors, volunteers, and philanthropists are now implementing AI and Big Data systems to study the virus, find a vaccine for COVID-19, collect data on coronavirus and predict the spread of infection. Artificial intelligence even helps with drug development and personalized drug selection.

This year, the Children-Butterflies Foundation is launching its own project based on AI and Big Data technologies, which has no analogs in any charitable organization in the world – the Register of Epidermolysis Bullosa and Ichthyosis Patients. 

AI algorithms of the Register will be able to make predictions on the state of health and the course of the disease, which will help the fund plan the distribution of targeted assistance and financing of targeted programs. The global goal of the Foundation and the Register, in particular, is to include all people with gene dermatoses in government healthcare programs. They do not exist due to extremely limited information about diseases and patients in the health care system. 

Colleagues from other NGOs also demonstrate user experience. Search and rescue squad “Lisa Alert” and “Beeline” based on Big Data launched a service for notifications about missing people, thanks to which everyone who wants to receive information about searches in nearby areas in a timely manner can connect to them. Megafon, together with the non-profit laboratory Sensor-Tech, used artificial intelligence in a mobile application for the visually impaired, which recognizes banknotes, saving people with disabilities from problems with cash payments. 

User-Friendly Sites

The website of an organization, whether commercial or charitable, is both a showcase and a door through which a client, and in the case of an NPO, a donor enters the fund. The websites of many third-sector organizations have not been “overhauled” since their inception in the 2010s. Not only design is outdated, but also the functionality.

On the one hand, technical requirements are forcing change. For example, even characteristics such as page load affect search engine results. On the other hand, the behavioral habits of users. 

Another caveat to consider when reloading a charity website is intuitive payments. This is a very important function for the web platform of any NGO – to allow every visitor to donate quickly and easily. This applies to both design and structure of the site, as well as the integration of all popular payment systems. 

A modern NPO website should be not just an informational “business card” but a full-fledged communication tool between the foundation, wards, and donors. For example, the new website of the Children-Butterflies Foundation is synchronized with the control system of incoming funds and the Register of Gene Dermatoses.

This makes it possible to carry out online document flow with wards, issue full reports to donors, and communicate with doctors and the state. In fact, the website of the charitable foundation will turn into a portal that contains all the relevant information about epidermolysis bullosa and ichthyosis. 

Cryptocurrencies And Blockchain

Foreign NGOs switched to the practice of fundraising through cryptocurrencies five years ago. Old-timers of charity – Greenpeace, The Water Promise, United Way – started digital wallets, and the public organization Fidelity Charitable raised $ 7 million in two years of work with bitcoins. 

In Russia, the culture of fundraising with the help of cryptocurrencies is just emerging largely due to imperfect legislation in this area. The first step was taken by Vnesheconombank, which opened an account in 2017 for the Old Age in Joy fund. At first, donations could be made using the virtual currency Ether; now, replenishment in bitcoins is also available on the bank’s website. 

Also, by the end of December 2018, the Foundation for the Fight against Leukemia switched to reporting through the blockchain system, which should increase its transparency and security.

CRM To DRM Transformation

To increase transparency, funds use analogs of a CRM system. Commercial companies need CRM to track and manage the flow of customers and funds primarily. This scheme is also applicable to charitable organizations: clients of foundations are beneficiaries, among whom funds are distributed – donations. Reports on them require the most transparent approach; therefore, we launched DRM – Donors Relationship Management by analogy with CRM in business

The fund’s DRM is integrated with payment systems: so you can immediately see where the donation came from – the name of the company or the name of the recipient, from a permanent donor or one-time, the place from where the transfer was made. The system stores data on all donations and expenses for the wards. At the donor’s request, DRM can generate a report and provide data on where the funds went, down to a penny. 

Cooperation Between Business And NGOs In The Field Of Digitalization

In 2018, Google established a $ 25 million grant to introduce artificial intelligence into charitable foundations. As a result of the selection, 20 projects on environmental, medical, and humanitarian topics received financial and consulting support. 

Such impact investment programs, when the company is not interested in profit but interested in changes in the life of society, have become a trend. This is a very positive trend for charity. According to a large-scale study by the Istoki Foundation and the Donors’ Forum, 62% of Russian NGOs cited insufficient funding as a problem in implementing digital technologies. 

The same study found that 97% of the third sector would prefer to receive help from digital companies at no cost or on preferential terms. For large enterprises that have CSR departments in their structure in a changing market, this is especially important since the humanization and environmental friendliness of doing business is rising in importance. Small businesses and digital startups are also gradually coming to this, replenishing projects with socially-oriented technologies.

Also Read: Industry 5.0: What You Need To Know And How It Will Impact Companies

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