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How better tech is helping non-profits do the work that matters

A Zapier report

By Zapier Editorial Team · December 3, 2021
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During stay-at-home orders, investing in tech solutions became necessary for all organizations—especially non-profits. Technology quickly became a pivotal part of engaging volunteers, and even as some return to in-person participation, volunteers want non-profits to continue to use tech tools to streamline their work.

In fact, nearly three in five Americans (58 percent) say they're more inclined to volunteer with non-profit organizations that offer better technology solutions for participants to use while volunteering. If non-profits want to increase involvement, better tech might be the key.

Volunteers want better tech solutions at non-profits

Dull and mind-numbing work is keeping people from volunteering. An estimated 148.8 million* Americans (58 percent) say they would be encouraged to volunteer if non-profit organizations had better tech tools for them to use while volunteering. This jumps up to just over two-thirds (68 percent) among Americans who have volunteered in the past or are currently volunteering.

Bottom line: volunteers want to have an impact—not spend their time on data entry.

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More than one-third of Americans plan to volunteer virtually 

Nearly three in five Americans (59 percent) plan to volunteer with non-profit organizations in 2022—and more than a third (36 percent) plan to do so virtually. 

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This makes it even more important for non-profits to catch up with tech solutions, especially since that's one of the main reasons people cite for not volunteering. 

Why Americans don't volunteer

76 percent of volunteers report facing issues when volunteering at non-profits, and many of those issues center around the lack of efficiency. Here are the main issues Americans have faced while volunteering:  

  • Lack of communication, in general, from the organization (27 percent)

  • Lack of resources to find additional volunteers (24 percent)

  • Scheduling trouble (23 percent)

  • Not getting clear guidance on tasks/responsibilities (22 percent)

  • Spending time on repetitive tasks (20 percent)

  • Lack of technology available (20 percent)

  • Lack of/poor onboarding (i.e., training volunteers on what to do) (20 percent)

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Non-profits are using automation to streamline work and support volunteers

By using tech solutions to accomplish tedious tasks, organizations can solve a lot of these issues—and many non-profits are turning to automation to help.

Zapier saw a huge increase in non-profits using our automation software from 2017 through 2021. This number continues to rise as non-profits see the benefits of using tech to streamline operations and increase volunteer turnout. 

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For example, automation allows The Georgia Innocence Project staff and volunteers to stay focused on their core mission—helping people wrongfully convicted of crimes. "As a nonprofit, we always have to try and do more with less, which means that we are constantly running up against constraints of time and resources," said Operations Director Matt Holbrook.

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By weaving automation throughout their work processes, The Georgia Innocence Project is creating systems that give staff space to litigate cases, raise funds, and keep clients updated without having to spend time on fiddly, manual tasks. 

Here's what automation has allowed the Georgia Innocence Project to get done: 

  • Process and track 270 open records requests over ~2 years

  • Process 830 intern applicants over ~2 years

  • Receive and track 5,360 phone calls over 4.5 years

  • Review 628 job applicants for 14 different positions

  • Track 10,591.6 hours of volunteer/intern time over 3 years

  • Process 2,400 expense records over 3 years

And they're not alone. Here are a few more examples of how non-profits are using automation to simplify communication, minimize repetitive tasks, and generally streamline their work:

  • Lasagna Mamas, a homemade food delivery non-profit, automated their entire onboarding process, helping them bring in over 15,000 volunteers across the country.

  • StoryCorps, a non-profit that shares stories from people of all backgrounds, uses automation to create and update customer records based on where people have engaged. It's saved the organization hours of tedious data entry every week.

  • Miracle Messages, a non-profit that reconnects families across the globe, has automated their entire operation, automatically assigning voicemails, emails, and other tasks to their volunteers.

These non-profits understand how important it is to adopt the right tech tools and streamline processes to make room for what really matters: working on their mission.

Methodology: This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Zapier. It ran from October 28-November 1, 2021, among 2,035 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,192 have volunteered. This online survey isn't based on a probability sample, and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Zapier. *Calculated using US Census population estimate: 256,662,010 adults 18+ X .58 = 148,863,966 or roughly 148.8 million

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