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Ben Birchall
Industry Expert

Ben Birchall is a writer, broadcaster and content specialist

Ben Birchall
Industry Expert

Ben Birchall is a writer, broadcaster and content specialist

The not-for-profit sector has come a long way from rattling tins and bake sales. To raise funds and awareness and to connect with communities, the next generation of not-for-profits is increasingly turning to technology.

Australia’s large NFP sector is an important element of the national employment landscape and contributes greatly to a diverse range of communities. According to the Australian government, charities employ more than 1.3 million people and engage 3 million volunteers. The NFP sector also produces an annual revenue of $143 billion, which is over 8 per cent of Australia’s GDP.

For a number of decades, non-profit organisations have played a significant role among the many other different types of business structures operating in Australia. The major differences between the next generation of not-for-profits and those of the past is the higher level of professionalism and ability to leverage contemporary business strategies, including the use of technology to help grow and achieve positive outcomes.

a plant growing out of a metal watering can

Innovation is child’s play

Playground Ideas is one of those innovative NFP’s with with an innovative business development plan incorporating tech to reach their audience and redefine their mission. Formed in 2007, Playground Ideas is a non-profit organisation that provides free, open-source resources to help anyone, anywhere build a playground.an innovative business development plan incorporating    an innovative business development plan incorporating 

But it started as a more hands-on venture, physically building the playgrounds themselves.

“We slogged it out building 40 playgrounds in Thailand in six months,” says founder Marcus Veerman.

“I got influenza Type B, dengue fever and [had] my appendix out. That was brutal. So it was just by pure force that I had to find a different way.

“I thought there was maybe 100 people a year looking for playgrounds. As it turned out, Playground Ideas supported over 1000 sites before the end of 2015. I never thought it would ramp up as
quickly as it did. And it’s all [from] internet sharing,” Veerman says.

Technology has allowed Playground Ideas to scale, and also changed them from a group who build playgrounds to an information and fundraising hub. In fact, Veerman characterises the company completely differently to when it was first established. “We’re an information provider,” he says. first 

Reaching the people

While Playground Ideas used a number of strategies and technologies to reach their community and drive traffic.

These included:

  • Google Ads
  • A/B testing and tweaking
  • Visual assets like infographics and photo galleries of projects that are shareable on social media

Moving with the times

However, harnessing technology isn’t necessarily easy. This can be a sticking point for NFP’s.

“We spent quite a bit of money building our first website and we’ve just rebuilt it two years later. That seems like an epic spend for an organisation,” says Veerman.

But the rise of smartphones in the developing world as well as the increased popularity of crowd-funding meant that an update was needed.

“It’s growing so fast that we had to have a mobile-responsive site and we put in crowd-funding because it’s a thing that everyone knows about now,” says Veerman.

And for Veerman, the investment is justified.

“If you’ve got a business making money offline, to think that you wouldn’t harness the things that help people to find you and communicate with you online, you’re out of your mind.”

Australian not-for-profits using tech

  1. Spark*
    Spark* supports entrepreneurs working for social good around the world. Projects like Smokeless Homes, providing solar panels for Kenyan homes. Using a tech startup model, Spark* provides an accelerator program as well as offering tech consultancy.
  2. Movember
    Now a global force, Movember uses tech to reach its audience and builds programs like their Global Action Plan that connects specialists from all of the globe to drive better health outcomes for men.
  3. Thankyou Water
    Australian brand Thankyou Water creates products like water, soap and household goods and gives a portion of profits to NGOs fighting poverty and disadvantage. On the tech front, they have an app that allows you to track the progress of the program you are supporting. 

Find out how charities and not-for-profit organisations can benefit from the latest technologies.

Discover Telstra Smarter Business Tools

The Telstra Foundation uses technology to improve lives in Australia.

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