NGOs go digital - improve visibility, relationships & impact

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7 min read

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have always relied heavily on visibility and relationships. Making the right connections and getting their messages through helps them be considered for fundings and creating close relationships is essential to find volunteers and donors. With the changing world, these foundations rely more and more on digital channels and a smart use of data.

NGO goals to support humanity

On January 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were defined at a historic UN Summit. According to the SDGs website, the agenda

"provides a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future."

NGOs are heavily involved in achieving these goals by supporting efforts to fight poverty, inequality, to protect the environment and essentially mobilize people to offer their support as volunteers and/or donors.

However, with funding cuts, an unstable economy and recovery from the pandemic, NGOs are more than ever trying to connect with their target groups and create strong, loyal relationships. According to the GlobeNewswire market report on NGOs, many organizations are investing in CRM software to keep an overview on donations but also manage contact information of donors as well as volunteers.

But how can NGOs fully leverage CRM systems and many other digital solutions not only for administrative work but to create their own ecosystem and knowledge network?

Data Transparency

Collecting funds and donations while keeping book is a never-ending task that demands transparency and often involves many resources and manual work. With the right technology, any financial interaction can be traced, connected to the right contact, and automatically processed.

A modern CRM system can be easily connected to any bookkeeping software and is able to access donor information on the frequency and amount of donations. That way, NGOs can identify the right moment to ask for donations.


Marketing automation connected to the contact data base can help to create entire journeys for donors, volunteers and other stakeholders. From their first registration and donation, they can receive newsletters, personalized emails covering topics that are relevant to their interests and even get automated reminders as well as transactional emails (e.g., receipts).

With segmentation, NGOs can even create groups for specific communication campaigns, such as volunteers, donors, funding contacts, influencers, and press. Even more so, modern marketing automation can identify contact behavior and send invites to events or donation appeals to only those contacts that are most likely to react positively.

All of this can happen on different channels (chat, email, social media) and it can even be used for paid campaigns that find new contacts based on the information NGOs have on their existing contacts. With retargeting, these new potential donors and volunteers can receive the right information in intervals to convince them to join the good cause.


NGOs live from visibility. A well-known organization is more likely to be recommended. In the age of the internet, a website is a must but might not be enough to stand out amongst the competition. Social media offers NGOS the possibility to share their work, give insights into the daily life, achievements, and projects and attract new contacts. Some NGOs even managed to go viral with fun, heart-warming or inspiring videos, messages, or images.

A CRM or marketing automation system can support the digital visibility by connecting different channels and plan communication campaigns across all channels. All these channels can be tracked and measured, so the NGOs always knows which topics are popular. With A/B-testing, different visuals, messages or structures can be tested to find out what contacts prefer and what increases engagement.


As already mentioned, transparency and data overview are crucial for NGOs to not only stay compliant and keep in line with regulations and laws but also to be able to share information with all stakeholders. This creates trust because the NGOs can 100% account for every single cent that was spent.

CRM systems, data management tools, and - for bigger organizations - data warehouses and platforms - offer all the right solutions to set up personalized reports for different units within the organizations as well as stakeholders. These can be set up so they are updated automatically in real-time. The look & feel of the report can be adapted to allow for drill-down opportunities.

An example: 

A report shows the annual amount of donations. With a click on a specific month, the user can also see the countries where the donations came from. With another click, demographics of the donors can be seen or even the individual donors to see the distribution of donations.

Reports can also offer insights into volunteer resources and identify gaps (e.g., at specific locations or for specific tasks). Additionally, "VID" (very important donors") or "VIV" (very important volunteers) can be easily identified to receive special recognition.

Find out how the charity Diakonie RWL implemented a new CRM system to get full access of membership and statistical data across all locations. 

Get the use case


Digital transformation is not just the digitization of processes and the migration from data from an excel to a strong platform. One of the key advantages of modern digital tools is the ease of use, intuitiveness and endless possibilities to personalize interfaces and automate tasks.

All this decreases the amount of tedious manual work that keeps employees and volunteers from doing the actual work. Instead of taking hours to research the right contacts, employees can, for example, simply set their desired segments and extract a list of donors that they can then contact individually to have honest conversations and build relationships. Even during these conversations, employees are able to look into the donor history and behavior data, so they know which topics are most relevant for them.

Standardized templates and workflows additionally help to plan events, document stakeholder conversations, and create content that speaks to the NGOs' target audience.

By the way, usability is not just for employees and volunteers but also for donors and other stakeholders. An easy-to-use embedded donation form that offers multiple payment options can do wonders compared to bank details in the footer. The easier it is for new contacts to navigate an NGOs' website and find the right information (and perform the right actions), the more likely they are to become part of the community.


Since many NGOs rely on volunteer work and are spread out across different locations, it can be difficult to align on standards for the communication, visuals, etc.

A cloud-based CRM can be used anywhere, at the computer in an office, at the laptop at home with a tablet during an event. With predefined templates, all employees and volunteers can easily create emails, event pages (and forms for registration and donation) or create local websites without losing the NGOs' brand, key message, and look and feel.

Gamification & Loyalty Programs

Gamification is the art of turning seemingly ordinary or even tedious processes into fun. Participation, volunteer work, even donations can be turned into an adventure for the donors and volunteers by designing processes as entertainment and by offering badges, certifications and even prices for specific achievements.

NGOs can, for example, set different donation levels and offer rewards (gifts, invitations to events, the mentioning of the names on the website, etc.). Volunteers can get badges or awards for their work or for recruiting other volunteers. It's even possible to turn the concept of the loyalty program, which is usually used in retail, into a great way to create a community that feels special (read more about loyalty programs here).

CRM systems support loyalty programs and gamifications and make them a lot easier via automation.

Compliance & Data Protection

To not only handle financial data but also contact information of donors and volunteers is a sensible topic. Quite often, it can be difficult to ensure utmost data security and privacy, especially when volunteers with different expertise levels handle contact data.

A CRM system can be set up in a way that all new contacts are able to opt in to any communication as well as give their consent for data usage. Even more so, with the centralized data management, it is much easier to oblige industry-specific, local, and general data regulations. The system therefore makes sure that data regulations and compliance is assured. That way, even users without the necessary legal knowledge can use the systems safely.

As you can see, digital transformation can help NGOs in numerous ways to be more efficient, create closer relationships, and evolve communities and visibility. Find out, how DIGITALL can support you in transforming your NGOs to increase your impact and achieve your goals.

Digitalize your organization

by Beatriz Herreras

Beatriz has 20 years of experience in IT and Operations, and has been working in the NGO/NPO sector in the last 12 years both from a business side as well as a consultant. She specializes in digital transformation, digital customer journeys, business process optimization and NGO/NPO enablement.

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