Tech-powered nonprofits: Can technology transform the nonprofit sector?

The past 2 years has been very difficult for many of us. According to research from the UNDP and UNICEF in May 2021, the proportion of households facing moderate or severe food insecurity rose to 11.7%. Income reductions and disruptions to food delivery systems were the main factors contributing to this problem.

While many governments did take steps to tackle this issue, countries like Indonesia faced real challenges in distributing aid, due to its unique geography. This is where nonprofits stepped in to help.

Nonprofit organizations' roles become critical in hard times, but that's not to say that they don't need help themselves.

Having my own nonprofit organization that I run part-time, with my wife, I truly feel that it's not an easy task to manage all the responsibilities associated with it at once. Raising funds, hiring volunteers, buying donation packages, distributing packages, and providing reports to donors can be an overwhelming task.

One example—when COVID hit Indonesia for the first time and the government shut down almost all business activities, we initiated a program called #ramadhanberbagi to distribute 2,500 sembako parcels (rice, noodles, eggs, etc) to people impacted most by the pandemic, like taxi drivers, the homeless, and more. Right away, the fundraising process became an issue. Since there were many donors willing to participate in the program, it took hours just to cross check and administer all the donations. We also needed to notify all the donors, one by one. It took up a lot of our time.

The next issue occurred when we bought the packages. Since we were still using an Excel sheet, managing and recording expenses manually was very frustrating. Quite often there were incorrect data inputs and we needed to revise it manually. It's also difficult to maintain accuracy if there are many transactions involved.

Distributing the packages also became another challenge. We had roughly 50 volunteers to help distribute the packages. Scheduling the volunteer according to their availability, sending reminders, and sending the distribution lists were also done manually, through email and Whatsapp. Can you imagine how many thousand of repetitive tasks we had to do just to keep reminding volunteers and ensuring the packages were delivered to the right people?

The challenge didn't stop there. As a nonprofit organization, building trust with donors is crucial. Donors need transparency when it comes to our activities and our spending in the program. Since we didn't have a master database, it really took time to consolidate all the data before creating the report for our donors.

I believe the problems I face in running my own nonprofit organization also happen to others. I have a friend that works as the director at Lazis (another nonprofit organization). He told me that managing operations is one of his biggest challenges. The problems were even more complex for him because his nonprofit is much larger than mine, and sometimes they have to run many programs in parallel.

Now, as I was also working in one of the most innovative tech companies in the world, I realized that technology could really help and transform the nonprofit sector. Currently, there's a particular application development platform on the market that's based on no-code/low-code. Using this platform, nonprofit sectors could create apps to manage their entire operation, without having to write a single line of code.

This could be a real game changer for many organizations. Since I believe each nonprofit is unique, we can't just use any generic software. That's where this platform came in—it allowed us to create our own software that exactly met our processes and needs.

One of the most established and trusted no-code/low-code platforms in the world is Zoho Creator. But how can using Zoho Creator transform the nonprofit sector? Here's how:

  1. Volunteer management and engagement: You can automate workflows to manage volunteer registration and other activities, like follow-ups and newsletters. Schedule emails to be sent based on a variety of customizable triggers, such as when someone signs up to volunteer or when a new event is scheduled. It's now possible to avoid the nightmare of having to manually schedule reminders to all of your volunteers!

  2. Event planning: You can now manage administrative tasks, event planning, execution, and more with ease. To allow attendees to sign up, just incorporate online web forms into your registration setup. You can even send email/SMS notifications to attendees as reminders, and use calendar-style reports to ensure that event planning and scheduling never gets out of hand.

  3. Expense management: Keeping track of your expenses can be challenging, let alone managing all of your data using spreadsheets, like we experienced when running our charity programs. However, with Zoho Creator, you can easily automate tasks like revenue calculation and expense extrapolation over a set period. Simply access individual donor reports and print them.

  4. Fundraising activities: Previously, when there was a need for fundraising, I needed to go back to my list and send notifications to each donor, one by one, regarding our new program. With Zoho Creator, you can run and manage entire campaigns from a single interface. Notify all of your stakeholders automatically via email and track the financial progress of your fundraisers with real-time reports!

  5. Donor manager: Keeping individual donor profiles is a very important task at nonprofits, but many never manage to get it done—doing it manually is almost impossible. Using Zoho Creator, you can maintain individual donor profiles and use custom filters and groups to build targeted donor lists based on their past giving, engagement level, campaign purpose, and more. You can also send them updates via SMS or email for urgent appeals, campaign updates, and important news. No more manual work when providing updates and reporting to donors.

Still not sure how Zoho Creator can transform your nonprofit? Contact us now at and they'll be happy to help you get started.

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  • Handito Aji Saroso

    Senior Business Consultant and Country Lead, Zoho Indonesia. Handito has over 14 years of management experience, including senior management positions in many B2B tech companies. He is currently responsible as Senior Business Consultant and Country Lead at Zoho Indonesia. He is an expert at helping companies gain growth through understanding the end-to-end digital customer journey and securing new business partnership channels.

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