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Report Shows How Nonprofits are Taking the Lead with Digital Engagement

By Guest Author August 19, 2022

Nonprofits lead in addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges—and in recent years, their work has never been more essential. When the pandemic limited in-person access to critical services, many nonprofits were forced to adopt digital channels to support constituents, accelerating a trend of the past decade. Today, the demand for digital services continues to grow.

In May 2022, Twilio published the State of Nonprofit Digital Engagement Report on how digital engagement is reshaping the way nonprofit organizations deliver services. The research reflects insights from a survey of 800 employees of nonprofit organizations and 1,500 nonprofit program participants across the U.S. and U.K. that have accessed benefits or services from nonprofits.

What quickly became clear is that digital engagement is now central to nonprofit programs. In fact, 89% of nonprofits report that digital communications are critical to achieving their organization’s mission.

Key Findings: Nonprofits Lead, but Program Participants Want More Personalization in Digital Engagement

There’s a tired myth that nonprofits are less innovative than their private sector counterparts, but this research shows that’s not true. In fact, nonprofits outpace the private sector when it comes to digital engagement, reporting that 65% of their engagement with program beneficiaries is digital, compared to 55% digital engagement among B2C companies.

Twilio’s chief social impact officer, Erin Reilly, says: “Nonprofits are some of the most technically innovative organizations and this research highlights the digital strategies they’re embracing to deepen impact and improve program outcomes.”

Incorporating digital communications into nonprofit programs produces immediate returns, with organizations experiencing an average of 3.6 benefits, such as increasing accessibility and efficiency. By adopting new channels and strategies, nonprofits can inspire more people to take action in their own way, increasing the overall impact of the program. 

But while nonprofits are leading, there is still plenty of room to grow. Constituents want more from these organizations: 79% say digital communications are important in providing services and programs, but only 37% of participants say they are using them in that way. 

What’s the largest opportunity in nonprofit communication? According to both program participants and nonprofits, it’s personalization. Program participants ranked personalization the number one area they would like organizations to prioritize to improve program experience. Nonprofits agree: 77% of organizations surveyed say that personalization is a high or critical priority for 2022. 

Unlocking the Power of Personalization in Digital Engagement

In the context of B2C communications, personalization might feel intuitive, such as sending people relevant promotions for shoes they’ve expressed an interest in. But what does personalized digital engagement mean for nonprofits? According to Chris Hoffman, global project manager for Digital Community Hubs at the Norwegian Refugee Council, for the people nonprofits serve, “Personalization equals dignity.” 

Personalized engagement is about understanding the needs and preferences of the people you serve—from communication channels like text messaging or phone calls to the history of engagement with your organization—and empowering your team to meet people’s needs each time they engage with you.

Leading organizations integrate communications directly into data systems, like Salesforce CRM or a customer data platform (CDP), in order to use data from past participant experiences to personalize future interactions. Personalized digital engagement builds trust and credibility with program participants and donors by demonstrating consideration for a person’s preferences and speaking directly to their needs.

As Hoffman and the Norwegian Refugee Council show, personalized digital engagement can also enable you to serve more people, more efficiently, and improve program outcomes.

Action for Children Offers Personalized Advice for Parents

Action for Children, a U.K.-based charity, knows a thing or two about personalized digital engagement. They’ve been helping children for over 150 years and have become a vital lifeline for many families navigating the challenges of parenthood and child development. 

Aneta Perehinets, digital product manager at Action for Children, recalls that the organization had to scale quickly after the pandemic began, since many services and support centers shut down. 

Parent Talk, its free advice and support service, was built to be digital-first from the ground up, with a focus on using technology to enable a limited support staff to help as many parents as possible. The organization used web chat powered by Twilio as a first and primary point of contact, which made it possible to meet constituents where they are, while allowing agents or “parenting coaches” to manage conversations at scale. 

In 2021 alone, the dedicated team at Parent Talk hosted over 10,000 chats with parents, helping with everything from questions about infant nutrition to more complex issues around mental health. Web chat provides an approachable way for parents to seek the help they need without having to leave the house, make a phone call, or talk out loud when others may be listening.

As Aneta puts it, “With Parent Talk, our focus is ultimately on the child, but we do it through supporting the parents.”

Web chat provides the ability to track conversations in Salesforce, then Parent Talk coaches can quickly access this history through Twilio. This offers a holistic view of their experiences, allowing them to provide relevant support not only in the moment, but throughout the entire journey. Using Twilio for outbound phone calls, they are also able to follow up in real-time with people who need more support. 

Now, the team is expanding their ability to provide real time personalized support by developing a multichannel support system using Twilio Flex. This solution will enable parenting coaches to seamlessly capture context in Salesforce and provide coaches with one simple view to manage conversations, context, and impact over time. 

“There’s no substitute to having someone real on the other end,” Aneta notes. By using personalized digital engagement, Parent Talk coaches and staff are able to deliver specific, timely advice and support for parents—helping make their lives a little easier.

Aneta sums it up perfectly: “Parents have felt like their lives have changed because of the things we’ve done…which is amazing.”

The Future is Digital, Personal, and Impact-Driven 

As we look ahead, there is huge potential for nonprofits to expand and personalize their digital communications to deliver specific, relevant support at scale. Personalization increases the ability for nonprofit staff to support constituent needs, and for people to get the help they need fast

Nonprofits that incorporate digital communications into their programs drive outsized impact, and in cases like Action for Children, enable people to achieve the goals they want in their lives. 

Want to learn more about nonprofit digital engagement? You can learn more about personalization and other key key trends in the 2022 State of Nonprofit Digital Engagement Report, and learn more about Salesforce for nonprofits.

Jacob Talbot headshot

Jacob Talbot, Director of Campaigns and Product Marketing,

Jacob loves working with people to build communications that create positive change. Since joining in 2017, he has helped thousands of organizations harness the power of communications technology to serve people globally, from civic engagement to crisis response. He holds a BA in English from The Colorado College, and a joint MS/MBA in Environmental Policy and Business from the University of Michigan. Outside of the office, he’s often found pedaling on the roads and trails in the San Francisco Bay Area.