17 Experts Reveal the 3 ways Technology has changed Philanthropy

Technology is evolving rapidly and is affecting all of us differently. Foundations are not immune to these changes and have evolved to adapt to and benefit from new technologies. We conducted a list of the 17 most influential philanthropy experts from Asia to North America passing by Europe and asked them to reveal their thoughts about  “What are 3 ways technology has changed philanthropy?”

The resulting answers differed in many ways, this was due to the different backgrounds of our experts as well as the various courses of action taken by their respective foundations.

Check the list, click on the experts’ names and see if you can relate to these changes technology has brought about in philanthropy.

You can also click here to go straight to our takeaways.

Pamela Barden (Independant consultant, United States of America)
Mary Calahane (Hands on fundraising, United States of America)
Melanie Rodriguez (Alma Children’s Education Foundation, Canada)
Marion Baudin (Admical, France)
Brandie Conforti (JA Worldwide, United States of America)

Rajmohan KG (Social Development Initiative, India)
Benjamin Bisbee (Founder Rhinocorn non-profit consulting, United States of America)
Cynthia Roomes (Freelance Consultant, United kingdom)
Mary Lee Walker (Jewish famile services of Greater Orlando, United States of America)
Chantel Bennet (Whitman-Walker Health, United States of America)
Allison Solomon (Corporate Citizenship Deloitte, United States of America)
Nils Pedersen (EDF Corporate Foundation, France)
Cindy Rizzo (Arcus Foundation, United States of America) 

Magdalena Przedmojska (Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation, Poland)

Kelly O’Connor (Progress Inc., United States of America)
Pascale Humbert (Fondation VISIO, France)
Robert Roush (Personal & non-profit Wellness Transitions, United States of America) 


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Pamela Barden, Fundraising & marketing strategy, copywriting and training 

#1 We have to be “on” 24/7 – people are expecting faster responses to questions and concerns. 

#2 We have to be more nimble. It’s not enough to be proficient in just a few platforms for fundraising; instead, we have to “be everywhere” that donors and prospects may look for us.

#3 We have to make sure we have a consistent message. It’s no longer “safe” to say one thing to one audience and a nuance of that message to another. Everything we say is visible to anyone, anytime, so being consistent, transparent and honest is essential.

These are all good changes! Being a fundraiser today is exciting stuff!!

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Mary Cahalane, principal, hands on fundraising 

Technology is changing how we interact with the world. That can’t help but affect fundraising.

#1 One important change is accessibility to needed tools. Gone are the days when a decent database was out of reach for a small organization. Now online giving is easy to set up for any organization. And websites no longer require complicated coding and special knowledge to update.

#2 We can respond quickly to news. All of this puts good fundraising within reach for smaller organizations.

#3 Donors’ habits have changed as well. We’re all attached to our phones throughout our waking hours now. Low or no-cost tools allow fundraisers to reach donors where they are. And donors can act on a charitable impulse with a few clicks – or via a text.

But while new tools make fundraising easier and more effective, relationships are still what matters most.

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Melanie Rodriguez, Executive director at Alma Children’s Education Foundation

Overall, technology is improving the productivity, collaboration and communication in the philanthropy sector.

#1 Productivity:  Through data analytics and the cloud platform, non-profits now have the opportunity to share, analyze and improve results.

#2 Collaboration: Non-profits and socially minded businesses around the world can collaborate virtually, learn from each other’s successes and share resources.

#3 Communication: Although face-to-face interactions will always be important, there is a shift for donors to learn about the impact of their donations through social media and mobile websites. Donors can discover more organizations online, interact with non-profit organizations more frequently and join communities of philanthropists who care about similar initiatives.


Marion Baudin, Head of Communications and Promotion at Admical

#1 Technology is a facilitator: digitalisation and the development of crowdfunding make it possible for anyone to become a philanthropist with a simple click. To give you an example, we partnered with Hello Asso for our “Tour de France des mécènes”, this allowed firms to easily get involved in donations thanks to their platform. 

#2 Technology as a multiplier: firms can reach more people and, as a result, further involve their collaborators. The contribution system of crowdfunding platforms is also a good example as it multiplies the ways citizens can engage as well as implicate companies and individuals around a common purpose.

#3 Digitisation assembles people: it brings together philanthropists who can then get to know each other, meet and act collectively to raise their impact. The lowering? of borders also allows philanthropists to engage more easily at an international level and to support projects on the other side of the world.

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Brandie Conforti, Global Head of Development at JA worldwide 

#1 Technology has transformed philanthropy in a deeply significant way. It allows charities, through online/email channels, to utilize analytics for a deeper understanding of their constituents and tailor messaging appropriately.  

#2 It has also leveled the philanthropic playing field. Technology allows any person, anywhere, to find a cause they are passionate about, perform due diligence, and contribute in real time. Equally the smallest non-profit can have a huge presence online, allowing it to be competitive with much larger organizations for donor dollars.

#3 What it hasn’t done, and will never do, is replace the need for deep, genuine interpersonal relationships between a charity and a donor. At the end of the day, technology has changed philanthropy, but the human connection remains more important than ever.

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Rajamohan KG, Management Consultant in Social Development & Monitoring Evaluation Initiative 

Technology intervention evolved following changes in philanthropy.

#1 Enriched IEC ( system in Philanthropy and KM system improvised the possibilities of reaching the unreached. Unification of globalization in philanthropic outlook –uniting all philanthropic fraternity in one roof of universal understanding and brotherhood.

#2 Standard of M&E performance efficiency in assessing need based approach, social auditing improved.

#3 Exploring new avenue in social research progressed. New innovation and new thought in philanthropic mission emerged. Transparency in financial accountability and fund flow initiated. Chances for all grass-root beneficiaries to look up and see the reality of help/aid to them.

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Benjamin Bisbee, non-profit Consultant, founder of Rhinocorn 

I believe technology has taken philanthropy from the board or ballroom and straight into the hands of the everyday donor.

#1 First, it’s become mobile. Individuals can seek out or be delivered information straight to their phone, desktop or tablet and with a push of a button donate to their heart’s content.

#2 Second, mobility means they’re always with you. A charity of choice lives in your pocket, pushing marketing, media and communications on an ever-flowing basis allowing you to engage constantly.

#3 Finally, that mobility promotes ambassadorship. Donors not only stay engaged and philanthropic, but can become warriors and advocates with just the push of a button.

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Cynthia Roomes, Community Engagement & Fundraising Specialist 

#1 Large corporates and intermediary platforms are able to build local capacity by actively supporting smaller initiatives. These bring ‘digitalia’ to life by using ground breaking innovations in technology, partnership working, and pro-active collaborations.

#2 Tech giants have moved on from gathering big data focused solely on their social media platforms, they are sharing expertise, learning, pitfalls, and new ways of networking. 

#3 Mega-philanthropy from major corporates and individuals are funding charities and non profit causes to the tune of millions thanks to technology paving the way.

Never has it been so easy to spend time achieving philanthropic ambitions, from the frontline, or the back office, using technology as the access point and a digital vehicle for social change. Technology is providing a rare commodity: a global feel good digital philanthropy story in challenging times.

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Mary Lee Walker, Development Director at Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando

Technology has changed how we as fundraisers:

#1 Communicate with donors – Once a upon a time, a nonprofit was stretching its technology sophistication by having a website. Now, that website better have a link to your Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, etc., and it better be current with frequent postings of compelling content to capture attention and cultivate relationships.

#2 Keep track of donors – Gone are the days of keeping track of donors on an Excel spreadsheet and donor profiles on 3×5 cards. There are now hundreds of products on the market geared to database management that can be tailored to the needs of the nonprofit and abilities to target emails, manage volunteers, keep track of memberships and more.

#3 Structure campaigns – Nonprofit fundraising used to have annual campaign built upon the grant funding cycle, a golf tournament, the gala and an end of the year letter mailer. Now there is email marketing, on-line registration, virtual bidding, text to give, crowd funding and on-line credit card processing.

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Chantel Bennett, Research Specialist at Whitman-Walker Health 

#1 Web-platforms like GoFundMe and YouCaring make it easier for every day people to post their cause and raise money in a simple, trackable way.

#2 Web-based donation platforms can also use their data to figure out which types of charities their users are interested in, then create tailored advertising to other, similar charities. The more relevant a cause is to someone’s interests, the more likely they are to donate to it.

#3 Technology has globalized our world and connected us in a multitude of ways. This makes it easier for organizations to cast a wide net and reach more people for donations or other contributions to their causes faster than ever before.

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Allison Solomon, Manager Corporate Citizenship at Deloitte – the views of this expert are her own and not those of her organisation 

#1 New ways to access donors (ie, mass text message marketing);
#2 More data (and data analytics!) available than ever before; and
#3 Opportunity for collaboration

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Nils Pederson, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at Fondation EDF 

The EDF foundation considers digitisation one of the priorities of its philanthropy and has as a result made it a cross-sectional part of its strategy.

#1 Technological tools were initially used in order to manage incoming requests and respond within a reasonable timeframe.  

#2 Today, we also use it to centralise our information in order to provide a personalised follow up, manage and understand our activities in the medium run: this richness is all thanks to technological tools.

#3 These tools and their control allow for a 360 degree view of our actions and the certainty of a better diffusion of information (for our colleagues and our stakeholders).

Our various calls for projects (with different timeframes and objectives) are managed by tools. We request the projects, follow up on them and evaluate the relationship with the project owner. All this using only one tool, a token of reliability and visibility.

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Cindy Rizzo, Senior Advisor, evaluation & strategy at Arcus Foundation 

#1 First, improved transparency. The internet has made it easier to identify the priorities and funding requirements of private philanthropic entities. Foundation Center information is online and many foundations include guidelines on their websites.

#2 Second, more streamlined processes with online grant submissions, IRS look-ups by funders, and online grant review and processing, including electronic fund payments.

#3 Third, greater access to funds by organizations and communities as well as expanded donor participation through crowdfunding. We’ve seen this particularly in the wake of tragedies or crises. In addition, the popularity of “giving days” attests to the success of a more modified version of crowdfunding.

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Magdalena Przedmojska, Project Manager at the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation 

#1 Technology empowers foundations in gaining publicity and presenting projects to broader publicity, as well as in presenting projects by new tools.

#2 The FPGC uses new media to win grant applicants. By adds placed in FB and twitter, it advertises grant programmes and projects („Coffee with an application”). It uses new media to livestream current debates and to comment on happenings. Also participants from small cities are able to take part in many of FPGC’s live events.

#3 The Foundation uses AR to talk abouts its projects (like Powrót miasta, concentrating on history of ul. Zielna and Próżna). By using a phone/tablet you are able to follow the historical, cultural and economical paths of the Warsaw citizens at the beginning of 20th Century. 

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Kelly O’Connor, Director of Development at Progress, Inc. 

#1 The most significant way technology has impacted philanthropy is expanded organizational access to donors in improving stewardship and donor retention.  It is much easier (less expensive and more efficient) to frequently connect with donors through email, e-newsletters, websites, and a variety of other ways such as client videos through YouTube, and social media.  

#2 It also makes it easier for donors to research an organization without contacting the organization by viewing websites and 990s online.  

#3 Lastly, technology facilitates making a donation – from mobile giving to Facebook campaigns, to PayPal donations and expand donor base (online auctions for what traditionally would have been a silent auction for event attendees only).


Pascale Humbert, Director of Philanthropy and Major donors, Fondation visio LogoVISIO_OK.jpg

#1 Technological advances allow for faster discoveries from both a medical and a technical perspective. They can create savings as well as contribute to the elaboration of new solutions to help and assist disabled people and as a result, improve their everyday life.

#2 For the collection of donations, technological advances benefit both the donor and the organisation. Online donation platforms as well as donating via text message, for example, have become increasingly popular in recent years.

#3 Moreover, new information technologies allow people to themselves become the “levers of communication.” They do so by using their blog or Facebook account to promote causes that they care about.

Technology and innovation are fundamental for the VISIO Foundation as it focuses on ophthalmologic and ophthalmic-pediatric research as well as veterinary research dedicated to guide dogs. The foundation also focuses on technological research to develop innovative solutions that help increase mobility such as the “TOM POUCE” electric cane.

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Robert Roush, owner/operator at personal & non-profit Wellness Transitions 

#1 Donor acquisition has shifted from direct mail to online contact methods
#2 Online research has made donor wealth and grant availability “instant”
#3 Donor record keeping has moved from a 3×5 “card catalogue” to the “cloud”

These changes have increased communication avenues from paper mail pieces, phone calls and personal meetings to an array of methods through the Internet. It has also meant more volunteers reaching out to potential donors. These changes have also “automated” the route to major gifts by allowing an “assembly line” to find, contact, meet with and cultivate major gifts.

Our takeaways:

#1 It is easier for foundations to have a further reach and thus collect more donations from around the world.

#2 Online donations, especially those made by the younger generation, have risen significantly due to the increasing popularity of online donation platforms and donations by text message.

#3  Foundations increase their productivity as technology makes it easier for them to collect information on their collaborators and potential donors in order to target them more efficiently.

#4 Research based foundations also benefit from technological advances to find better solutions to aid those in need.

#5 Technology has allowed individuals to themselves become “levers of communication” through social media platforms.


Thank you to all the experts who participated in this roundup!


Are you a philanthropy expert and would like to share your thoughts on the 3 ways technology has changed philanthropy?


Read also:
5 Most Influential Women in Philanthropy 
Experts for Optimy: Community Foundations and Funding Requests Management 
Experts for Optimy: Talking about Philantropy, Technology and Volunteerism 2.0