March 20, 2024
10min read
No-Code Inspiration

Leveraging No-Code Tools for Impactful Nonprofit Fundraising

Discover how non-profit organizations are leveraging no-code tools to revolutionize fundraising efforts and streamline operations, with real-world case studies showcasing their impact and potential.

Table of contents

We’re used to seeing commercial organizations offering compelling software apps to customers and clients as a way of getting them onboard with whatever product or service they have to offer. It’s a given that businesses which want to make money efficiently, and impress modern users, have to take the lead with tools built to inspire awe and spread the message that their brand is worth engaging with.

However, less attention is paid to the non-profit side of the coin in this regard, which is a shame given the good work which lots of good causes are doing to take their fundraising efforts to the next level. And if you take a peek behind the curtain, in many cases you’ll find that no-code development tools have been put to work.

There are lessons to learn from the numerous examples of non-profits raking in the funds and keeping donors connected to the core cause they represent, and these apply whether you’re a decision-maker at an established organization in this category, or a solopreneur looking to shake things up in your own attempts to bring funders onboard.

This is particularly pertinent at a point in time where figures from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project show that major donors cut their contributions by 10% in 2023, leading to unwelcome uncertainty across the charity sector.

So with all of that taken into account, now is a prime opportunity to examine what no-code tools can do for non-profits. With a cavalcade of case studies to consider, you’ll come away from this feeling inspired to embrace them for your own fundraising purposes, if you haven’t already done so.

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A Quick Dissection of No-Code Solutions

What’s in a name?

Well, for no-code tools, the answer is ‘everything’, since this term succinctly describes the fact that they set out to allow software to be produced without the end user having to write a single line of code.

There’s obviously a lot of complexity bubbling away beneath the surface of the average no-code tool, but the idea is that this is hidden from people who aren’t experts in any particular programming language. Instead, you can simply put together a program more like assembling a jigsaw puzzle; a process that’s all the easier if you know exactly what the finished product needs to look like when you get started.

Given that Gartner pegs the low and no-code market at being worth over $10 billion, with further double digit growth projected, it’s apparent that these tools are deemed more than worthwhile in many sectors, and non-profits stand to benefit as much as any for-profit concern.

It’s not just a case that companies are turning to these tools as a way of keeping costs down and accelerating development, because in reality it’s more a result of there being a struggle to find skilled specialists to take on the raft of projects which spring up daily.

There’s also the appeal related to the relative ease with which no-code apps can be maintained and expanded. Their templated, modular nature means changes, tweaks and updates don’t have to be a headache to implement – and given that non-profits might need to do this regularly as fundraising campaigns crop up and fade away in quick succession.

Of course it’s all very well having an understanding of no-code tools and what they could do for good causes, but quite another to appreciate real instances of this happening. So enough standing on ceremony; let’s move on to case studies worth sharing.

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Case Study 1: Westminster Foundation for Democracy

Over its three decades operating in the UK, WFD has been charged with empowering democracies worldwide, in part by providing inventive solutions to problems faced by stakeholders in every corner of the globe. As you’d expect, such an organization has multifaceted and complex needs which aren’t met adequately by off-the-shelf software.

As explained by WFD representative Sonja Wiencke in an interview with The Catalyst, data management was the biggest hurdle that needed to be squashed. It was a pain to have information gathered and stored in disparate documents, both in terms of the practical side of managing it and the struggle to enforce any kind of standard in how info was recorded.

Months of research into potential solutions left Sonja and her colleagues back at square one, since the market simply didn’t have the means to meet both their needs and budget simultaneously. This is where the no-code tool, Knack, rode to the rescue.

With an affordable monthly subscription and a drag-and-drop interface, it allowed WFD to craft a system which manages stakeholder data from over 60 global projects at the drop of a hat, and is crucially also adaptable enough to be changed and expanded whenever someone requests it. This is epitomized by Sonia’s statement that “It has grown organically: with software, flexibility is everything”.

Another side-effect of this decision to deploy no-code development in-house rather than outsourcing this is that WFD can keep adding functionality and processes with time. This means that fundraising efforts, project management, stakeholder engagement, and even internal performance monitoring can all be encompassed by a software ecosystem which is not beholden to any third party.

Case Study 2: Project LifeLong

A youth charity based in the US, it’s true that Project LifeLong is quite a different proposition to WFD in terms of its aims, its scope and its area of focus. Helping kids in California with skateboarding projects is one of its main aims, for example. But in spite of these divergences, there are huge similarities in terms of how a no-code platform helped them to overcome the barriers thrown up by resource limitations.

In terms of effective fundraising strategies, membership and donor management stands as a two-pronged primary concern for all sorts of non-profits, and Project LifeLong was no different in this regard. In particular it was concerned with the state of its database, both in terms of the likelihood of errors being introduced, and the complexities involved in overseeing access rights.

While it was reliant on Microsoft Access for this purpose in the past, founder Michael Saigeon and his team determined that it couldn’t cut the mustard for a combination of reasons, and essentially ended up taking up staff time, keeping them from the more pressing parts of their roles on a regular basis, which wasn’t ideal for obvious reasons.

Once again, it was Knack that got chosen as the no-code platform to build with, and the key in this case was that rather than do all the heavy lifting internally, Project LifeLong actually outsourced the development to a third party. This made sense both in terms of being time efficient, as well as cost efficient, since it meant that a membership database with role-based access management capabilities could be brought into being ASAP, allowing the organization’s employees and volunteers to get back to supporting the projects they run and also raising funds.

Michael focused on this in one of his comments regarding the use of Knack, saying that:

“What’s really important to use is the personal aspect, the relationships we build...with our partners, with everybody”

So by freeing the team from the former obstacles, this swiftly developed and fully scalable solution left a positive mark on a truly worthy cause.

Case Study 3: Evolve3

Nonprofits know that one of the most important ways to raise funds is via applications to the vast number of bodies that offer grants, bursaries and other gifts. The problem is that putting together funding bids is both time-consuming and tedious for professionals in this space, because no two applications will be the same, and even if you want to include identical information across multiple submissions, there will inevitably be hoops to jump through to get the formatting right.

Evolve3’s Diane Hall has been innovating in this area with the help of AI, telling Charity Digital about the role that AI-based no-code tools can have in greasing the wheels of funding bids, and delivering actionable results.

In particular she combines ChatGPT for rewriting and reformatting relevant so it fits in with what a given funding body is asking of applicants, along with other tools for things like plagiarism and AI content detection so that good causes don’t get caught out in this regard.

Hall said that:

ChatGPT helps smaller non-profits “ be a bit more strategic, a bit more productive and streamline what they’re doing, so they can compete better for the money that’s out there.”

And of course the cost of using these tools is minimal compared with the amount required to develop equivalent, unique solutions specific to each charity or niche.

This application of no-code AI apps to big-picture fundraising efforts is just the tip of the iceberg, as we’re also seeing an explosion in the number of charities that have adopted automated chatbots as a means of both donor engagement and outreach, alongside instances where they are applied for projects like providing sexual health advice and other worthwhile endeavors.

All of this typifies the role of accessibility in a no-code tool implementation context. It doesn’t take years of education and experience to pick up and use the likes of ChatGPT for more than just idle interactions. Professionals in non-profits can turbo charge their fundraising efforts, just as experts in other fields can seek to engage customers, streamline bland workflows and take the tedium out of daily tasks with the same tech.

There are even no and low-code builders that have taken ChatGPT into account in their ecosystems, including BuildShip.

So it’s not just end users of these platforms which stand to benefit, which goes a long way to justifying all of the hype AI has received in the little over a year since it hit the big time.

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Case Study 4: Carefree

The startup spirit that fuels Carefree is worth celebrating for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it has made the most of a number of different no-code tools in order to make several solutions to the problems it was originally faced with.

First, it had to contend with the influx of inbound enquiries from service users, partners, donors and stakeholders of all kinds. Since this correspondence could come from a number of sources, whether via WhatsApp or direct message on one of its social channels, it made sense for IT operations manager Joey Ceunen to knit these fragmented strands together under one cohesive interface. He did so using Front, pointing out that:

“Not only is it very efficient, it also allows us to spot trends and gaps in our workflows through analytics”

If this wasn’t impressive enough in isolation, Joey worked with his colleagues to develop an entire booking solution for their non-profit by combining the likes of Zapier and Webflow in a successful attempt to make life easier for employees and end users alike.

And more to the point, this wasn’t an organization which was starting from scratch or moving from off-the-shelf software over to no-code. Rather, it was one which was more than capable of coding in-house thanks to its skills, but simply didn’t find that this approach matched the ease, convenience or effectiveness of the no-code approach.

Joey said that early efforts of using custom coded solutions were hampered by endless bug-hunting, which took away from other tasks and caused unwarranted frustration for Carefree – in contravention of its chosen moniker. By making sure that no-code accounts for 80% of its app foundations, it was able to rise above the clouds of complexity that had previously shrouded its operations.

Case Study 5: Norwegian Refugee Council

In outlining its commitment to making sure its humanitarian aid operations are comprehensively digitized, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRG) put particular emphasis on the role that mobile devices have to play in this context, given that over 80% of people worldwide have a portable device at their disposal.

This is not some small potatoes non-profit, but rather one that extends its reach to in excess of 40 countries where its services are needed by those in desperate circumstances. This means it has to be privy to some seriously effective, entirely customizable software systems to get the job done day in, day out.

In listing its tech partners, a few of the usual suspects crop up, with AWS, Twilio and Cisco among the brands cited. But most interesting is the presence of low-code, open source development platform Corteza in its catalog of component pieces.

The reason behind this link-up is not only down to the ease of use and adaptability that Corteza brings to the table, but also its keen approach to compliance regarding data privacy, as well as its tried and tested capabilities that make dealing with the volumes of info involved in NRC’s operations a cakewalk.

Spokesperson Christopher Hoffman described the digitization of its lynchpin processes as both overhauling the NRC internally and

“..transforming the sector[...]allowing it to operate succinctly with the people we’re trying to serve.”

This is reflected through improved outcomes across its projects, and also a more impactful approach to fundraising through its ongoing donor drives.

Whether appealing to individual givers through monthly donations or one-off gifts, or attracting corporate partnerships, the many digital channels involved and all of the data that is interlinked with them can be successfully monitored and managed by the NRC team, instead of being a millstone around the neck of productivity.

What Can We Learn From This?

The adoption of no-code development tools by non-profits in many different parts of the planet should be enough of an indicator that this is a path worth pursuing not only for other operators in this sector, but for anyone who is looking for a means to revamp their fundraising and revolutionize their internal processes more generally.

We’ve even seen that customer and user-facing tools can be made with this type of technology, meaning that the excuses for putting this off are vanishingly thin.

That is not to say there’s an obvious way to go about picking an appropriate no-code platform if you’re now gearing up to do so. As with any tech tool procurement endeavor, you cannot complete this successfully if you don’t first take the time to set out your requirements, your budget and the resources you can commit to harnessing what you eventually adopt.

The good news for solopreneurs is that, like Project LifeLong, it’s perfectly reasonable to outsource no-code development to an established expert in your chosen platform, since you’ll already be spread pretty thin with other duties related to raising funds and getting your fledgling firm into the firmament.

Another point to make in closing is that an often underplayed aspect of the no-code scene is that these platforms rarely require a significant upfront commitment of your time or your money. You’re free to dip your toe into what each has to offer, whether that’s knocking around with Knack, wrangling with Rowy, or experimenting with any number of open source options.

All that remains is for you to take this as an incentive to seek a fresh start with no-code as your founding principle, and the ambition to implement impactful fundraising strategies as your aim.

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