Since joining Chad and the Lucky Forks team on their endeavor to enable corporations and their employees to introduce and execute social responsibility programs and collaboration with NPOs as part of their on-going operations, I have been thinking about what some of the especially meaningful challenges to solve together with the participants in this equation could be.
As my own background stems not from the NPO or CSR space, but from 20 years of building new digital services and solutions for different businesses globally, I have been especially interested in better understanding the life and needs of NPOs and what they feel is crucial for them to achieve their mission.
Not surprisingly, from all the discussions it feels as two main “buckets” emerge:
More universal operational needs of NPOs around marketing, fundraising, donor management, reporting etc. Then separately, more diverse in nature, the needs of their specific mission and how to constantly improve and scale their efforts and impact in it. All this of course with limited resources.
In many ways these challenges sound very familiar to me from bootstrapping tech companies – trying to balance limited means to make ends meet and inch the team closer to achieving its (usually pretty big) goals.
Luckily there is an increasing amount of corporate philanthropy and social responsibility work being done in collaboration with NPOs to support both operational and mission-specific needs of NPOs. At Lucky Forks, we have a passion for helping small and medium-sized companies in the technology space to activate and grow their own social responsibility efforts with likewise smaller NPOs in their communities.
As much as we aim to make meaningful connections between corporations and NPO partners for donations and general volunteering efforts, I am most excited to look for ways to better understand our NPO partners needs, which could benefit from harnessing new technologies and innovations for their use. Perhaps support them in identifying completely new ways to accomplish their mission.
Many of our corporate partners are constantly applying new technologies in their own business operations. Take, for example, more data-driven operations on all levels of their business, machine learning in their digital services, augmented and virtual reality in training and marketing, different kinds of collaboration solutions for HR, etc. They already have internal teams who understand these technologies, as well as some innovation, design and development processes to quickly brainstorm, build and test new solutions. It inevitably comes to mind that some of these skills and teams could also benefit a number of partner NPOs while getting their company employees excited about applying their skills to a different type of environment and problem set.
It is somewhat presumptuous to believe that by adding more technology alone into the social responsibility mix, we could solve all the daily challenges faced by NPOs – especially when so much of the good that our NPO partners do revolve around the often missing or somehow broken human component. But if we can make it possible and affordable for NPOs to utilize new tools like data science to better understand when and how to best communicate with donors and volunteers, or augmented and virtual reality to better communicate to the public the issues that the NPO is trying to address or to train its volunteers remotely, then we can definitely help boost many of their activities and response to a new level!
On the corporate side, this gives employees (and customers or partners alike) the ability to take their own expertise and to apply that, along with a team of colleagues and NPO partners, to something in a completely different context. For those of us involved in tech and digital industries, work is often quite intangible, sitting out there in the cloud somewhere. So being able to influence something in a visible and concrete way in our local community is just golden.
Helping organizations find a mutual fit in terms of strategic alignment, motivation, means and measurability is key as issues to solve for can be complex and consume time beyond a single volunteering event. I want to see Lucky Forks build better and deeper ways – both via analog and digital avenues – to facilitate this kind of impactful collaboration between corporations and NPOs, harnessing more individuals, teams and their skills on a common journey to collaborate for good.
By Lotta Lautsuo, Head of Product at Lucky Forks