How nonprofits can use low code to drive innovation

Nonprofits face a growing demand for digital solutions that help them expand their missions. Here’s how low-code platforms can help them do just that.

Low-code software development is often praised for facilitating the rapid delivery of enterprise apps at a time when digital transformation must be agile and continuous. However, although nonprofits share these same challenges when it comes to digital innovation, they also face some unique challenges of their own.

Chief among the challenges is the fact that NGOs and nonprofits rarely have the same degree of financial backing that major enterprises have. Hiring talented software developers to build applications from scratch, in a way that incorporates privacy, security, and data sovereignty by design, is often far beyond what their budgets allow.

At the same time, the philanthropic space is entirely built on trust. Donors and regulators alike expect complete transparency into how and where their budgets are spent. What they do with donor information is another key area, especially in the case of nonprofits that operate across borders, where concerns about digital sovereignty factor in. These factors are much harder to address if digital innovation results in heavy overspending, lengthy delays, or vendor lock-in.

Low-code promises to make software development more equitable, but the truth is that most low-code development platforms (LCDPs) are tailored for business use. These platforms tend to serve specific target markets, such as sales and marketing teams in traditional enterprises – areas that have very different needs and priorities when it comes to nonprofit organizations.

Fortunately, open source is a natural fit for low code, as well as a natural fit for nonprofits. By empowering data equity and sovereignty, open-source low-code platforms give nonprofits the opportunity to leverage the inherent benefits of low code, albeit without the risks of sovereignty and vendor lock-in concerns.

How are nonprofits using low code?

Low-code solutions rely heavily on templates and drag-and-drop components to build software applications. This makes it perfect for streamlining standardized processes, like creating approval processes for new donors, tracking donations, or even allowing fundraising teams to create branded, apps for donors or beneficiaries. Add open-source licensing models into the mix, and nonprofits can do so without fear of vendor lock-in, and at a mere fraction of the price of working with closed-source ecosystems.

Here’s a closer look at some key use cases for low code in nonprofits:

  • Donor management: Maintaining donor profiles in accordance with privacy standards and expectations is a key task for nonprofits, but doing it manually is next to impossible at scale. Low code can help nonprofits drive innovation by making it quicker and easier to build app-based donor and volunteer management systems to engage donors and streamline one of the most crucial management routines for nonprofits. Open-source solutions go even further by freeing nonprofits from being tied to specific vendors and, in doing so, enabling digital sovereignty, compliance, and data privacy across borders and jurisdictions.
  • Campaign management: Managing events like fundraising campaigns is essential for furthering your mission but, as with donor management, it’s practically impossible to do manually at scale. Manually swapping between donor lists and sending notifications to the right donors is hardly feasible when you have thousands of donors. With a low-code solution, you can easily create apps to standardize your campaign management processes and automate many of the routine tasks involved – all via a single interface. For example, you might develop an app to automatically notify donors via email about new fundraising campaigns, while tracking financial progress with real-time reports.
  • Beneficiary services: While many enterprise-orientated LCDPs are geared towards internally facing software applications, open-source solutions tend to offer much more freedom, which makes them the perfect fit for nonprofits. For example, nonprofits might use low code to develop apps and services that connect volunteers with beneficiaries and, in doing so, helps them further their cause. Whether your mission is to provide free education, orientation services for refugees arriving in a new country, or something else entirely, low code solutions can help you to develop the apps you need to engage your beneficiaries.
  • Analytics dashboards: Just like for-profit businesses, nonprofits need to know what’s working and what isn’t in order to continually enhance their operations. One of the most common use cases for low code is creating analytics dashboards for connecting multiple data sources and turning that data into actionable insights. From expense management to donor management, using a low-code, open-source ecosystem lets you connect any data source and make informed decisions in a fraction of the time when compared to going through lengthy (and often outdated) reports.

More than just cost savings

Low code saves money by reducing the need for programmers, while open-source solutions offer complete freedom from vendor lock-in. That said, there are many other benefits that the combination of low code and open source software can provide to nonprofits than cost savings alone.

The biggest advantage is easily the fact that low code and open source are inherently more accessible, thus giving nonprofits new opportunities to drive digital innovation and, in doing so, further their causes. For example, donor and volunteer management teams can save time by developing custom apps to accommodate their unique goals, with little to no involvement of IT experts.

Most LCDPs use a common standard, such as Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN), for graphically representing the functions of various software components in a language that laypeople can understand. While BPMN was originally developed with the business world in mind, as the name suggests, but many nonprofits have also found value in it due to the similarities between a lot of routine business processes and the nonprofit processes. For example, creating an application for donor management has much in common with creating one for customer management. A simple low code drag-and-drop interface can easily accommodate such use cases.

While low code doesn’t entirely negate the need for professional software developers, it does drive digital democratization, which is fast becoming a pillar of nonprofit operations and social justice in a digital world. Ultimately, it helps overcome operational siloes in both the business and nonprofit world by getting more people involved in software development and breaking down the barriers between administration and IT.

Another key benefit of the low code and open source combination is increased agility. Technology continues to transform the world at a relentless pace, hence the ability to get things done cheaper and quicker is growing all the time. In few areas is that fact as poignant as it is in the world of NGOs and nonprofits, which have often had a hard time keeping up due to budgetary constraints and talent gaps. To that end, low code is undoubtedly the next big thing for nonprofits seeking to engage donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries alike by continuously developing and testing out new products and services.

Low code also helps nurture and grow key skills and knowledge across your organization by getting more people onboard with software development. It helps people become familiar with how software works in a mere fraction of the time it takes to become a professional developer. Moreover, low code platforms continue to evolve to help tackle ever more complex use cases, so there’s never been a better time to get involved.

Ultimately, nonprofits are focused on making the world a better place, and they need all the help they can to do just that. Thus technology has become a critical enabler of furthering any nonprofit cause, just as it has for meeting the demands of scale and agility in the business world.

Planet Crust is the principle creator behind the Corteza . We provide training, support, hosting, and consulting services to NGOs seeking to leverage modern digital solutions to further their missions. Try Corteza on-premises or in the cloud today.

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