Nonprofit Technology

How the Internet of Things will Revolutionize the Nonprofit Sector

Published by in Nonprofit Technology

Imagine a world where you can set your coffee to brew by using an app on your smartphone while upstairs getting ready for the day, or where you can lock your doors remotely through your computer.


These scenarios are already a reality and are a part of a growing network known as the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

The Internet of Things is the process of connecting everyday objects and appliances to the internet, creating a network built into our day-to-day lives. This technology allows us to streamline tasks and more accurately quantify human action through the data that are collected.

Many objects we use today are already a part of the Internet of Things, such as the Fitbit, the Apple Watch, and your smartphone.

But what does this mean for nonprofits? Nonprofits live and breathe data and human action. Nonprofits are forever searching for new ways to know their donors and beneficiaries better so they can solve the problem they were created to solve.

The Internet of Things, and the nonprofit technology it enables, is the answer to that search.

Here is how the Internet of Things will revolutionize the nonprofit sector.

It’s all about the data


Jamey Heinze makes a great point in Third Sector Today regarding nonprofits and data, “you can’t know too much.

Data drives the fundraising and advocacy efforts of nonprofits, from research on issues, to research on donors. One of the biggest benefits of the Internet of Things is the ability to collect data on users from whatever object is connected to the network, which opens up a treasure trove of information for nonprofits.

Gartner research found that in 2015 we had 4.8 billion objects connected to the internet and by 2020 that number is projected to grow to a staggering 25 billion objects. That is a lot of data to be mined and quantified. Sensors built into these objects can measure times of usage, frequency, personal preferences, take down emails and phone numbers during registration, etc. This information is important in building up a donor persona, which I discuss later in this piece.

Depending on the object being used, this kind of information is gold for anyone working in development in a nonprofit.

The list of objects connected to the internet is growing and staying on top of new additions to this market is key to finding new ways to make their data relevant to your nonprofit.

What does this data mean for fundraising?

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Just like a for-profit company strives to create a buyer persona based off market research to sell as many products as possible, nonprofits create donor personas based off publicly available information to make the best pitches to prospective donors.

The IoT can change the way nonprofits collect that data and just how much data they can get their hands on.

For example, many of these devices connected to the internet, such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch, have sharing capabilities on social media and can post things like how many steps they take in a day, which can tell you just how active they are. This information may be important to nonprofits dealing with health and fitness issues, since that data tells you just how passionate they are about staying fit. Identifying passions is a key component of developing a donor persona.

Another key component to building a donor persona is understanding when and how frequently potential donors will give to your cause. Smartphone donation apps are a great way to gather this information, which can tell you when, where, and how much your donors are giving to you at any particular time. This data helps you build more successful fundraising efforts in the future.

What does this data mean for advocacy work?


There are two sides to advocacy work. One side is having your problems and causes  for your donors to understand and rally behind, while the other is having the data and solutions necessary to fight for your issue. The Internet of Things is a major asset in driving both sides of advocacy work by providing you with the information you need to convince donors to get on board with your effort, as well as the information you need to actually take action regarding your issue.

A great example of the Internet of Things actively helping a nonprofit is the case of HabitatMaps and their AirBeam sensor. HabitatMaps, an environmental justice group, developed an air quality monitor which measures and detects pollution. This $200 portable air sensor allows HabitatMaps to collect data on air pollution in New York City including specific locations, times, and levels of air pollution. All of this data is transferred using bluetooth technology and stored in the cloud to be remotely accessed by HabitatMaps.

This data is important to HabitatMaps because it provides them numbers to support their case regarding air pollution in the city, and this stronger argument helps bring in more donors.

There is no limit in sight for the Internet of Things


There are many other ways the Internet of Things can benefit nonprofits,, such as in the case of nonprofit hospitals and free, charitable clinics. The Internet of Things revolutionizes the way we provide healthcare through alert and sensor technology. The truth is, preventative care is less expensive than reactive care and helping nonprofit hospitals stay afloat and save lives is a perfect use for the Internet of Things.

Sensor technology can detect problems with patients, such as blood pressure spikes, and can also track calories and fitness, and monitor blood sugar. These sensors can also collect reams of health data, which can allow health advocacy nonprofits to conduct research on medical problems and develop treatments.

There is no limit to the usefulness of data provided by the IoT, especially in the nonprofit industry.


Has your nonprofit used the Internet of Things in its campaigns? What benefits did it provide? Share your experiences in the comments below

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About the Author

Nick Morpus

Nick Morpus

Nick Morpus is a former Capterra analyst.


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