New Twilio Research Finds Nonprofits Outpace Private Sector in Digital Engagement Adoption 1

65% of nonprofit engagement with beneficiaries is digital, compared to 55% digital engagement among businesses in the private sector

89% of nonprofits report digital communications are critical to achieve their organization’s mission

Access to technical talent is the biggest barrier to digital adoption within nonprofits

Twilio, the customer engagement platform that drives real-time, personalized experiences for today’s leading brands, published new research that explores how digital engagement is reshaping the way nonprofit organizations deliver services. The State of Nonprofit Digital Engagement Report reflects the findings from Twilio platform data, and surveys of 800 employees of nonprofit organizations and 1,500 nonprofit program participants based in the United Kingdom and United States who have accessed benefits or services from nonprofits.

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“As the frequency and severity of crises continue around the world, digital engagement remains vital to help people access the resources they need to thrive”

Nonprofits play a vital role in addressing some of the world’s largest challenges — from humanitarian crises to education, inequality to healthcare access. The stakes for investment in new strategies are high, and this report finds digital interactions are central to nonprofit growth and the way they deliver services to people around the world. The report found 89% of nonprofits report digital communications are critical to achieving their organization’s mission. Nonprofits also outpace the private sector when it comes to digital engagement, reporting that 65% of their engagement with program beneficiaries is digital, compared to 55% digital engagement among B2C companies, according to Twilio’s State of Customer Engagement Report 2022. In addition to exploring how nonprofit investment in digital engagement improves the value of services and scales overall impact, the report surfaces new challenges and opportunities nonprofits are facing.

“As the frequency and severity of crises continue around the world, digital engagement remains vital to help people access the resources they need to thrive,” said Erin Reilly, chief social impact officer, Twilio. “Nonprofits are some of the most technically innovative organizations and this research highlights the digital strategies they’re embracing to deepen impact and improve program outcomes.”

Nonprofits that incorporate digital engagement see immediate returns

This research shows that nonprofits view digital communications as a critical long-term platform for helping people better and faster. On average, organizations experience 3.6 key benefits to their core programs when they digitize program participant engagement. Yet there’s still opportunity to leverage digital communication to engage participants more effectively. For example, 70% of program participants say digital communications are important in helping them discover services, while only 45% of nonprofits report using digital communication to increase visibility of their programs and services.

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Access to developer talent is the biggest barrier to accelerating digital adoption

Software developers are critical to building new nonprofit engagement experiences, channels and capabilities that ultimately drive deeper impact. However, 41% of nonprofits say lack of technical support is the number one barrier to adopting digital communications, and just one in four nonprofits at the beginning stages of digital maturity report having the developer talent they need. Simply put, accessing technical talent remains one of the biggest barriers to digital adoption, and nonprofits need more technical capacity to build high impact digital programs. Encouragingly, 65% of organizations plan to hire developers in 2022, and that number jumps to 89% among organizations further along in their adoption of digital.

Personalized digital engagement is a key area of opportunity for nonprofits

The largest opportunity nonprofits have to better meet participants’ needs is personalization. People want more personalization in their interaction with nonprofits, ranking it the number one area they would like organizations to prioritize to improve program experience. Nonprofits agree, with 77% of organizations stating that personalization is a high or critical priority for 2022.

Additional findings from the Twilio report show differing communications preferences across industries and generations. These trends outline how nonprofits can communicate across audiences to more effectively achieve their organization’s mission and serve more people, including:

  • While older generations prefer well established channels like email, text, and phone calls, younger generations are more likely to prefer emerging channels like messaging apps, video conferencing, and webchat.
  • Among education organizations, 74% of engagement with students and families is expected to be digital by 2025.
  • Health-related nonprofits are most likely to use digital communications to increase their responsiveness to patients and to innovate service delivery.

The report is based on two surveys conducted by Lawless Research between January 24, 2022 and February 22, 2022. Both surveys collected responses from 800 full-time nonprofit employees and 1,500 nonprofit program participants and included respondents from the United Kingdom and United States. In addition, the report included aggregated, anonymized data from trillions of interactions on Twilio’s own platform, revealing the way nonprofits and social impact organizations are using digital channels to connect with millions of people around the world.

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