Many, if not all of the nonprofits, associations and societies have been financially affected by the pandemic. They haven’t been able to run their revenue-generating events, which has created a challenge for many of them.

While we all move to a more digital-focused revenue model, I thought it would be the perfect to time to hear from Nejeed Kassam, the CEO and founder of Keela, a platform that helps NPOs manage donors, mobilise volunteers, market their nonprofit and raise more money.

In this episode of The Strategic Nonprofit we discuss how you can connect with donors remotely and stay financially sustainable in these challenging times.

The History of Keela

Keela is a nonprofit software tool specifically built for small to medium size nonprofits to help them work better, to work more efficiently, to empower their decision-making, and make their lives just a little bit easier. 

Fundamentally, Keela is a CRM, database software. It’s where you track donors, and stakeholders, and volunteers. It’s a donation platform and a fundraising platform. It does all the legal compliance work for organizations around donations, so Keela is CRA-certified. It’s IRS-certified. It’s Australian Tax Office certified. Being a lawyer, that’s really important to me to help organizations do that kind of work. It saves them a ton of money but, also, it takes that headache off. 

At Keela we have what we call nonprofit intelligence built into our tool. It’s like analytics and predictive decision-making. Honestly, like a piece of software that helps nonprofits just do their work especially around fundraising and stakeholder management better. 

It started because I was frustrated. I was sitting on board of an organization when I started my legal career in Toronto and we couldn’t find really great software. I said those words and every entrepreneur always said, “I could build that.” It’s only because of the amazing women and men that I work with every day that we’ve been able to build this great organization.

Getting Donations During the Pandemic

Generosity is a funny thing. It’s often irrational for the better. There is no doubt that people’s pocket books have been tightened. Every day, Canadians and Americans and folks all over the worlds have struggled. Tons of people are out of jobs. They’re kind of uncertainty that we haven’t really seen for decades and decades and decades. It’s not like the financial crisis which was just about the economy. This is about our health, and our societies, and how we live, and how we work, whatever it might be. 

I get it. Money is tight right now for everyone. But there are folks in the world that needs support and the nonprofit sector provides a fundamental service and community for so many folks in need. 

I think the sector has to think that people – know that people are going to continue to be generous and it’s going about being more patient, it’s about being more engaged, it’s being a little bit more direct. It’s how we engage with our supporters because they won’t abandon us. It may just be not right now. It may just be a little bit less. 

I, fundamentally, see the world with a half full kind of glass, and rose-y colored glasses, whatever idiom you want to use. I believe that organizations can take steps to do that. 

I think the first important step is stewardship. There are a lot of causes out there. There are a lot of people who ask for money from everybody, and I get that. Instead of always just asking for money, reminding, engaging, checking in on our supporters is going to be something that pays dividends 10x in the future, even if they don’t right away. I think stewarding our donors is a really important step especially right now when people don’t know how and what they can give

How Organizations Can Connect With Their Donors

I’m old fashion. My staff laugh at me because I pick up the phone and I actually talk to people. I don’t just text all the time. I think one thing that we – and it goes back to that stewardship comment. Everyone gets a million e-blast. They get newsletters and they get requests – mass requests via email. That’s all important and I’m not minimizing that. But at a time when people are feeling isolated, they’re feeling lonely, they’re stuck at home. Picking up the phone and actually talking to your donors and engaging with them on a much more personal level, it takes more time, but it is going to pay dividends. 

Don’t just ask for money on the phone call. Check in how they are. Share the stories of the work that’s continuing to be done. Things that have been done in the past. The fact that plans are continuing, and people are going to give money. But, I think, one way to engage with people at home is simply talk to them.

If somebody’s given to in the past, they’re not just like, “Oh, crisis. Never going to speak to you again.” No. They want to know that the money they’ve given in the past is continuing to do good work. That there’s hope. Hope is such a powerful emotion. To me, that’s a really great, very tangible, easy to do kind of thing.

Especially because people are feeling lonely right now and are stuck working from home. Those of us are lucky enough to have a job still.

Again, donors are people. They’re not just machines that give you a check. They’re people. They’re human beings. They’re struggling with this, too. They also can find light and hope, like I said, in the work with tons and tons of organizations doing every day. Despite all these things, so many organizations are operating, and empowering communities, and creating solutions to some of these massive problems.

Results Can Associations Expect from Using Software to Manage Their Donations

I think one of the incredible things about technology is it has the ability to level the playing field. It can do things that folks with way less resources are able to do, even though they wouldn’t but for that technology. To me, tech across the world, across the field, inside the sector, outside the sector, it doesn’t matter, there is a transformative democratizing aspect technology. 

For nonprofits to adopt, embrace, engage technology as a mechanism for helping them do better is incredible and it’s so important. The folks, my honest to God belief is the folks who don’t embrace the tech are going to be left behind. I really believe that. We’re seeing that especially now with COVID. The rush to online fundraising. The rush to recurring donations. These are things that I’ve been talking about for five years. 

It’s not an “I told you so” moment. This is a tragic thing. However, organizations have to be resilient to change. They have to be resilient to whatever is happening out there, and this is happening whether we like it or not. 

I think tech and adopting that technology is really important, and you’re going to see results. Organizations implementing technology. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can save time, it can automate processes, and it can help you increase – create abundancy, right of time, enough money.

I did say I was going to talk about Keela because I am going to talk about Keela for just one second. That’s to say, look, we’ve been really blessed. We got thousands and thousands of people using our tools. Millions and millions of dollars every year flow through our platform. We don’t take any cuts or anything like that. Our customers are able to grow quite significantly in the first year or first 18 months. Why? Because they listen to some of the insights we’re giving them like Keela’s tools help you to suggest when somebody should be giving or how much they should be giving. There’s all these really cool insights. You act to the transformation to digital, to engaging with the power – the automation. Things like proceeding that can be automated. All these kinds of things, that gives you time to do more work. The more good work you do, the more you can share. The more share it, the more you’re going to generate more donations. 

I think I read a data point somewhere that we did a poll of our customers and all the people that answered, so I can’t promise everyone. Something in their first year or two years of using Keela, their donations went off like 30%, 35%. Now it’s not 100% of the orgs, I want to be clear, but it is clear that embracing technology and, in this case our technology, can make a huge difference.

Nobody gets into the sector to do admin. Nobody wants to like, “Oh, I’m going to go change the world by doing paperwork.” I’ve never heard anyone say that in my life. Hopefully this can – our tools, or any great piece of technology can help to minimize that.

Importance of Recurring Donations

Getting recurring donations are so valuable. They’re steady revenue. They’re small, but they’re powerful. $10 from a donor, it’s not going to break anyone. It’s like the cost of a Subway sandwich or like two Starbucks coffees.

There’s tons of data that show this, but to do that, you got to know who your donors are, and you got to know if they’ve given a couple of times. From that, you got to engage according. 

They’ve already given you a credit card. You’re like 97% the way there to getting a second donation. You just have to inspire them with the work you’ve done and show that the value of their gift was real and tangible and did positively affect lives. But you’ve got their phone number, and their email address, and their address. That’s way cheaper than going out and finding a new donor to make a donation. Really focusing on that second gift and then, of course, ideally, turning them into recurring donations. That’s the first thing.

The second thing would be just because you can’t host an event doesn’t mean you can’t engage. I’ve seen lots of digital galas and this and that. Don’t know how I feel because it’s not the same, but you can definitely do things like knowledge-driven events and people are going to give when they’re inspired to see what’s going on. Just because you can’t meet them doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them. We talked about the phone earlier, but other clever and engaging ways to do that, I think are really going to build a bond between donors and their organizations. Ultimately lead to more engagement and more giving.

About Tom (TJ) Abbott

Tom (TJ) Abbott, CSP is the Managing Director of AMC NPO Solutions and an authority on Governance. He has over 25 years experience as CEO, President and board director of several not-for-profit organizations. Tom has also spoken in over 20 countries.