Geri P. Mannion: Foundations Can Help Nonprofits Extend Their Digital Reach


Recently I co-authored an op-ed, along with colleagues Cynthia M. Gibson, an independent consultant who developed and oversaw the national survey for Public Interest Projects, Berta Colón, and Michele Lord, co-directors of Public Interest Projects. We make the case for funders to support capacity building initiatives for nonprofits doing digital fundraising and public engagement. While computer screens and smartphones may have replaced kitchen tables, it’s still true that small groups of people with big ideas can spark powerful social change. Now more of that work can be powered by new tools that offer faster and more affordable ways of connecting with thousands of people through tweets or text messages. A national survey commissioned by Public Interest Projects went to more than 400 nonprofits and 100 grantmakers to explore whether and how grantees are using digital fundraising and engagement tools; what they need to use these tools in ways that will maximize their impact; and how grant makers could support this kind of capacity building. The results of the study are illuminating and underscore how social change efforts can be more powerful and efficient if grantmakers offer nonprofits the resources they say they need to fully exploit the power of the digital era.