What Can Disruption Do for Nonprofits?

Keith Krach
September 25, 2016

At the DocuSign MOMENTUM’16 conference this past April, the keynote address highlighted a core idea: imagine what you can do with the power of transformation. Those leaders who elect not to answer the call of the digital age will find themselves displaced by their more innovative counterparts, and their companies won’t be able to stay afloat in a sea of digital competition.

One industry that is poised to benefit from digital disruption in a unique way is the nonprofit sector. Although there is some competition among charitable organizations, the primary focus of these groups is to make an impact on the lives of others, and digital disruption provides nonprofits with the means to meet humanitarian needs on a wider scale than ever before.

The DocuSign partners listed here have used digitalization in a way that can make a real impact on the lives of others:

  1. Free the Children

One of a nonprofit organization’s chief priorities is to manage its finances wisely. Securing funding and developing a well-formed budget have a substantial effect on how much a charity can do for a cause. Moreover, these groups often operate within financial restrictions that leave little room in the budget to cover the overhead costs that support the actions at the core of the charity’s mission.

Digital disruption has fueled the creation of new technologies, like DocuSign, that help alleviate internal expenses by equipping these groups for leaner operations. The paperless nature and the ability of the Digital Transaction Management platform to streamline workflows enables nonprofits to get more accomplished using fewer resources, thus leaving more money for them to invest in their particular cause. The nonprofit Free the Children found this to be true when it incorporated DocuSign into its operations across 12 international field offices and 45 countries.

DocuSign allows Free the Children’s thousands of employees to coordinate across state lines and even continents to complete the administrative tasks that allow the group’s life-changing projects to move forward. The ability to digitally conduct these processes without the use of paper, printing, storing, scanning, and logistics has enabled Free the Children to invest 90 percent of every dollar it raises for the charity directly into the lives of children in need around the globe.

  1. Special Olympics

Like Free the Children, many nonprofits aim to invest as many resources as possible directly into a cause. In addition to slimmer budget margins for overhead costs, this commitment to a cause often requires nonprofits to do more with less when it comes to staff members. Nonprofit employees are expected to cover many job functions, and one survey from 2011 indicated that as many as half of employees in the nonprofit sector felt overworked.

When employees have too much work to do or too much paperwork to keep track of, things can fall through the cracks, and in the nonprofit sector this can have devastating results. This is why the Special Olympics sought to implement a disruptive technology like DocuSign into its own operations, allowing for its athletes to complete important paperwork easily in a format that is conveniently stored for use at the Special Olympic Games.

Prior to the incorporation of DocuSign, each of the organization’s 5 million athletes needed to obtain and fax the signature of a medical examiner on three to five different documents in order to participate in the games. The athletes also had to update their forms every three years, which created too many opportunities for papers to become lost, thereby preventing hopeful athletes from participating in the games. With a digitally disruptive approach, the Special Olympics has been able to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to process medical paperwork and has virtually eliminated the possibility of documentation being misplaced.

  1. New Story

Without fundraising, nonprofits cannot function. Luckily, annual donations in America have been on the rise in recent years, with 2014 marking the year that Giving USA’s annual donation report marked its highest recorded amount($358.38 billion) since its commencement 60 years before. As of 2015, the annual total had reached an estimated $373 billion. While this is good news for organizations supporting humanitarian causes, the methods by which people donate money have changed significantly over the last decade. Text donations, fundraising e-mails, crowdfunding, and online peer-to-peer fundraising have taken the process largely digital, which means nonprofits must disrupt the traditional fundraising model in order to receive more donations in the digital age.

Philanthropic organizations like New Story are using disruptive technology in order to fuel their efforts on an international scale. Dedicated to changing the lives of families that lack the basic comforts and safety that a home provides, New Story identifies groups in need of secure housing and works with local organizations to build small communities with basic amenities like running water and electricity. With projects in countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia, New Story depends on its donors to enable it to continue to make a significant impact.

New Story’s disruptive approach to funding can be seen on its website, where donors can select a family that they would like to help create a new story. New Story relies fully on digital processes to crowdsource the homes that it builds, and donors can donate as much as they want to help a cause with a click of a button. This disruptive approach to funding is ideal for a digital age, when it can be difficult to motivate the tech-savvy donors of today to open a checkbook, find an envelope, and deliver a donation to a post office.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.