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How to Keep Donors Engaged Using Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies such as Web3, cryptocurrency, and blockchain are helping nonprofit organizations keep their stakeholders engaged.

Pencils of Promise (PoP) was founded in October 2008 to help build safe and healthy learning environments for young children worldwide.  Founder Adam Braun started the organization with a dream of creating educational infrastructure in the communities that need it most and a deposit of just $25.

To date, Pencils of Promise has built nearly 600 schools worldwide, and over 130K students are currently enrolled in those schools.  Over 3K teachers have been trained through the organization’s Teacher Support initiative. Several other holistic programs have been created to distribute learning materials and provide clean water and sanitation to developing communities.

The success of organizations like Pencils of Promise is predicated on the ability to engage, unite, and limit barriers to giving.  Keeping donors engaged and giving during uncertain times can often feel like a challenging balancing act, but new technologies and strategies are available to keep us centered.

When we limit barriers of entry, we can better reach those who are not ready to attend in-person events again, unlock access to a new generation of givers, and gain the ability to reach all donors exactly where they’re at.

Diversifying Engagement Strategies

Consider that the Pencils of Promise supporter base is comprised of people from many different backgrounds.  Instead of doubling down on one singular channel or communication strategy, Pencils of Promise diversifies its engagement strategy to match the diversity of its constituency.  A large portion of the constituent base is generated by grassroots movements all with unique needs and communication preferences.  Understanding and catering to these needs are paramount.

To this point, there has been a growing interest among the global Pencils of Promise constituency in Web3 (e.g., cryptocurrency) solutions.

Web3, the third generation of computing and a new iteration of the World Wide Web, is a rapidly emerging technology poised to help organizations connect, engage, and innovate at a higher rate.  This technology incorporates concepts such as:

  • Cryptocurrency: A digital currency in which transactions are verified and records maintained by a decentralized system using cryptography, rather than by a centralized authority.
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs): A cryptocurrency token that is an indivisible and unique record on a blockchain associated with a particular digital or physical asset. The ownership of an NFT is recorded in the blockchain and can be transferred by the owner, allowing NFTs to be sold and traded.
  • Blockchain: A system in which a record of transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency is maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network.


Why should organizations be thinking about implementing a Web3 strategy?  Such strategies help bridge the gap between physical and digital experiences, expand brand loyalty and recognition, as well as build trust sustainably.

For example, Pencils of Promise will be hosting, for the first time in two years, its PoP Gala on October 20 at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City.  A unique NFT will be designed by an artist and auctioned off during the event, with proceeds donated through the auction directly supporting the organization.

Building Better Segmentation

By utilizing technologies, such as Web3, and the end-user in mind, segmentation can help create fast donation experiences that help the organization get to know its donors better.  As people have become increasingly reluctant to give out personal information, challenges present themselves in determining the unique characteristics of donors.  With creative, sometimes improvisational, segmentation, however, journeys can be made that make the donor feel like the organization is speaking directly to them.

The keys to utilizing these new technologies and improving segmentation are all about creating a sense of community.  People naturally form connections through interactions on social media platforms like Twitter, Discord, Instagram, and Facebook.  How can organizations harness that same power of connection in donor engagement?

The answer, simply, is to give people what they want!  There is no sense in forcing something that likely won’t work; understand what motivates your constituents and feed those natural inclinations with supportive technology.

Taking this approach allows organizations to do more with less.  With less donor demographic data available in the ecosystem, make sure to establish a pathway to learn about who supports you in non-traditional avenues.  Then, build communication and engagement strategies with those avenues in mind to truly meet your constituents where they are.

Expanding Donor Support

Limiting barriers to entry and encouraging engagement allows organizations to exponentially expand their base of supporters.  Web3 solutions are helping to make it easier than ever for people to become advocates for organizations, take ownership of that advocacy, and then innovate how they show support.  Donor connectivity is then taken to the next level when real-time support updates are shared.

Better engagement is not a pipedream, it’s an attainable goal, even in uncertain times.  It just requires a little ingenuity and a willingness to embrace new technologies to reach that goal.

Learn More About C.J. Stanfill

Christopher J. Stanfill, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives at Pencils of Promise in New York City. In this role, he oversees resource development, organizational data activities, and serves as a member of the organization’s Global Leadership Team. Dr. Stanfill and his team are responsible for using data to drive decision making and tell compelling stories that attract new supporters around the globe while keeping existing supporters continually engaged.