Technologies That Power Social Good Startups

It seems like just yesterday that the social good sector was struggling with outdated tech, slow computers, crashing and clunky software or worse no access to technology and knowhow. It was the rapid spread of the Internet and coming of age of web-based applications (also known as SAAS or cloud software) that fueled the adoption of tech by nonprofits and social good startups for everything from record keeping, fundraising, campaign management to marketing. Today the sector is using some of the same tools as any other tech savvy startup or billion dollar company.

The rise of easy to use web applications and now mobile, many which are free or offer affordable monthly plans has been the real driving force behind this rapid adoption.

In my interview series, Learning from founders where I interview social entrepreneurs about how they are building their social good startups, there is one question I always ask “What are some of the tech tools you use to power your startup?”

The entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to are working on a wide variety of issues that span everything from the problem of farmers suicides in India to providing education to girls in Liberia or building a t-shirt recycling business in the US. I was delighted to learn about the variety of sophisticated web tools these entrepreneurs are using to power their causes.

Here’s the full list

Google Apps – This is the enterprise version of Google’s popular collaboration and productivity tools that include Emails, Calendar and Docs to name a few. In addition Google has an extensive Google Apps Marketplace that allow for external apps like DropBox to be added on.

MailChimp – This is one of the most popular web app for managing email marketing campaigns, it also has a tool to allow you to add a subscribe button to your own website to build your email list.

Salesforce CRM – Is one of most popular customer relationship management tool across the world used by large companies like Citibank. The Salesforce Foundation’s CRM donation program to social good organizations has made it possible for social entrepreneurs to also use this really sophisticated tool to manage their leads, donors and customer information.

Trello, Workflowy, Basecamp – All of these are fantastic project management and team collaboration tools. They are all very popular with tech startups and are built to be easy to use and make part of your workflows.

Google Analytics – Is an extremely powerful yet free tool by Google that provides you sophisticated real-time reporting on how your website, ad campaigns, social media work and email campaigns are performing. This tool does have a learning curve but there are plenty of free and cheap resources to help with learning how to leverage it to the fullest.

Optimizely – This is a tool used by startups to automatically expose your audience to different versions of your web pages (A/B Testing) to see which draws maximum engagement or results. The founders of Optimizely were the same people who helped with web marketing for the Obama campaign.

Bitly, Buffer – For social media management and tracking. Buffer is used to schedule your updates across social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. While bitly is used to generate shortened links that can then be tracked as they are shared across the web by your audience.

Shopify – Many of the social ventures I interviewed mentioned using Shopify to power their webstores and spoke highly of it. Shopify makes it easy to set up a web store with everything you’ll need to manage it.

Stripe – While I know of many social ventures that use Paypal, I wanted to mention Stripe as it was mentioned by one of the entrepreneurs I interviewed and is designed to be extremely easy to use.

LiveChat – Providing high quality customer support on your website goes a long way to help make your brand popular with your customers. LiveChat is a tool to connect with visitors on your website in real-time and help with any questions they may have.

StichLabs – With many social ventures now selling goods online a web-based inventory management solution is essential. StichLabs makes it easy to integrate your web sales with your real world product inventory.

Klaviyo – This is a fantastic data powered tool that helps setup scheduled automated emails for customers and potential customers as per the needs of your business processes. Klaviyo works well with Mailchimp.

TaskRabbit – I was quite surprised to learn about how some social ventures are leveraging TaskRabbit a site that you can use to outsource simple tasks you need done.

For those of you curious about what I use for, on top is WordPress for the site itself and, Google Apps, MailChimp, Evernote for communication and project management, Add This for viral loops and related posts, Buffer and Bitly for analytics and social media.

Filed under: Grow


Deepa Chaudhary

I have extensively worked at grass-roots from working in the slums of Mumbai to being on the frontline of numerous disaster relief efforts. I'm passionate about social entrepreneurship and I love discovering and writing about new trends in the social good space.