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Innovation Blog

Meet the New Tech Nonprofits

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In 2008, a group of college friends and I started Moneythink, a financial mentorship program that bridges the achievement gap in our community. In 2011, we were recognized by President Obama as one of the best new ideas for social innovation, and in 2013, we were the only nonprofit to win the prestigious MassChallenge award. Weve come a long way since our humble beginnings as a grassroots student club, and have since evolved into a new breed of nonprofit: a tech nonprofit.

Our entry into the world of technology was deliberate and intentional. We realized that in-person mentorship alone couldnt get us where we needed to beit couldnt help our students as they made their financial decisions outside of class, or connect with them on the digital channels where they communicated with their peers. We needed to be mobile. Our new mobile app, MoneythinkMobile, is a social media platform that connects students with their mentors outside of class and guides them to make healthy financial decisions like saving, mindful spending, and safe use of financial tools, like credit cards.

For nonprofits like ours, tech offers a way to deepen our impact, measure outcomes, and scale. Through the app, we are able to track student spending and give students the chance to reflect on and improve their financial habits. Were seeing incredible data about how peers can influence youth to make better financial decisions. In one case, a student uploaded a photo of a shoe store she was passing, saying Shoe store, not going in there. Suddenly, she had instant gratification in the form of likes and comments from her friends in exchange for the delayed gratification of saving her money.

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Students post how they spend and save money and build financial skills through weekly financial challenges issued through the app.

This tech-infused approach to social impact is turning heads. A recent interview with our COO in the Chicago Tribune shares how were now selling our technology to other youth-serving organizations, thereby diversifying our income streams and becoming more sustainable. JPMorgan Chase recently granted us $650,000 to reach more students with our high-touch, high-tech model. We were also the only nonprofit on the American Banker 20 FinTech Companies to Watch list, and our work has been featured in U.S. News, Forbes, BizTech, Huffington Post, Mint.com, and more.

We arent the only one making waves with this new tech approach. Many nonprofits are now leveraging technology in innovative ways that were previously only open to tech startups. The nonprofit Sirum collects unused medications that have not yet been disbursed to patients, and sends them to people who need them. The startup often describes itself as a Match.com for medicine. Similar to Moneythink, MassChallenge alum Resilient Coders also work to close the achievement gap by teaching young people to code. Many of their students have the opportunity to work with real clients, putting their web design and development skills to use in real-life situations. Mashable and TechRepublic share a few other high-impact tech nonprofits that are changing the way nonprofits think about their programs and impact.

If youve got an idea to blend the worlds of tech and nonprofit, now is your time. There are a growing number of organizations that seek to support high-impact tech nonprofits. Fast Forward is a tech nonprofit accelerator connecting promising nonprofits with high-profile mentors, tools, and funding to launch them to success. (Last year, Google.org committed $20,000 to each of the Fast Forward participants.) Corporations are also looking for nonprofits with savvy approaches to growth. The AT&T Aspire Accelerator supports organizations using technology to improve education, and Verizons Innovative App Challenge is perfect for high school students yearning to solve a social problem with a new app. You can network and learn more about the space at conferences like the Social Innovation Summit, Social Good Tech Week, Social Good Summit, and of course, MassChallenge!

Its a brave world in the nonprofit space, and the technology trend is here to stay. For insider tips on how to make your mark on the tech-nonprofit space, connect with a MassChallenge team member or reach out to me. I look forward to hearing from you! 

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