Is Traditional Charity Dead?

NICHOLAS FRENCH- The SXSW Interactive Festival held in Texas this past weekend shared a glimpse into the nonprofit industry. And according to them, changes need to happen in order to compete in this rapidly evolving, newfangled market. Read the article Live From SXSW Traditional Charity is Dead.

Leila Janah, CEO of up-and-coming social enterprise, Sama critiqued the current nonprofit structure:

  1. Monetary aid denies agency to the beneficiary.
  2. There is a constant need to fundraise.
  3. Attracting top talent clutters organizational goals.
  4. Many nonprofits focus on short-term, short-sided solutions.
  5. There isn’t a standard measure of social impact.
“ADG: Designing with ‘the future of the nonprofit industry’ in mind.”

Taking these into consideration, we recognize that the responsibility of shifting the nonprofit market to better practices rests in the hands of emerging industry professionals and outward-facing tacticians (like Ascension!) The key concept here is that in order to survive, there needs to be structural changes in the missions of nonprofits. This calls for clarity of goals and overall simplification.

How can Ascension help?

From our office in Northeast Minneapolis, we prioritize efficiency while designing digital solutions for nonprofits; so naturally, we propose some tips for nonprofits to lead the industry in a new direction.

Know the attention span of your audience

Once you determine your target market, decide how much tolerance your audience will have for clicking links and scouting for information. A cover-page website provides a format that caters to people looking for a one stop shop of information; answering the questions, “What is this?” or “Who are you?”

Simplify your information

Are you looking for donations? Or are you simply trying to share information? If donations are in mind, your audience will likely know something about the organization and will seek out information on their own. In this case, information on the main page should be limited (Hint: Infographics are great for this!) If you’re trying to spread awareness, information is the most important, so a little more text is okay, but it should supplement a bold mission or purpose statement.

Invest in SEO

Also known as Search Engine Optimization, a well optimized webpage for your nonprofit affords you the ability to get to specifics and focus on your individualistic mission rather than trying to run an all-purpose program. With effective SEO, the likelihood that people searching for terms that are specifically related to your mission wind up on your website drastically improve. (Bonus Hint: Ascension offers top-notch SEO services.)


Although the SXSW shed light on the nonprofit sector’s weak-spots, the industry is still booming and has the potential to revitalize the way that we currently think about nonprofit fundraising and giving, transforming traditional charity from dead and drab to lively and modernized.