Rapid-response digital content helps nonprofits and donors confront global crises

Rapid-response digital content helps nonprofits and donors confront global crises
March 1, 2023


Today’s nonprofits know that easy access, customizable content and instant impact create a dramatic uptick in humanitarian donations — especially among digital natives.

When Russia invaded Ukraine early last year, the war not only triggered Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II, but a desperate food shortage for displaced Ukranians and those who could not flee. 

Within hours of the invasion, and ever since, people around the globe have been able to make instant donations to an emergency Ukraine hunger-relief operation created by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) — thanks to a digital app called ShareTheMeal. The app continues to make a difference one year into the devastating conflict. 

With a few taps on a smartphone and for as little as 80 cents a day, ShareTheMeal donors have provided a food lifeline to more than 3 million people fleeing the war, as well as those who remain in the battle zones. WFP is providing bulk food, bread, and food rations where fighting rages or is expected to take place. Cash or vouchers are provided where retail shops remain open.  

Donors can also see how their donations are making a difference, with images from the front lines. To date, more than 82,000 individual ShareTheMeal donors have helped WFP provide more than 4.25 million meals since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. This includes a total of 168,445 metric tons of food and more than $451 million of cash support. The group’s ultimate goal is to provide 6.5 million meals in the war-torn region. 

As calamity upon calamity rolls across the world, overstretched philanthropic organizations like the WFP are taking a page from leading-edge businesses for their fundraising. They know that because technology is a part of day-to-day life, the content and information that their organization creates must be easily accessible, personalized, participatory, and available across platforms. Content must be married to the digital experience.

Digitally savvy philanthropic groups have stepped up their efforts to simplify and accelerate donor giving, while providing a vivid feedback loop on cross-media channels (e.g., email, mobile, social) that demonstrate how the donations are saving lives. For donors, it’s as easy as ordering tonight’s dinner on DoorDash.

Because the most impactful nonprofits know they must be digital-first to compete for donor dollars and mindshare, they are using the latest tech tools to rapidly mount campaigns in response to current events. This includes software like a composable content platform that enables nonprofits to repurpose content for a variety of contexts and user channels, without having to start from scratch, which increases efficiency and speeds time to market.

To reach and mobilize digital natives, venerable organizations, including the Red Cross and Breastcancer.org, are among the many that have stepped up the mobile accessibility and interactivity of their fund-raising and education efforts. The apps are customizable, meaning they can be easily tailored to specific target audiences. Just as crucially, the content can be quickly modified and adapted to new circumstances. For example, the U.N.’s WFP created a Ukraine-specific ShareTheMeal program within hours of recognizing the magnitude of the crisis. 

The technology community, including companies like ours, help nonprofits in their new digital-first efforts by working with them pro bono. This keeps with the philanthropic impulse that is the lifeblood of the nonprofit world.

Appealing to the generous generations

In many ways, ShareTheMeal has been the trendsetter in the digital donation movement. Since its launch in 2015, ShareTheMeal has been getting dollars to doorsteps at an astonishing rate: 10 million donors have helped provide more than 168 million meals in 30 countries. For its hunger-fighting efforts, WFP received the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. 

The creators say they designed ShareTheMeal as a mobile-first offering because it simplified the process of donating. With only a few taps on the smartphone, donors know food is headed to a hungry belly. Donors can also choose where their money goes, monitor the progress made towards a collective fundraising goal, and watch compelling video stories of how their donations help save lives. 

ShareTheMeal users can also connect on social media channels to invite friends to donate together. The budget-minded can even see how much of ShareTheMeal’s donations go to operational and marketing costs.

The developers knew that for the ShareTheMeal app to make a real change in the fight against hunger, it needed mass appeal with millennials, a group typically not reached by many classic fundraising efforts. “The millennial is a very demanding user because they need to see proof where their money goes,” said Matthias Hellmund, head of product at ShareTheMeal. “They also want to see what personal impact they can have.”

For philanthropy, the advent of app-based giving has been an important pivot. The Blackbaud Institute reported a 42% increase in online giving during the past three years, with 12% of total fundraising coming from online sources. Millennials and Gen-Z are among the most generous,  and as digital natives, prefer to give digitally often via text message, app or online, according to the report.  

Making a difference around the world

Ukraine is among the world’s top grain producers, so the halting of those exports after the invasion had immediate consequences for many countries that relied on the precious food source. Even before the Ukraine crisis, there were an estimated 95 million people in the world suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under the age of 5 — some  roughly 3.1 million children per year — according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Too often, children are among the innocent victims in strife-filled areas where hunger is weaponized against civilian populations — places like Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, and  Afghanistan. Or in the case of a baby named Fatima, in Nigeria. 

As a malnourished infant in the war-torn northeast part of the country, Fatima was losing her fight to live. The Boko Haram insurgency and the government’s military response had displaced millions and created desperate food shortages for those who couldn’t flee. Roads were unsafe for farmers to transport crops, marketplaces were razed by attackers and outside aid was disappearing into corruption-plagued government channels.

Fatima was not taking breast milk. In desperation, her mother, Ka’ana, brought the baby to a health center sponsored by the U.N.’s WFP. Thanks in large part to ShareTheMeal donations, the organization operates facilities in the region, providing nutrition assistance to children under 5 as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Fatima got the nourishment she needed to regain her health. 

“I am grateful to WFP for saving Fatima’s life,” Ka’ana said in a video on the WFP website.

As a leading composable content platform, Contentful makes it possible for nonprofits to efficiently connect and mobilize donors in the ways brands connect with customers and drive sales in the digital-first world. By doing so, they’re using technology for its most basic intent: to improve the lives of others.

Count Fatima among the beneficiaries of the new trend in fundraising, where a generation of the generous, who are accustomed to the immediacy of digital experience, can extend this to making a difference in the world — one tap or click at a time.

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