Technology and NonProfits

Technology is changing the world for nonprofits. Thanks to the advent of tools like data analytics, social media, and cloud computing, organizations can now achieve goals that were once beyond imagination. Most importantly, technology has revolutionized communications for nonprofits. Effective communications remain one of the core challenges and opportunities for the effective delivery of services, effective fundraising, and successfully growing awareness of a cause. 

Successful nonprofits choose to do three things: 

  1. to embrace the opportunities technology presents,
  2. to understand changes in technology, and 
  3. to develop best practices for how to approach this pace of change

This is because technology increasingly impacts all aspects of a nonprofit organization, from how successfully it raises funds, engages with supporters, markets its cause and manages data. One of the largest impacts is, of course, the opportunity for innovation. 

Nonprofits can be restricted by budgets. 

Those who do not embrace technology can sometimes do this by pointing to the perceived costs associated with incorporating new technologies (i.e. subscriptions to software). But those who embrace technology do so with the understanding that it presents opportunities for innovation and automation, saving large sums of money in the long term. 

While the challenges in technology are large they are equally exciting and can help nonprofits to deliver their mission in the most effective and scalable way. But the adoption of some technologies remains slow in the sector. This does present opportunities for those who are willing to lead the charge in tech adoption. 

NetChange Consulting is responsible for a long-running survey of nonprofits, and in early 2018 released a report on digital engagement within nonprofits. 

Surveying 80 organizations around the world and of varying sizes, the report found a number of exciting ways in which tech was influencing the nonprofit sector, while also identifying just how far there is to go for digital technologies in this area. 

NetChange found that having digital expertise at the highest levels of a nonprofit organization had a significant impact on its incorporation in campaigns. However, in 2018, 42% of respondents did not have someone with digital experience at the highest level of management. 

On top of this, many organizations in the survey showed a lack of understanding and appreciation for how tech could aid fundamental aspects of a successful nonprofit organization. 

Only 10% had a dedicated team that worked on supporter engagement, with another quarter placing it under the responsibility of communications or fundraising departments, and another quarter of respondents noting that supporter engagement fell under the responsibility of all departments. The role of technology in supporter engagement was yet to be utilized by 90% of respondents. 

Some of the technology trends that play an important role in the nonprofit sector are:

  1. Mobile-friendly websites – websites are increasingly responsive and are available in all types of devices. Donors and supporters can engage with nonprofits anytime and anywhere with this increased level of accessibility. Website design has become fundamental to creating truly responsive digital experiences, especially ones that satisfy web accessibility guidelines. 
  2. Multimedia – the use of images, infographics, videos, interactive tools, and blogs has become central to nonprofit growth. These tools help organizations deliver the right message at the right time to the right people using the right channels.
  3. Online donations – nonprofits are now using multiple channels to reach supporters. Most importantly, the internet has opened up organizations to the entire world. With effective marketing, this can translate into significant boosts to donations.  
  4. Social media – tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram provide access to networks of potential donors, volunteers, members, alumni, supporters, etc. Web applications are integrated with social networks and enable direct communication with constituents. The benefits of these tools are various but there are two that could be seen as most important: social media allows nonprofits to build online communities that either mirror or build upon real-world communities. Secondly, social media tools allow nonprofits to convey the authenticity of their message. Users of social media are increasingly savvy of marketing techniques but will respond positively to truly authentic displays of communication. 
  5. Cloud services – there will be less need for nonprofits to maintain applications and data in-house when it is far more cost effective, accessible and a higher quality of service via the cloud. Nonprofits have already started using SAAS (Software-as-a-Service), PAAS (Platform-as-a-Service), and IAAS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) cloud services. The differences between these lie in the extent to which the organization manages certain digital processes in their business. SAAS is at one end of the spectrum, with almost all digital processes (data storage, applications, operating systems) outsourced to cloud management services. 
  6. Data analytics – the effective analysis and utilization of data has become both easier and automated. Nonprofits can use social media and web analytics to get a granular view of their supporters and communication channels. This helps to make decisions like how to better fundraise, how to facilitate events, and how to achieve recurring donations by providing organizations with significant insights into how people respond to their communications channels or fundraising campaigns online. 

In a 2016 survey from Techreport, 92% of NGOs worldwide had a website, 75% of NGOs accepted online donations, and 95% of NGOs worldwide had a Facebook page. With this report also revealing that 62% of donors worldwide preferred to donate online, not embracing technology as a nonprofit ignores the shift in the tide as to how people want to interact with their government and nonprofit services as well as how most nonprofits are approaching the tech revolution. 

The path is clear for nonprofits, and it is a path made of 0’s and 1’s. Digital-led nonprofits stand to benefit from the exponential innovations and improvements seen across all aspects of tech. 

marketing strategies nonprofit marketing
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Douglas R.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Douglas is a copywriter and writer, working in UX Writing and longform tech writing. He has a strong interest in the relationship between tech and society and how we relate to and interact with digital tech’s ongoing evolution.

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Amar T.

Amar is the president and co-founder of AmDee. He has been an industry leader in accessibility compliance—auditing and remediating websites, publishing articles, delivering presentations to national audiences, and training content editors and developers in accessibility best practices.

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