Technology is changing the world around us — sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in very dramatic ways. Consumer behaviour is changing and organisations are figuring out how to best use the latest technology to sell products and services and improve brand loyalty.
The exact same applies to not-for-profits. Technology is causing an ongoing transformation in the sector, from the way supporters engage with their favourite causes to the way organisations fundraise, market, and manage information, and this trend will only continue to evolve in 2014.
In 2014, tremendous opportunities exist for not-for-profits to use technology to deliver on their missions in a very effective and scalable way. Some of the technology trends that will have the biggest impact on the sector this year include:
Mobile will continue to be an essential part of how not-for-profits engage with supporters and expand the reach of their staff. Nearly half of all emails are now read on mobile devices, which means having a mobile-friendly approach to engaging donors has never been more important. Mobile devices are quickly becoming the platform of choice for computing and collaboration versus sitting behind a desk, which will change how organisations leverage data and drive mission delivery.
Data is the most valuable asset in any not-for-profit, especially given how much additional web, social and interaction data is now being gathered. This ever increasing amount of data means not-for-profits must shift from collecting data, to analysing it. They must also use this data to better understand supporter and donor preferences, how to better fundraise, how to effectively facilitate events or peer-to-peer fundraising and how to increase recurring giving.
Data should be central to all not-for-profits’ operations. Indicators for where other not-for-profits are successful, how individuals respond to different communication and marketing channels and each supporter’s overall propensity and ability to give will be integrated into software to make it ‘smarter’, ultimately enabling not-for-profits to be more successful.
Software will continue to shift away from the importance of the underlying technology to the quality of the user experience. Deep knowledge of how not-for-profits need to run their businesses and the mission-critical processes they depend on will trump the bits and bytes. As the switch to mobile devices for computing needs continues to gain momentum, solutions will be developed for mobile devices, tablets, and traditional desktops by default.
Information and functionality will be available to users in any environment, without having to tab through monolithic apps or go through training programs. And data will be shared among these apps, accelerating a move away from on-premises installations of software to software-as-a-service / cloud-based implementations.
We’ve been talking about the cloud for a few years — and with good reason. Cloud hosting provides a secure, highly available, managed, cheaper, and less cumbersome environment for any organisations. Not-for-profits will continue to move to the cloud in 2014 as they acknowledge that they are not in the IT infrastructure business. There will be less need to maintain applications and data in-house when it’s far more cost effective, accessible, and offers a higher quality of service via the cloud.
The move to the cloud becomes even more critical when we consider the pervasive nature of mobile devices. The two environments were made for each other to share vast amounts of data and information from any place, any time in a simple way. Ultimately, the cloud will serve as a game changer for many not-for-profits, providing access to a multitude of services that were otherwise too costly even three years ago.
5. Social Media
Social media will become even more integrated as a communication channel in 2014. Social networks are the communication channel of choice for the emerging generations and will become more pervasive for both business and personal use.
Networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter provide access to networks of potential donors, volunteers, members, alumni, patrons, and supporters. Applications will more seamlessly integrate with social networks and enable peer-to-peer and direct communication with supporters, and the benefits and options for leveraging this integration are limitless.
These are the trends that we believe will have the biggest impact on not-for-profits in 2014. The organisations that understand and embrace these changes as much as possible will be the ones best positioned for on-going success.
Mary Beth Westmoreland
Mary Beth Westmoreland is vice president of product development at not-for-profit software and services firm Blackbaud, responsible for Blackbaud’s global product engineering, quality assurance engineering, user experience and user education teams. She started with Blackbaud in 2008 and has 25 years of experience in software engineering and product development.