What are the top trends in nonprofit technology for the coming year?  Take your pick from some of the old standards – increasing virtualization, social CRM, just-in-time analytics and data enrichment, and mobilization, to name a few.  Recently, I’ve also seen some newer ones that seem to be top of mind, such as Big Data, responsive design, and the transition to mobile computing.  See these Gartner trends and especially Marc Chardon’s 2013 trends for two that I found meaningful.

Buzzwords aside, I’d suggest CIOs and technologists focus first on how the major drivers in the market will impact their business users and stakeholders, and then use those drivers as a means to understand the impact on nonprofit strategy and subsequently technology.

Here’s a few that seem to come up in conversations:

Increased Need for Services

Nothing new here.  For most nonprofits, the need for programs and services rarely, if ever, decreases year over year.  Economic challenges and unemployment will have the effect of both increasing needs and putting negative pressure on overall fundraising.  Expect “do more with less” and “work smarter” to factor into virtually every technology decision.

Competition

It often feels inappropriate to talk about competition in the nonprofit space – nonprofits are serving a greater good, not carrying out a commercial enterprise – but I think it is realistic to expect competition for the attention of your donors, volunteers, and other constituencies, due to both the economy and our increasing reliance on electronic communication (see below).  Even organizations with a compelling mission and vital programs will often find the greatest competitor for support is often “doing nothing.”

Empathy Fatigue

Social media and email are increasing the message volume for constituents from nonprofits, for-profits, and everyone else.  For reference, see this article from 2010 – when was the last time you received less than 50 emails in a day?  Combine this with 24/7 media cycles talking down the economy and highlighting a range of negative news.   How will your organization stand out from, say, the rest of the electronic bombardment that someone received today?

How will these drivers impact the operational needs of your stakeholders?  And how can you as a CIO or technologist be proactive in this scenario? Here are a few thoughts:

Increased Focus on Supporters

Costs related to retention are typically significantly lower than those related to acquisition, making this a win in terms of both managing costs and improving results.  Look for tools that will help face your organization toward donors, volunteers, members, and other stakeholders, as well as compare results year over year to better understand changes in constituents and their evolving needs.

Measure Outcomes, Impact, and Value

For organizations dependent on grants, expect more scrutiny to outcomes and impact reporting, as Foundations and granting organizations face similar economic-related pressures to your organization.  Donors, too, increasingly expect tangible and quantifiable results from an organization – focus on tools that can capture this detail in a way that can be demonstrated to the supporter.

Empower Staff and Volunteers

Look for technologies that empower staff to be more productive, such as dashboard-style reporting or mobile access tools for major gift officers or event coordinators.  Organizations that rely heavily on volunteers can benefit from tools that empower and simplify their efforts.  Donors and funders will continue to expect for self-service access through your website.

Diversification of Channels

Finally, I think it is safe to assume that financial managers will respond to downward pressures on fundraising by looking for ways to manage risk, such as diversifying fundraising channels and implementing more predictable forecasting tools, to manage real-time progress of each revenue stream.

Others I’ve left out?  Thoughts?  Please leave a comment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the founding members of Blackbaud’s interactive services team, Bo Crader works in various capacities as a business architect, implementation advisor and strategist. Recent projects include developing a multi-site rollout approach for a large healthcare organization, advising on the launch of a rebranding effort for a national federated nonprofit, and leading enterprise-wide organizational and technical assessments. A Blackbaud veteran, Bo has held positions in communications, consulting and business solutions.  He worked previously in publishing and served in the military. Specific areas of expertise include interactive strategy, emerging technologies, solution architecture and design, and project planning. Bo has been published in a number of publications on topics related to technology and fundraising trends. Bo holds a Master’s degree from the University of Georgia.  Bo is a frequent volunteer in his local community of Clemson, South Carolina, where he recently led an effort to start a nonprofit, and now serves as the organization’s Board Chair.

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