Tag Archives: technology solutions

  • 22 January 2014
Highlighting Key Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014

Highlighting Key Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014

Mobile, analytics, and cloud-based software are predicted to play important roles in helping nonprofits engage with supporters while still focusing on their missions. 2014 will be an exciting year for nonprofit technology. It is anticipated that many of the trends predicted last year will be revisited as opportunities for nonprofit organizations to use technology has become increasingly available. Technology Trends Mobile Keeping up with current trends means going mobile. Mobile devices are quickly becoming the platform of choice for computing and have changed the way we consume all sorts of online content. The majority of all emails are now opened on a mobile device, which means having a mobile-friendly approach to engaging donors has never been more important. Apps It’s pretty obvious that with a large portion of the population using a Smartphone, mobile applications are becoming more useful for consumers and organizations. The Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) reported five apps that may help your Nonprofit. 1. Cause.it Cause.it gets the word out about your organization to everyone in your community that has downloaded the application. Nonprofits have the option to partner with local businesses and users can earn points for discounts or freebies at those businesses by volunteering with your organization. 2. DailyFeats DailyFeats has become really popular by offering tools and motivation for individuals to live a healthy lifestyle. Members earn points for actions that range from eating a salad rather than a cheeseburger or volunteering for a nonprofit. These points can be used for rewards or donations to nonprofits. 3. MyWhereAbouts If you have hosted or participated in a charity run, walk or bike event then you may have already heard about this app. MyWhereAbouts allows participants to track their progress and share it by sending updates to social networks. The updates will detail the event while also sharing your organization’s donation page. 4. Square Square Register is a portable payment system that allows your nonprofit to receive payments through any iPad, iPhone or Android device. Basically, a small portable card reader plugs into your mobile device’s headphone jack to allow you to scan credit cards. Transactions are secure and payments are sent directly to your organization’s bank account. 5. VolunteerMatch With VolunteerMatch’s mobile app, members of your community can find or share volunteer opportunities at your organization via any mobile device. The apps in 2014 seem to differ from the more traditional fundraising apps of 2013 by offering incentives and a fun twist to giving. We will see how it plays out in the following months. Analytics The world has become highly data driven with companies craving the visible benefits of understanding and monetizing data. Nonprofits have begun to see the web, social media, donor, volunteer, and client data generated on a daily basis. Learning to manage and mine data is fairly simple with free tools nonprofits can use. Google Analytics is a widely used tool and is explained in a one of our previous blog posts listed here. Cloud Cloud-based services can be intimidating to organizations that are unfamiliar with the technology. However, cloud computing has become so universal that many people are unaware they are even using it. A bit of research and a highly rated cloud service provider goes a long way. Cloud service providers are offering security and easily expandable storage space, but without the added cost and technology resources of in-house servers. Religious organizations of all sizes don't seem to be afraid and have given their blessings to cloud computing. For more information on Cloud Computing, read up on our previous posts Incorporating new technology into an organization can be tricky. Feel free to visit our website and check out the technology services we provide to small businesses and nonprofits. Stay tuned for an in detail look at a few of the trends listed above. What do you see trending in 2014? -Rebecca

  • 27 August 2012
Make Technology Work for your Nonprofit

Make Technology Work for your Nonprofit

How technology can positively influence your nonprofit’s effectiveness (if only you can afford it)

Despite the prevalence of technology in modern communications, investment in technology to empower nonprofit organizations remains an area that receives little or no attention. The majority of nonprofits’ audiences are online so it makes sense that they establish and maintain an online presence to interact with their constituents where they are. A common issue for nonprofits is a lack of expertise in the technological field as well as a lack of resources to accomplish their goals. Some nonprofits may even have a steady stream of donations but simply lack the freedom to assign a portion of these proceeds towards developing their online identity and making technology work for them. Research on this topic was carried out by ZeroDivide last year, Amplifying Social Impact in a Connected Age, and by Idealware this year, Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services.

Part of the issue with fundraising for technological needs is the same as with other procedural elements of nonprofits. Donors want to know their donation is going directly to the cause that the nonprofit was established for in the first place and not toward business matters within the offices of the nonprofit. However, this outlook fails to appreciate the potential that technology enables in a nonprofit organization. Technology-related funding can have an exponential effect on the mission of a nonprofit. A donation that enables the technological prowess of a nonprofit can add considerably more than the same donation directly to the cause. For example, a donation that covers the annual social media costs of a nonprofit could lead to greater donations than the associated cost.

The barriers to technology-related funding are evident on both sides. A lack of understanding by funders can result in technology being overlooked in the first place and a lack of strategy in its implementation can be equally damaging to technology’s potential. There is a need within the nonprofit landscape for greater understanding of the potential to empower through technology as well as the strategy to make this so.

What is encouraging from ZeroDivide’s research is that  nonprofits increasingly want to invest in technology. They see the opportunities of technology as more than an administrative tool. They see its possibilities as a new approach that can foster real and impactful change. The dilemma in the short-term is how to encourage technology funding by donors and how to make the information readily available for nonprofit management so that technology can become an active part of the overall strategy.

Two important findings of ZeroDivide’s report:

A 2010 study by the Mitchell Kapor Foundation and ZeroDivide... found that (a) the strongest determinant of an organization’s technology fluency was whether it had a leader actively encouraging change in the internal culture, and (b) that leaders advocating change related to technology share three characteristics:

• They are comfortable learning about and using new technology.

• They hire tech-savvy staff members that share the same characteristics.

• They understand the technology value proposition and how its strategic use can help advance their organizations’ mission.

Note that neither the leader’s age nor the size of the organization were found to be determinative — it is largely the openness and commitment to culture change that are most important.

Technology cannot be externally forced upon an organization, the push has to come from within. The advantages of being a technologically-enabled organization can be demonstrated to the management of a nonprofit but the impetus has to be their own for change to be embraced.

In our San Francisco gatherings, participants suggested the creation of a visualization of the TSP [Technology Service Provider] landscape — one that is interactive and updateable — showing offerings by region and type of service. Funders felt that this would be an important step in fostering increased investment in this provider ecosystem, and would be a valuable resource for connecting their grantees [nonprofits] with service offerings.

At present, TSPs are in competition with one another and there is no directory to assist nonprofits in finding the most suitable candidate, geographically, to serve their needs. This is something that would undoubtedly make the process of finding suitable technology partners easier for organizations but may not be endorsed by competitive TSPs. As a nonprofit organization that is also a TSP, WebServes welcomes collaboration with other TSPs for the greater good of nonprofits everywhere. A comprehensive directory of TSPs, listing their specific services and location, would make the move to amplifying social impact in a connected age considerably easier for nonprofits new to the internet, as well as acting as a useful resource for established nonprofits to enrich their digital presence.

A directory of TSPs would encourage industry standards and best practices and provide authentication. This would enable nonprofits to choose from a comprehensive range of reputable providers to find their ideal match. Accountability is a vital ingredient in business nowadays and a trusted directory of TSPs would allow nonprofits to collaborate with service providers without fear of reprimand from funders.

If nonprofits understand the benefits of technology they can examine their own organization’s needs and determine which tools can improve their services. Idealware’s report contains insightful research and case studies on this subject. One nonprofit surveyed found text messaging highly effective for communicating with a teenage audience. Another utilized a cloud-based database that enabled multiple organizations within a community to share client information so as to reduce time wasted inputting duplicated information. A third nonprofit used Facebook, posting regular photos, to recruit volunteers from a previously unreached audience.

There can be no doubt that technology can empower your nonprofit. The main obstacles to overcome are awareness and strategy. A comprehensive database of TSPs as well as training and guidance for nonprofits could make a substantial difference in making the adoption of technology by nonprofits seem more feasible. Once nonprofit managers are aware of the advantages of utilizing technology, strategy can be implemented effectively with cost-saving and time-saving measures that increase the reach of a nonprofit; increasing donations and volunteers.

WebServes is also an advocate for greater coordination of high-level strategies for funding technology use among nonprofits. WebServes is seeking support for an initiative to create a funding “pool” – a technology assistance fund – to assist its nonprofit clients/partners who need to implement projects based in web and Internet technologies but lack sufficient funds to do so. Research has shown that institutional funders are more likely to fund outcomes over enabling technology; choosing to fund programs before the technological means to execute the programs. A recommendation that WebServes would make to larger private and corporate foundations is to create a nationwide “Tech Fund” that would offer distribution of funds to NPO/NGO initiatives that are dependent on technology for their programmatic impact. Incentives could be added for innovative uses of existing tech, as well as the creation of new tools and methods.

It is time for the Nonprofit space to acknowledge what the For-profit sector has long known (and funded): Technology drives innovation and success.

James