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Five Nonprofit Tech Trends


While it’s very interesting to follow all the high-tech trends, it’s highly unlikely for trends such as virtual reality, wearable technologies and assistive robotic technologies to impact your nonprofit’s day-to-day operations in 2014.

So here’s our predictions of tech trends that should be top of mind for nonprofits:

1. Responsive and Adaptive Design

There are 1 billion smart phones in use and tablets are forecasted to overtake PC sales.  With this huge growth of alternate web viewing devices, your website will need to respond so that the content will be maximized regardless which of the four screens (TV, PC, tablet, phone) they will be using to view it. If your nonprofit isn’t prepared, your content and call-to-actions may be missed by your supporters.

This is where responsive web design (RWD) and adaptive web design (AWD) come in. Both allow websites to be view in various screen sizes and orientations, and each approach has its advantages and disadvantages.

RWD is a single template with flexible images and fluid grids that can be sized correctly to fit the screen. Pages load slower than AWD but RWD are generally easier to implement and have more templates available for nonprofits to use.

AWD utilizes scripting to assist with adapting to various sizes - ie. displays HTML separate and uses CSS to modify website based on screen size. Pages load faster with using AWD but requires advanced knowledge of Javascript and CSS.

2. Dynamic Data

There is an over-saturation of static infographics online, so we predict we’re going to see a high demand for dynamic data.  Dynamic data allows users to watch, click, share and really explore data in a way isn’t possible with a static image. Dynamic data is also great for SEO, as typically it combines elements of both images and text.

Not sure what this means? Here are a few examples you can draw inspiration from:

3. Modular Technology & Integration

Free, open-source technologies has propelled the concept of modular design and made it feasible for any nonprofit to implement. Modular technology basically subdivides a system into smaller parts that can be independently created and combined to fulfill multiple functionalities. In 2014, we predict that modular technology will become mainstream for nonprofits (and rightly so!).

For example, Sumac is a constituent relation management (CRM) database that offers basic functionalities straight-out-of-the-box (such as adding contacts, save contact information, etc.). However, Sumac also offers add-ons that users can download and install additional to improve the CRM’s capabilities (ie. event management add-ons, volunteer management, case management, etc.).

Modular technologies also determine how agile a nonprofit can be and can help “future-proof” organizations with little to no IT support. Many systems that adopt a modular approach are also designed to integrate well with other tech solutions, even if it’s external to that particular system. For example, Salesforce integrates with EventBrite, an external online event registration service.

4. Hybrid Cloud and Internal IT Infrastructure

2014 will be the year of the cloud platform as nonprofits will have an increasing confidence in cloud tools. More and more nonprofits will adopt a hybrid cloud and internal IT infrastructure in order to benefit from the advantages of cloud computing without sacrificing the need to house sensitive data (such as patient medical information) internally.

A hybrid cloud computing and internal IT system looks something like this:

Nonprofit operations can be conducted on the cloud to allow for better collaboration and improved efficiencies, whereas sensitive data will be kept in-house. This way, any nonprofit or charity can adopt cloud computing without compromising security.

If your nonprofit has not set-up a hybrid cloud/IT system, design your cloud service usage with a hybrid future in mind and make sure future integration is possible.

5. Mobile Beacon Based Sensors

Mobile beacon based sensors are essentially a wireless network that can be used for routing, monitoring and tracking. This technology gives nonprofits the potential to create more engaging experiences with supporters and can also improve internal operations.

For example, geofences are a virtual perimeter around any geographic area and is beginning to be used for marketing, security, and anti-theft purposes. Geofencing has a vast potential for nonprofit events and campaigns, such as:

  • Improving event participants’ experiences (e.g., attendees could automatically check-in to an event zone using a geofence app, you can send a phone alert/notification to an event attendee when they enter or leave a geofence area)
  • Keeping track of your nonprofit’s assets (e.g., your office manager can receive a notification when a laptop leaves your office)

Apple’s iBeacon is another use of the mobile beacon technology. The iBeacon is a transmitter that notifies nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence and has enormous potential for retail (sending coupons to visitors once they enter the store), GPS tracking (think of this as Apple’s answer to Google Maps), and much more (i.e., seamless integration with AppleTV).

Before You Implement, Remember Best Practices

It’s always more exciting to talk about tech trends than about best practices, but we would be remiss if we didn’t.  In our next post, we recap the three best practices we believe should always be followed and are essential to a nonprofit’s success.