7 Nonprofit Technology Trends for 2019

team at conference table with macbooks

We want to help solve efficiency and growth challenges for nonprofits and social enterprises through the use of technology. In this post, we cover 7 of the biggest nonprofit technology trends that help nonprofits to get more done, better serve their communities & activate volunteers & donors. We also encourage you as the reader to think about how you can leverage these trends to support and enhance your mission.

Nonprofit Technology Trend #1:

Activating and deploying volunteers

One big trend we see is nonprofits have lots of interested volunteers to help their cause, but no efficient way for staff to cost-effectively deploy their passion and skillsets.  We’re seeing more and more nonprofits building apps that help connect advocates to projects that can use their help. Here are a few examples:

  • Health in Harmony – is a planetary health organization that helps communities get the resources they need, so they don’t have to destroy their ecosystems to survive. We’re in the planning phases of helping them build an app that matches volunteers who provide the advice and services these communities need, (like organic farming advice or midwives) with village communities who need it.
  • Moving Worlds is an organization that matches professionals with international nonprofits who need their help. They are able to scale to thousands of volunteers and organizations while keeping the team lean with the help of the matching technology they built.

Questions to consider:

  • Are there mission-critical projects or new programs that you don’t have the in-house skill set, time or money to take on?
  • Do you have a network of supporters who might be able to take on these projects? Could you leverage technology to crowdsource the help you or your communities need?

Nonprofit Technology Trend #2:

Solving for connectivity

Countries all over the world (including the United States) are suffering from lacking a reliable source of internet connectivity. Studies have found that there are still 3.8 billion people without internet – most from the developing world and communities of color. Delivering connectivity opens up a whole new world of options to serve and empower these communities:.

  • WordScientists provides free childhood literacy videos in dozens of languages, but their teachers didn’t have enough internet bandwidth to stream the content in the field.  AnnieCannons partnered with WordScientists to create an app for teachers that could download the content when they had a strong connection, and make it available for viewing anytime offline when they were with their students, even in remote areas or without walls.
  • Another nonprofit organization we see pushing the envelope for higher education in the digital world is Career Girls. Career Girls is a feminist-driven education platform that has the largest online collection of career guidance videos, however it was a challenge to get these videos and other educational content to kids without internet access. Career Girls developed the “Rachel”, a hardware unit to establish remote connectivity. The Rachel made educational resources both from Career Girls and other nonprofits accessible to communities of children in the world with the most need.

Questions to consider:

  • Are the people most in need of your services able to access it? If not, how can you leverage apps and hardware to get your services out into the field where it is most needed?

Nonprofit Technology Trend #3:

Use technology to work smarter, not harder

Nonprofits still have many antiquated operations, such as handwriting Xerox documents and calculating Payroll taxes by hand, that make managing their internal and external processes inefficient and slow. These problems can be solved by automating function with current technology. For example, if your organization is helping victims of police brutality, there are a multitude of agencies, services, and steps needed to get them the support they need. Typically, even if they are lucky enough to get a case manager, they still have to call dozens of shelters they may not even qualify for in the hopes of finding housing.  This process can be incredibly traumatizing and always takes much longer than it needs to.

  • SafeNight by Caravan Studios is an app to help route requests for emergency shelter.  Their New Jersey network has massively streamlined the “do you have a bed?” process but finding enough beds is still a problem.
  • AnnieCannons has been researching the broken connections in the anti-trafficking continuum of care for years. To fix these broken connections, we’ve designed a tool called ReferAll that puts the survivor at the center of her services. ReferAll will automate painful grant reporting processes, case file management, and more to make sure providers’ staff spend all their time helping survivors instead of doing data entry.

Questions to consider:

  • Is there a process in your organization that takes hours or days to complete?
  • How much more impact could you have with automation?
  • If you didn’t spend less time filling out paperwork, what else could you do?

Nonprofit Technology Trend #4:

Data Visualization and Standardization  

We’ve seen an investment by many nonprofits and corporations to visualize and storytell with the data of the communities they serve.  While this trend in data transparency and dissemination is great, we think there is more that can make the data actionable.

  • IBM worked with UK-based “Stop the Traffik” and others in the anti-trafficking movement to create a data hub that enables various institutions to detect human trafficking terms and incidents. It’s monumental for these institutions to work together. However, the data captured is from people who are in contact with law enforcement or NGOs. Many marginalized groups never connect with these organizations, and won’t be included in the dataset. Users of the platform are generally aware of the data limitations, but this and other initiatives will grow increasingly informative once the larger community adopts more standardized data gathering techniques and tailors them for more-marginalized communities.
  • Enigma Technologies hired AnnieCannons to build “Stand Together Against Trafficking” or “STAT,” a platform for financial institutions, law enforcement, and nonprofits to collect learnings about indicators of human trafficking in banking systems.  Approved users can submit new indicators to the community, or look for indicators related to existing investigations.

Questions to consider:

  • Would visualizing and storytelling (even anonymously) the data you have add value to the communities you serve?
  • Is the data you are collecting showing the whole picture? If not, how can you get access to more holistic data sources?
  • How can your data be used to generate interest and funding for new projects?
  • How can your conclusion be qualified to account for gaps in your data set?

Nonprofit Technology Trend #5:

Nonprofit technology discounts and the process of integration

Many software and technology companies like Google give away products for free or deeply discounted rates to nonprofits. Google offers G Suite free for nonprofits, along with ad grants to promote more donation traffic to your nonprofit website. TechSoup has many other discounted services.

Although these products are helpful for nonprofits, not everyone knows how to use them, or even how to integrate them into your existing systems.  It is important to consider partnering with a qualified service partner to implement these services if the team doesn’t have the skills to use these free or discounted services at their full potential.

Questions to consider:

  • Have you researched the free or discounted nonprofit technology products in the last 6 months?
  • Do you have someone on your team with the technology skill set to implement these new services?

Nonprofit Technology Trend #6:

Mobile Apps

Owning a laptop or a smartphone can be considered a trend of its own. Studies show (in the U.S.) a whopping 77% of Americans now (opposed to 35% in 2011) own a smartphone, and 78% of U.S. adults own a laptop or desktop of some kind. Out of these numbers, 13% of Hispanics and 12% of African Americans are entirely smartphone-dependent, meaning they don’t have a computer at home and have limited options for going online other than their smartphone. These numbers are a good reason nonprofits should start leveraging mobile apps as a key tool in their mission strategy.

Here are a few examples of nonprofits using mobile apps to support their cause:

  • UPchieve- UPchieve connects students with tutors via a web-based platform.  The challenge was that their students were accessing their services from a mobile device and the experience wasn’t optimized for mobile.  AnnieCannons helped make their web app mobile-responsive and allow lower-income students to easily use their services on a smartphone.
  • Resistbot– Resistbot is a text-based app that is accelerating the process of contacting officials. By texting Resistbot the word “resist” it helps you find who best represents you in congress while also turning that text into a fax, text, postal letter, or email. Without this app, it would take AN ARMY of volunteers writing letters to legislators to get the same job done!

Questions to consider:

  • Does your target audience rely heavily on smartphones for internet connection?
  • If you had the skill set and budget for a mobile app, what would it do? What would it’s features be?
  • Could a mobile app expedite the steps needed to take action for your cause?

Nonprofit Technology Trend #7:

Making Meaning Out of the Data

Aside from newer, better ways to gather data, technology can also help nonprofits turn their data into action. Vote.org exemplifies this concept because they use the data from voter registration in swing states to better direct funding. A round of applause for them, as their efforts increased the diversity of voter population in the last two years.

AnnieCannons also recognized an area of data that was in need of a course of action. Surviors.io made an app for survivors of sexual assault to anonymously share data that helps others avoid dangerous areas and reveals the reality of rape culture.

A question to consider:

  • How can you leverage data in your strategic planning to better invest in the right projects?

All in all, technology and data can help unleash the full potential of your nonprofit, but it can be difficult to deploy with limited staff time and budget.  Finding the right technology partner who not only can implement the right technology solution, but also help engrain the change within your organization is imperative to the success of any project. If your organization would like to understand how you could benefit from leveraging these trends to your advantage, we are happy to talk. Email us at info@anniecannons.com.

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