The Big Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014
Technology is changing the world around us — sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in very dramatic ways. Consumer behavior is changing, companies are figuring out how to best use the latest technology to sell products and services and improve brand loyalty — even the government is getting in on the act.
It’s no different for nonprofits. Technology is causing an ongoing transformation in the nonprofit sector from the way supporters engage their favorite nonprofits to the way nonprofit organizations fundraise, market and manage information. This will only continue to evolve in 2014. Think back even five years ago, 10 years ago — how different is the nonprofit landscape now compared to then? It’s pretty dramatic.
In 2014, tremendous opportunities exist for nonprofit organizations to use technology to deliver on their missions in very effective and scalable ways. Here are the technology trends that will have the biggest impact on the nonprofit sector this year.
Sixty-one percent of the U.S. population owns a smartphone. Ninety-one percent own some kind of cellular phone. Mobile devices will only continue to become more and more pervasive. There is no escaping the fact that mobile is mainstream. Mobile devices are quickly becoming the platform of choice for computing and collaboration versus sitting behind a desk. Mobile will change how nonprofits conduct business — both with supporters and with staff — by enabling greater flexibility in terms of engagement and interaction with software, data and each other.
Data is the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization. Keeping data fresh and clean is of critical importance. Nonprofits will use data to understand what communication channels are most effective, how to better fundraise (who to ask for how much), how to effectively facilitate events or peer-to-peer fundraise, how to increase recurring giving, etc. Understanding where other nonprofits are successful, how individuals respond to different communication (marketing) channels, and a supporter’s overall propensity and ability to give will be integrated into software to make it “smarter,” which will ultimately enable nonprofits to be much more successful.
Software will shrink in size, be agnostic, become less bloated and focus on a very specific need. This is related to the emerging computing device of choice referenced in the first trend (mobile devices). As the switch to mobile devices for computing needs continues to gain momentum, the software that runs on them will be more like the apps we know today that are small and perform very specific tasks across multiple devices. This will also accelerate 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. It’s safe, cheap, less cumbersome and provides overall better service. Many nonprofits will move their IT infrastructures to the cloud in 2014. There will be less need to maintain applications and data in-house when it’s far more cost-effective, accessible and provides 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 anyplace, anytime in a simple way. Ultimately, the cloud can serve as a game changer for many nonprofits, providing access to a multitude of services that were otherwise too costly even three years ago.
So there you have it — the trends that will have the biggest impact on nonprofits in 2014. The organizations that understand and embrace these changes will be best positioned to succeed for the foreseeable future.
Mary Beth Westmoreland is vice president of product development at Blackbaud.
Mary Beth Westmoreland is Blackbaud’s chief technology officer, responsible for leading worldwide product, technology and analytics strategy, architecture, user experience and innovation across the company’s entire solution portfolio. Mary Beth joined Blackbaud in 2008 and has over 30 years of experience in software engineering and product development.
Prior to Blackbaud, Mary Beth was VP of research and development at Ipswitch, Inc. where she led software engineering, design and operations across the company’s global product portfolio. Before Ipswitch, she spent 15 years at the Savannah River National Laboratory, where she started as a programmer and eventually managed the company’s Enterprise and Technical Systems Engineering organizations.
In both 2019 and 2017, Mary Beth was named one of the Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology by the National Diversity Council — a definitive list that honors the most extraordinary female leaders, influencers and achievers impacting the technology industry. She has been recognized for her leadership in Blackbaud’s transformation to a cloud software company that is innovative, agile and successful, for her mentorship of other women and for her commitment to corporate citizenship.
Mary Beth is a trustee at her alma mater, Immaculata University, where she graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics. She is also a member of the advisory board of Clemson University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, a founding board member of Charleston Women in Tech, and is actively involved in a variety of STEM programs, Women in Technology initiatives and other nonprofits.