Authored by Greg Tselikis | Director, Technology Advisory Services
Nonprofit organizations, no different than any other industry, need to position themselves at the forefront of technology and workforce trends to help drive mission-critical initiatives. Fortunately, there are substantial opportunities for nonprofits to adopt technology that will help them realize their short- and long-term objectives. As technology becomes more attainable in the nonprofit sector, it positions the industry for exponential growth and improved efficiency.
The path forward starts with understanding top trends and leveraging the right professional advice that will set your organization up for lasting success. Below are the 5 defining trends nonprofit leaders should pay attention to now:
#1 Establish Cybersecurity and a Comprehensive Data Security Plan
Cybersecurity remains a pervasive issue for organizations of all types, not just nonprofits, but its importance will reach new heights for nonprofits in the coming year.
Cyber threats and attacks are at an all-time high, and nonprofits are a favorite target. In fact, it’s predicted by Cybersecurity Ventures that a business will fall victim to ransomware attacks every 11 seconds in this new year. But prevention is possible.
“…the cost to procure the necessary cybersecurity is reaching an all-time low.”
Many nonprofits possess data containing personal information, credit card and social security numbers, and even healthcare information. While threats may be at an all-time high, contrary to popular belief, the cost to procure the necessary cybersecurity is reaching an all-time low. The considerable drop in cost over the past couple of years, a downward trend that is holding strong, has meant that many nonprofit organizations can now afford the proper data security measures.
Specific tools gaining traction in the nonprofit space to assess threats are:
- Multi-factor authentication
- Single sign-on controls
- Real-time scanning of links and attachments
Another measure organizations are taking is implementing comprehensive cybersecurity training—not just for their IT personnel, but also for their general staff. It’s important all levels of an organization’s staff can detect threats and respond accordingly when one is present. Many of the cutting-edge tools and technologies available for nonprofits have the added benefit of being incredibly user-friendly, with simplistic interfaces and straightforward training.
Additionally, organizations now need to not only consider how they would recover from a cyberattack but how they’d be able to determine if data was exfiltrated. Historically, ransom payment to cybercriminals could be avoided if good backups were in place. Now, cybercriminals are exfiltrating sensitive data before launching ransomware and extorting payments from victims to stop the release of their data on the web. Without the tools in place to detect, prevent, and report on data exfiltration, nonprofits are left with tough decisions around paying ransom to prevent the release of data.
With improved data analytics, data quality, and fundraising technology comes the importance of improved data security. Nonprofits are collecting more data than ever before; because of this, they require a data strategy across the entire organization—one that makes their data work for them and protects them under their cybersecurity processes.
#2 Adopt Cloud Software
Even today, a surprising number of organizations are still running on legacy systems. These systems tend to be used as Constituent Management Software for keeping records and tracking information on donors, members, and important research. The issue with these legacy systems is that they are often very time-consuming, difficult to use, and misaligned with modern organizational processes. For years, nonprofits have been steadily making the switch to cloud-based software, a trend that continues to accelerate.
A lot of nonprofits are hesitant to invest in new software, but data around the cost of ownership on cloud systems proves a cloud adoption is financially cheaper over the long run. With the cost of cybersecurity software trending down, so too is the cost of cloud systems. Nonprofits can benefit from the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive cloud system that affords them significantly better efficiency across most, if not all departments.
Cloud systems and cloud technology are:
- Highly flexible and easily integrate with other tools
- More functional and capable of streamlining processes better than legacy systems
- Better at providing access to data
For organizations that have rapidly adopted multiple cloud products, the key will be to ensure these systems appropriately align with organizational processes, address overlapping functionality, and thoroughly consider data integrations.
#3 Expand Remote Workforces
Because of the immense accessibility to cloud technology, a direct emerging trend of nonprofits is expanding their remote workforce. Cloud technology is enabling this trend, but a shortage of talent is driving it. With a hybrid workforce here to stay for most businesses—and the realization that a distributed workplace works—now is the time to understand how your nonprofit can continue to evolve with the changing times.
This starts with getting the proper systems in place (specifically cloud and security systems) to support productive, efficient, and collaborative work irrespective of location. Agile nonprofits that deploy cloud technology accelerate their capability to:
- Encourage staff to work effectively from anywhere
- Cast a wider net when searching for top talent
- Offer employees additional work-life balance perks
With the proper technology in place (cybersecurity controls and cloud-based solutions) a remote workforce can absolutely help to drive nonprofit organizations forward faster.
#4 Implement Data Analytics and Data Quality
The implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by nonprofits can have massive benefits. Next-generation machine learning, AI, and the internet of things (IoT) devices are being used to propel, if not achieve the mission of nonprofits. These tools are helping organizations interpret data in incredible ways. With integrative tools and technologies, nonprofits are able to use AI to create a very accurate and evolving 360-degree view of their donors. In the past, navigating immense amounts of data was nearly impossible and took a vast number of personnel hours to interpret and analyze.
Historically, nonprofits used to rely almost exclusively on two systems to run the entire organization—a CRM and a finance system. With the onset of new data technology, situations have arisen for nonprofits where departments and programs are procuring their own software and collecting data. Data captured through IoT devices is even being used to help nonprofits share the impact they’re having with their donors. The insights organizations can provide as a result of enhanced data analytics and data quality continue to improve.
#5 Modernize Fundraising Technology
For every nonprofit, the key component to continued success is fundraising to fulfill the mission. Technology around fundraising is revolutionizing the way nonprofits obtain important donations. Not unlike their overall system software, many organizations haven’t stayed current when it comes to fundraising technology. They get stuck in a pattern because existing technology has served their needs to-date but has simultaneously failed to help improve the process and outcomes.
With modern, mobile-friendly applications nonprofits can:
- Create a platform where donors can simply pull out their phone and donate in real-time
- Take advantage of new payment technologies like Venmo, CashApp, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Zelle
- Better engage younger donors—a demographic nonprofits struggle to reach because they’re catering to their digital interests
- Increase their donor base by offering tip-of-the-finger, click-of-a-button ease and user-friendly access
Updating the technology around data collection and automating much of the fundraising process is a big step that nonprofit organizations will continue to make. This will enable organizations to raise the funds they need while maintaining focus on delivering and carrying out their mission.
The resources technology provides nonprofits are beyond measure. In the months to follow, cybersecurity, cloud adoption, remote capabilities, data analytics, fundraising technology, and data security will present new opportunities for many nonprofits.
Ready to Try on These Trends?
If you’d like input or guidance on how to adopt technology that will help your nonprofit realize its short- and long-term goals, we’re here to help! Reach out to our Technology Advisory team with a message about your pressing needs and we’ll steer you towards the right innovative technology to meet your demands.
SC&H Group’s Technology Advisory Services professionals help middle-market businesses and nonprofit organizations adapt to new technologies and implement strategic plans that enhance progress, generate value, and accelerate growth. Learn More