Social organizations have become smaller and more agile. The adoption of cloud-based tools has accelerated and enable remote work. Furthermore, online fundraising has also entered the game. At the same time, we are in an era of universal ransomware threats, even for small organizations. With this background, we've made an analysis to see where nonprofit tech is right now, and perhaps also some surprising trends to watch out for.
1. Hybrid work
The future of work after the pandemic has been watched with great interest. According to a recent data survey with organizations around the world, the pandemic has changed things considerably. Charities around the world have been forced to go virtual, at least to some degree and have had to make it work. This has greatly accelerated the trend towards remote work.
A January 2021 survey by PwC found that 83 percent of employers say remote work has been successful for their entity. However, in our survey, social organizations reported that program delivery, fundraising, and marketing were negatively affected by the pandemic. Now that the pandemic is easing and offices are opening up to in-person work, we have entered the era of hybrid work. This is defined as more flexible work styles where organizations of all kinds support employees and volunteers to get their work done in the office and remotely. It will be another big change for all of us.
Getting an office in shape involves much more than simply calling people to their desks. Some notes from Gwen Moran in The Fast Company on how to prepare employees to return to the office shed light on this topic. She advocates a systematic approach to making the workplace safe and also highly communicating new procedures to employees. A big problem in the short term is vaccines because it is not clear that organizations legally oblige their employees to be vaccinated or if they really want to do so.
2. Cloud adoption
During the height of the pandemic, social organizations in our survey reported accelerating their digital transformation by using more cloud-based software and services. The rapid move to remote work required it. “We had to move to high-reliability platforms and implement additional security measures to protect our work-from-home organizations and employees,” they said. We expect this trend to continue.
Most donated and discounted products are now cloud-based. Some of the cloud products have become much more popular in the last year and include Microsoft Cloud subscriptions, Google for Nonprofits, okta identity management solutions, and Zoom.
3. Mobile communications
Over the past year, the top topic in nonprofit communications has focused on reaching people through their phones. This was revealed in the latest landmark M+R study. Here are some of their findings:
Nonprofit mobile audiences grew 26 percent in 2020, compared to a 3 percent average increase in email list size.
Mobile messaging achieved much higher levels of engagement than email messaging.
Revenue from Facebook fundraisers (mainly on mobile devices) increased by 14 percent overall.
Half of all visits to nonprofit websites came from users on mobile devices. Mobile traffic share increased 9 percent in 2020.
Of course, the implications of all this are obvious. We can bet that more and more of your supporters and members will receive your non-profit communications on their phones.
4. Cyber security
Last year, ransomware — a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files — was the fastest-growing and highly publicized cyber threat to IT systems everywhere, including small businesses and Nonprofit organizations. The NortonLifeLock Consumer Cyber Safety Pulse Report highlights the recent rise in ransomware, including a 35 percent increase in attacks from late 2020 to early 2021. Half of email phishing attacks now cause ransomware infections. Phishing, let's remember, is a popular technique used by cybercriminals to send fraudulent emails pretending to be from reputable companies in order to entice people to reveal personal or IT login information.
We highlight some advice from UK-based TechSoup partner Charity Digital on what to do in the event of a cyber-attack. Here are some of their recommendations:
During an attack, if possible, stop computers from operating by putting them into hibernation mode instead of shutting them down.
The best way to recover from a ransomware attack is to restore data from backups. As soon as you can after discovering an attack, disconnect backup devices from computers to help ensure they don't get infected as well.
Use a computer on a separate network to change passwords for cloud services.
Seek outside experts to get to the bottom of how your organization was attacked and how to prevent it from happening again.
Perform a damage assessment to understand what data was accessed, changed, or stolen. Do a thorough clean of all your IT devices to rid them of any remaining malware.
5. Artificial Intelligence
One of the big changes in nonprofit technology over the past year has been the rise in the number of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. Chatbots are software applications that conduct an online conversation via text or text-to-speech. They more or less mimic an interaction with a living human.
Charities are now starting to use chatbots to give people specific answers to frequently asked questions, explain an organization's history, collect data through surveys, or help with fundraising and marketing by setting up a “personal” connection with each potential donor.