Five Technology Trends Every Nonprofit Needs to Know

Five Technology Trends Every Nonprofit Needs to Know

It is every easy to get caught in the buzz of tech trends and lingo.  Especially as a nonprofit with limited budget and resources, keeping up with the cutting edge in tech is a challenge.  We sought to identify 5 actual trends (not just buzz) that will have a significant impact on the nonprofit sector.

The slides from the original presentation of this content at Independent Sector 2013 can be found in slideshare

#1 Ubiquitous Geography
This trend refers to the relatively new commonplace use of geographic awareness in web and mobile applications. Users have come to expect a geographical component on most websites (find the nearest retail location; where can I vote?)  For example, only in the past 10 years has Google Maps made finding directions and making decisions about routing easy and fast.  Products that offer simple geographic visualization enable nonprofits to integrate basic maps on the web of their constituents or grant allocations.  They can also use tools like CartoDB to conduct analysis of their data and make better decisions about funding and outreach while communicating simply with their constituents or political entities

#2 Deliberate User Experience
If you were hosting a dinner party or event, you would consider all the needs of your guests while attempting to anticipate the unexpected.  The creation of websites and applications should function the same way.  How your user interacts with your site, navigates, discovers content and reaches out to you should function simply and intuitively. Considering the user experience of your site should happen simultaneously with designing and creating content.  One example of fantastic user experience is the mobile application: Uber.  Uber, a taxi-like service, allows its users to quickly and easily request a cab, monitor its location, input destination and pay via the ap.  It eliminates much of the friction of the traditional taxi experience (paying via cash/card, routing, etc).  Eliminating barriers, confusing pages or opportunities for miscommunication will help make the user experience great.

#3 Sustainable Open Source
Sustainable Open Source refers to the trend that open source software is becoming more user friendly and now addresses many common technical needs that nonprofits have.  WordPress, for example, offers great templates for web creation but is also sustainable because it utilizes a business model that gains revenue through subscription services.  This ensures that their product will be maintained and will have a thriving community of users.  OpenTreeMap Cloud is an Azavea product that is completely open sourced and can be adapted.  But it can also be used as a subscription service which is easier to utilize.  This hybrid business model ensures that it will continue to be supported and maintained in the coming years.

#4 Pervasive Data Science
Data Science helps us make decisions, among other things.  Netflix uses advanced algorithms and our viewing patterns to tailor their application to our tastes.  Nonprofits can learn from this by using the data they collect on their constituents to customize the messages they broadcast.  This allows them to use their marketing budget more effectively and successfully reach a greater number of people with their message.

#5 Collaborative Research
This collaboration of research refers to two types of nonprofit collaboration: private and public.  These collaborations help to provide incredible resources and opportunities to nonprofits.
Nonprofit / Private Collaboration
Twitter and other private companies have released their data which can be used to assess humanitarian and social crises through the initiative UN Global Pulse.  This can empower nonprofits to act on these problems with more precision and direction.
Nonprofit / Public Collaboration
Kaggle allows for collaboration between the public and the nonprofits on data problems via competition.  This increases the resources available to solve the problem and engages the public in new and interesting ways.  Similarly hackathons bring together technologically talented members of the public with nonprofits and civic organizations to solve problems for social good.


These trends reflect movements in the tech field that will make significant impact on the nonprofit sector in the coming years.  We anticipate these trends to work in harmony with each other to change the way users access content, interact with the web and discover new organizations and ideas.   Check out our upcoming webinar series on how nonprofits can take advantage of the first trend, Ubiquitous Geography.