5 nonprofit sector trends in 2021

Nonprofit organizations showed their resistance and innovation in 2020 to overcome a very difficult year, but I’m excited to see the nonprofit sector continue to think outside the box for 2021. Green Apple Pay is a FinTech company and we’re a passionate team of 11 individuals who are constantly looking to learn about the tech trends that affect us. 2020 has been a hard year for everyone and we wanted to compile a list of top 5 technology trends that would apply to the nonprofits we serve.

Modernizing fundraising technology

Peer-to-peer fundraising is on the rise with more than 33 per cent of the Interac e-transfers being for sending money to friends or family members in need during the pandemic. In 2019, mobile donations represented 26 per cent of all online donations in 2019, with 10 per cent of the growth being from just the past three years. Many individuals gave generously this year, despite the pandemic, but they just gave in a different way. The State of Modern Philanthropy 2020 revealed that large nonprofits have 26 per cent of their online revenue from recurring gifts. This is a valuable lesson for smaller nonprofits. If they can find a way to gain recurring donations, they would be less affected by the cancellation of events and the reduced revenue per event compared to their pre-covid fundraiser targets. Below are two examples of how nonprofits actively pursued a modernized approach to fundraising.

Tim Maliyil, board member for the Bronx Science Alumni Foundation, told me that the Foundation used a legacy system called Click and Pledge that turned donors away due to the frustrating user experience. Tim, who is also the CEO of AlertBoot, built a simple donation site for the Foundation using Salesforce and this better user experience for donations allowed the Foundation to see a 35 per cent increase in their donations, including several smaller donations since users found it easier to donate now.

Similarly, David Galownia, CEO of Slingshot mentioned they have helped several nonprofits build mobile apps in 2020. They helped build a stakeholder and donation platform app for New Roots and now the nonprofit is able to get those donations quickly and efficiently. “Technology has become one of the only ways we can get in front of consumers. No matter your industry or division, the best way to increase donations is to allow people to access you and your content from anywhere. Something to keep in mind is where, and the legal side of collecting donations there.” 

This doesn’t mean that your nonprofit has to invest money into building a platform from scratch. Green Apple Pay is a platform that allows you to collect recurring donations quickly and efficiently from donors so you can experience a similar increase in your donations as experienced by the clients of Slingshot and AlertBoot. 

Video conferencing 

Prior to 2020, nonprofits would have met in a boardroom with a few members maybe joining conference calls on the web. However, 2020 has changed the landscape for how nonprofit organizations’ employees meet each other and their donors. Zoom reported that their platform had more than 300 million users by April 2020 and Google Meet similarly had 100 million users. In April 2020, Google Meet introduced its noise-cancelling technology which would block ambient sounds using AI to make video calls easier to understand. Many corporations are also investing in technology to improve their staff experience. When employees are in front of their computers 8 hours a day, employers need to focus on making sure their staff satisfaction, wellbeing, and experience with technology is a pleasant one. For nonprofits, this means finding a platform that works for your business needs while balancing the needs of your employees and volunteers.

Digital meets physical

Zoom is a video platform built for businesses, as Houseparty is a video platform that is essentially a “face to face social network”. Most events I’ve attended this year with nonprofits have used Zoom, but there are alternatives that were designed for immersive virtual events such as Hopin, Boomset, Airmeet, among others. With the pandemic, more startups and bigger companies are working hard to create creative new solutions for various industries, the nonprofit sector being one. Nonprofits should keep themselves informed of new virtual platforms that enable them to interact with their donors and fundraising event attendees in a less “business” setting and on a platform that reduces the virtual feel of these events. A specific example is the development of Virtual Reality changing the landscape of virtual events. There will be more fundraising opportunities in the new year that makes digital meet physical by leveraging a VR experience for donors. When these experiences present themselves, embrace the opportunity. 

Nonprofits in 2020 also started utilizing food delivery services to incorporate physical components into the virtual environment we’ve been forced into because of COVID-19. For example, instead of hosting an in person cheese tasting event, nonprofits could have individuals sign up for the event and have the cheese and beverage pairings delivered. This way, donors can go through the experience on a video call, but also have the actual food in front of them. 

When social distancing restrictions loosen in the new year, nonprofits can also consider having a limit on people attending in-person events, but allow other attendees to watch and attend the event from home. This would also bring attendees closer to one another by bridging the gap between digital and physical events.

Big data analytics = knowing your donors

A defining factor of the pandemic is the lockdown of cities in Canada and the strict enforcement of social distancing rules. Charities that are used to reaching out to their donors at fundraising events with personal conversations are now forced to try and create those same connections through emails, and social media. Using managed cloud services and data analytic tools offered by companies like Tableau for a reduced price from TechSoup Canada, nonprofits will be able to better analyze their donors and tailor their messaging to the different specialized groups their donors fall under. 

TechSoup Canada also offers a reduced price for Salesforce, a CRM platform that allows nonprofits to be more customer-focused, a trend that is showing up more often in the nonprofit sector. People love sharing great customer experiences, Netflix being an example. By creating a rich relationship database that can analyze and group donors, volunteers, board members and employees into specialized groups, nonprofits will be able to move from peer-to-peer fundraising to relationship-based fundraising. Relationship-based fundraising allows for more personalized communications that result in higher donations as highlighted by Andrew Rogers the VP of business development at Traction on Demand in a recent phone call. By having a clear image of what short and long-term goals are, CRM can work for nonprofits at any stage of their CRM adoption process. “No matter where you are, the goal is time to value so that you can become constituent focused as fast as possible,” Andrew Rogers. 

For nonprofits looking to leverage big data, Salesforce also has over 50,000 nonprofit clients who make up an online community with over 5000/posts each day, each with a 99 per cent rate of response within 24 hours. Technology has enabled nonprofits to learn and ask questions about CRM, data analytics, and cloud services seamlessly in these online community hubs. It has never been easier to start on your path to leveraging big data. 

Virtual volunteerism

Lauren Bates, product consultant at Green Apple Pay, volunteered prior to the pandemic by bringing her therapy dog to the nonprofit. Now that in-person events are cancelled, she has not been able to volunteer like she used to. Lauren has tech expertise and would be more than happy to volunteer her time to help the nonprofit become more proficient in technology (i.e. help with setting up a Shopify account, help with social media, etc.). However, the nonprofit did not ask for her help here. They said they would reach out at a later date about volunteer opportunities. 

High school students in Ontario are required to have a minimum of 40 volunteer hours and could acquire more to help them in their applications for scholarships and post-secondary education. University students may also choose to apply for certificates that require a certain number of volunteer hours. Gen Z is technologically savvy and could help nonprofits in their digital transformation process at no additional cost to the nonprofit. Similarly, Lauren would have been able to bring a lot of value to the nonprofit she volunteers for to help them be better equipped to deal with the digital disruption of the nonprofit sector. As a nonprofit volunteer engagement manager, you should leverage your volunteer base for their tech expertise, you might be surprised at what they can do for your nonprofit. This also goes for other expert consultations like legal advice, marketing, strategy, IT, and more. In 2021, nonprofits should reimagine how their volunteers can lend their time and expertise in a remote way to help them face the challenges ahead.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Wendy Jing
Wendy Jing
Wendy Jing - Media Manager, Green Apple Pay. Chuyue (Wendy) Jing graduated with a Bachelor's of Commerce from Queen's University. She has a wide array of experiences from auditing, consulting, and marketing and she is passionate about the startup and nonprofit sector.

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