Nonprofits are riding high at the dawn of 2017. Giving Tuesday 2016 — the Tuesday after Thanksgiving — saw record donations to nonprofit organizations. In that 24-hour period, online donations to nonprofit organizations reached a $168 million, up 44 percent from $117 million in 2015, according to the 92nd Street Y in New York City, which is credited with launching the event in 2012. Donations to nonprofits also surged after the presidential election.
Looking ahead to 2017, nonprofits are contending with a changing technology landscape. Longstanding technologies that nonprofits have leveraged, like social media and mobility, are evolving and require new approaches. Additionally, nonprofits may also start to delve into newer technologies, such as the Internet of Things, especially in partnership with civic institutions.
Here is a quick primer — and by no means an exhaustive list — of the major IT trends awaiting nonprofits in the year ahead:
Social Media Use Evolves
For several years, nonprofits have been using a variety of social media platforms to disseminate their messaging and solicit donations. However, according to Heather Mansfield, founder of the Nonprofit Tech for Good blog, in 2016 nonprofits faced declining engagement and reach on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Algorithms, the high volume of brands, businesses, and nonprofits using social media for marketing, and slowing ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ rates have lessened the power of the Big Three — unless your nonprofit has an advertising budget,” she says in assessing 2017 tech trends for nonprofits.
Mansfield argues that “the era of free is over on social media,” and that throughout 2017 engagement and reach via social media will continue to decline, especially for small and medium-sized nonprofits.
“To continue to have positive results on the Big Three, your nonprofit will need to make financial investments in staff, advertising, and premium tools,” she says.
As a result, Mansfield expects there to be a resurgence in fundraising via email. However, nonprofits will also likely start to use social media platforms to get digital payments directly. In June, Facebook started allowing individual users to create fundraisers for nonprofits as easily as they do for a group or event. Fortune reported: “The new capability is aimed at streamlining charitable giving to 501(c)(3) organizations while keeping donors on Facebook. It also means friends who support charities will have an easier time hitting you up for money.”
In the United States, nonprofits can now directly accept digital payments inside of Facebook, a feature that will likely be available in more countries over time. “Donors enter and save their credit card once and then every donation made on Facebook thereafter can be completed with two taps on a smartphone or two clicks of a mouse,” Mansfield noted. Mansfield expects Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, to similarly start accepting nonprofit donations.
“Twitter is working on $Cashtags. YouTube has donation cards. Snapchat has Snapcash,” she says. “Money and online giving as we’ve known it is on the precipice of radical change. Giving will be easier and faster and match perfectly the impulsive nature of social media users.”
Mobile Payments Take Off
The proliferation of mobile payment services — especially Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay — means that more people are making payments via mobile services than ever before.
Users on Mac computers with the Safari web browser can now use Apple Pay to make purchases through the web browser. Google’s Android Pay now supports payments in the Chrome web browser. Both options are now available as a checkout method.
“Currently, the technology is not being used for nonprofit fundraising — only for consumer purchases—but it’s just a matter of time until nonprofit technologists and social entrepreneurs come together to create mobile fundraising apps empowered by mobile wallets,” Mansfield says.
Canvassers can use mobile devices to accept payments when out in the field, and, with a majority of emails being opened on mobile devices, according to email marketing firm Litmus, nonprofits are increasingly using mobile donation buttons in emails.
“Combined with a greater use of mobile wallets among our donors, we believe 2017 may deliver increased donations if we leverage all this technology and offer it so the ease of use stimulates the willingness to give more money more often,” Gloria Horsley, founder of the nonprofit Open to Hope Foundation, wrote in Forbes.
Using IoT for Social Good
Gartner expects 20.8 billion connected things to be in use in 2020, up from 6.4 billion in 2016. What does that mean for nonprofits? Not much right now, but Mansfield expects IoT and its implications “to begin to seep into the nonprofit sector’s consciousness.”
Nonprofits will likely start seeking the opportunity to help governments and businesses “design the smart, sustainable cities of the future.”
Smart cities, in which municipal services are tracked, optimized and delivered more efficiently via connected devices, are already here and will likely proliferate.
Nonprofits will also likely “work with the tech giants to discover ways” for city residents “to donate and engage with nonprofits through internet-connected appliances, cars and billboards.”
Mansfield expects that “over the next half decade nonprofits will begin to take an active role in shaping the Internet of Things and ensuring that philanthropy and a commitment to social good is programmed into its foundation.”