Jan 06 2023

2023 Tech Trends: For Nonprofits, Automation and Security Will Be Key

At a time of constrained resources, nonprofits need efficient new ways to exploit the value of their data — and keep it safe.
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Throughout 2022, nonprofits began the slow process of moving past the pandemic. However, as was the case in many other industries, new challenges emerged, particularly the Great Resignation. A study from Nonprofit HR found that nearly half of nonprofits struggled to keep entry-level staff, and 40 percent were challenged to retain midlevel employees.

Staffing challenges may wane in 2023, but indicators suggest difficulties may arise on the fundraising front. While total dollars donated to charity increased in the first half of 2022, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, donor retention is down, particularly among bread-and-butter small donors. As a result, technology may be asked to do more this year to fill in the gaps, protect existing resources and uncover new opportunities that might be hiding in the data. Here are a few trends to watch.

READ: The most important non-profit influencers worth following.

1. The Rise of Low-Code and No-Code Tools

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: For nonprofits, efficiency is paramount. While conversations about overhead have tended to favor a less-strict approach in recent years, nonprofits must do more to reach donors and fulfill their missions with limited budgets.

Low-code and no-code tools, which enable nontechnical employees to develop software applications on their own, are one solution to the challenge of doing more with less. Low-code and no-code tools can let nonprofits manage in-house what otherwise might require a lengthy development process and the hiring of outside programmers.

“Many non-profit organizations contract external service providers to develop and maintain their public-facing services and resources website,” explains Brian Perron, a social work professor at the University of Michigan, in a post on Medium. “With no-code tools, non-profit organizations can now independently develop and maintain professional websites at a fraction of the cost of contracted services.”

But while there is much potential for improving workforce efficiency through code-light platforms, uptake is still tentative. 2023 could change that, in part because the flexibility enabled by cloud solutions is becoming increasingly attractive. As noted by Google, a good example is the work that many nongovernmental organizations did to quickly develop COVID-19 solutions using its no-code development tool AppSheet.

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2. The Power of Data-Driven Decision-Making

If there’s one thing nonprofits repeatedly excel at, it’s embracing the power of data to uncover key signals about their donors’ motivations for giving.

Some of these signals are fairly obvious. For example, a key takeaway of the pandemic era for nonprofits was that people who were most concerned about the impact of COVID-19 were most likely to donate. Other times, it might take a little sussing out to determine what, exactly, might lead people to strengthen their financial support of an organization.

Decision intelligence can help, and forward-thinking nonprofits would be wise to explore its benefits in 2023. As explained by CDW, decision intelligence is “an automated, engineered approach that gives organizations the ability to process large amounts of data to improve business decision-making.” It does this by applying “machine learning to your existing data to help business leaders make decisions.”

UNDERSTAND: How experts are strategizing to grow businesses in the digital work era.

Larger nonprofits with deep data sets and the budget to pursue more cutting-edge solutions are best positioned to take advantage of decision intelligence. Those that do may see clear benefits. For example, data from Giving Tuesday found that while 28 percent of people donate money, it’s more common for donations to come in other forms, such as goods or volunteering. However, 35 percent of donors do both.

Simply put, potential could be high to encourage people who donate nonmonetary support to eventually donate monetarily. Decision intelligence can empower nonprofits to parse these different kinds of givers, helping them to understand their unique motivations and limitations — and offering insights on how they might be moved up the giving ladder.

“There’s an opportunity to think more about how you could actually segment people in a more precise way to address this kind of fundamental need,” says John Costello, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame who released a study last year on the impact of donor choice in defining how people support an organization.

At a time when small-donor numbers could be dipping downward, nonprofits need to think more strategically about how best to target their audiences.

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3. More Nonprofits Will Get Security Assessments

Nonprofits have traditionally struggled with cybersecurity. In fact, nearly 70 percent lack documented procedures to manage a cyberattack, according to an NTEN study.

It’s becoming a serious enough problem that in 2022, organizations such as the cybersecurity association ISC2 worked to build volunteer resources to help strengthen the cybersecurity workforce that nonprofits could access.

At a time when employee acquisition and retention is a serious problem in the nonprofit space, this is an area where bringing in an outside adviser might be prudent, especially when donor or employee data could be at risk.

EXPLORE: How nonprofits are leveraging technology to meet their missions.

That’s where security assessments such as penetration tests and vulnerability scans come into play. A vulnerability scan uses automated tools to rapidly scan an organization’s IT environment for weaknesses. A penetration test involves allowing friendly hackers to search for holes in an organization’s defenses that can be exploited.

“Increasing your layers of cybersecurity and protection is the only way to stay ahead and mitigate the risk of an attack,” explains Justin Brown of the Nonprofit Resource Hub. “Penetration testing is a great way to identify your weaknesses and fix them before a bad actor has the chance to leverage them.”

Illustration by LJ Davids

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