As 2021 comes to an end, we reflect on the continued importance technology has played in our everyday personal and business lives. As the COVID-19 Pandemic still lingers and reshapes the way organizations think and respond, it has become ever so important to stay on top of the fast-paced trends in technology. This is only complicated by the “Great Resignation” of the workforce due to many factors, including the move from brick and mortar to remote, expanding vaccination policies, the desire for increased work/life balance, the inability to find affordable child-care, giving employees a greater menu of opportunities to choose from, and more. As a result, organizations have seen the need to do more, do it faster, and do it with less resources than ever before. Technology can help. Some of the technology trends we are tracking in the sector are:
With the move from the office to remote environments, the ability to control and secure your organization’s data is becoming more and more difficult to accomplish. Moving from a centralized to remote environment was a necessity in 2020, however, with that sudden surge to remote operations, organizations increased their vulnerability to cyber-attacks. As everyone’s focus was placed on continuing business as close to usual as possible, the consideration of security sometimes fell by the wayside. Instead of having to secure a single centralized environment, or one with several additional locations, where the proper security protocols and restrictions were placed, due to factors such as supply chain shortages, chip shortages, companies have had to deploy a strategy of company owned equipment and the ability to allow employees to use their own devices. This left many organizations open to vulnerability and an expansion of gateways through which hackers using malware, phishing schemes, and other various methods, could breach an organization’s once secure data. Nonprofits will need to continue to be proactive and not reactive in their approach to ensure that proper security measures are in place, tested, and monitored by staff or an outsourced consultants with the experience, knowledge, and ability to deploy security patches and updates almost instantaneously when a new threat/vulnerability arises.
Business Process Improvement
2021 has created epic growth in financial and data driven technology available to businesses in all industries. Most nonprofits have found their way to solutions that have helped streamline processes such as their accounts payable cycle, payroll cycle, and even financial reporting. Going into 2022, now that these processes have been in place for over a year and most of the kinks in the processes are worked out, businesses, especially nonprofits, need to ensure the proper internal controls have been put into place to protect the integrity of financial data of the organization.
Data Driven Analytics
Nonprofits were historically behind when it came to the use of technology and the collection of data, either financial or programmatic. With the not so gentle push into the world of technology and data driven business due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, nonprofits are placing greater importance on data and mainly the analysis of it. Nonprofits are finding it more and more crucial to understand how programmatic trends are impacting their organization financially and to be able to pivot should it see consistent negative trends. As we have learned, with the shutdowns experienced in 2020, the need to implement change and pivot your organization in a different direction while maintaining and achieving its overall mission successfully is increasingly important. However, in order to make these decisions an organization needs reliable and timely data to identify trends. The trend of implementing technologies able to collect, analyze and generate meaningful output will continue into 2022 for nonprofits, similar to how it has been used in for-profits for years.
As restrictions have waxed and waned throughout 2021, so has the ability for nonprofits to hold in person events. With the emergence of the latest variant Omicron, the hesitancy of participants to come to in-person events places greater importance for nonprofits to be able to hold events virtually as well. Nonprofit events are a crucial time for many as a way of fundraising and attracting new donors to aide in their mission. Virtual events done strategically and creatively have the ability to draw new donors from all over… regionally, nationally, and even internationally. Even though these types of events do have the pitfalls of not being in person, done right, they can have a significant impact of reaching a greater audience.
Additional Technology Trends
As we move into 2022, it is a new beginning, a time for resolutions, and the resolution that nonprofits should embark on this year … embrace technology; in program delivery, in back-office functionality, in fundraising, in governance, in communication, in every aspect of your business you can think of. The COVID-19 Pandemic has reshaped the way we all do businesses, thrusting technology front and center, and technology is only going to become more prevalent in 2022 and beyond. With the “Great Resignation” and vaccine mandates wreaking havoc on nonprofits ability to find the adequate staff they need, the efficiency and flexibility created by enhanced technology will be essential for nonprofits to function effectively. Those nonprofits that take the time to understand and invest in technology, will be ahead of the curve as we move through the balance of the decade. Nonprofits will need to do more, do it faster, and do it with less resources … without a large investment in technology and information, this will be impossible. Here are some of the top technology trends and concepts nonprofits should be aware of going into 2022.
TikTok, Instagram, Facebook (Meta), LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitch, Redditt, and Twitter are some of the more popular applications/platforms, which have solidified their place as common household names, not only for personal use but as an invaluable asset to businesses to broadcast their message and gain interest across a wider audience. Traditionally, nonprofits have been slow to the table in adopting and embracing these trends in popular culture, which are being successfully harnessed by traditional for-profit businesses in launching interesting, creative, and efficient marketing efforts. Nonprofits which are successful at delivering powerful, meaningful messages across these platforms tend to create movement and interest in their nonprofit’s efforts both organizational wide and for specific campaigns.
Email campaigns are becoming a thing of the past, especially with how inundated our inboxes have become. Consumers, donors, and future donors have become more receptive to signing up for text message alerts. Apps such as EZ Texting, Blueshift, and Simple Texting, can quickly get targeted messages and “text to donate” campaigns set up at the click of a button and they are user friendly. This gives your nonprofit a more personal touch in your direct messaging to users who sign up and give them instant updates about your organization and the impact you are having.
Internet of Things (IoT)
When the Internet became a household staple to how we connect to information and, more importantly, to each other, this was defined as the Internet of People. From the early days of dial-up to broadband to 3G to 4G to 5G wireless technologies, the way we connect to the Internet has become easier and more expansive … so we are no longer tethered by a cable. The technologies being developed at such a rapid pace to make connectivity easier and faster, has also made it easier than ever to not only connect people but also to connect “things” such as, vehicles, homes, appliances, alarms, etc. The same concept of connecting people in the early days of the Internet is now being applied to “things” to interconnect items we use in our every day lives to one another. More and more devices are being embedded with the capability to connect to the Internet, creating efficiencies that nonprofits can tap into. For example, there are medical technologies which allow doctors and nurses to monitor patients remotely whether the patient is at a medical facility or if they are at home … for example, heart monitors which can transmit vital information to doctors or beds that can monitor patient vitals.
According to top technology trends, Edge Computing will increase as more devices incorporate the use of the Internet of Things (IoT). Cloud Computing has become mainstream, but the increased traffic accessing the cloud has created shortcomings such as latency of getting data to a data center for processing. Edge Computing is designed to process time-sensitive data in remote locations with limited or no connectivity and move it to a centralized location. Nonprofits will need to focus on a more datacentric approach in assessing and analyzing the organization’s deliverables. Data has become essential for businesses, including non-profits, to be able to quickly and timely make important decisions.
When people hear Blockchain they instantly think of cryptocurrencies, however it is useful in many other situations. Essentially it can be described as data that can only be added to and not taken away from. Not being able to take away data or previous “blocks” is what makes it so secure. This is being implemented in banking and other areas a trusted way to validate transactions without needing a third-party trustee to oversee the process or validate.
Total Experience or TX
Total experience or TX may be defined as a strategic technique to build business and its insights. It creates superior shared experiences by interlinking the user experience, customer experience, multi experience, and employee experience disciplines.
Identifying processes and areas of your nonprofit you can automate and do as quickly and efficiently as possible through the use of technology. Within the next 5 to 10 years, waiters/waitresses, clerks, Uber drivers, and many other positions will be eliminated freeing people up to perform more meaningful and interesting work. Nonprofits will need to determine areas where automation can be implemented.
2022 is going to continue to be an important year for the migration to technology. Nonprofits have been closing the gap, but there is still much more to go.
Albert Borghese, CPA
Albert is a member of Cerini & Associates’ audit and consulting practice where he focuses on serving the firm’s special education and nonprofit clients. Albert is also involved in the marketing and development of the firm, and frequently participates in recruiting efforts, and research.