New decade, new tech. The 20s are when nonprofits as a whole are going to use technology in unique and interesting ways. Many have already started to, which means there’s a lot trending this year.
Let’s dive into 2020’s five biggest tech trends for nonprofits.
1. Volunteer management systems
For those nonprofits who rely on volunteers, you know how much of a nightmare it can be to stay organized. How many volunteers do you have, who are they, where are they, what are they doing and where should you send them next?
Can you answer those five questions in the next 60 seconds, or do you need to take a deep dive into a very large Excel file?
Team Rubicon and Operation Smile are using a new kind of volunteer management system (VMS) that’s significantly changing the lives of their staff and volunteers.
In Team Rubicon’s case, they use their new VMS to train, track and deploy 80,000 volunteers across the globe, as well as procure and deploy equipment to assist with disaster relief operations. The VMS’s underlying AI knows which volunteers are suited to the relief needed (based on their skills) and how to get them there quickly and efficiently, with the equipment they need.
The fact that their VMS is built on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Common Data Model (CDM) for Nonprofits means other nonprofits will be able to start leveraging the same technology for their own use — and that makes the VMS one of 2020’s top tech trends.
2. Centralized intake solutions
Similarly, a centralized intake tool can make a significant difference to your clients and the experience they have with your organization, which makes this tool a top trend for 2020.
For many nonprofits, clients who call in have to give the same sensitive information to multiple people and are often inconsistently referred to various programs. If they call a second time, they have to repeat the process.
But with a centralized intake tool, the first staff member who takes their information builds an electronic profile that can then be referred to and expanded on by members of other programs and departments. This not only breaks down silos and makes reporting much easier agency-wide but also eliminates duplicate entry, duplicate profiles and Excel tracking, saving staff hours of work. Even better, it doesn’t discourage clients from calling you back. Centralized intake is all about building a relationship, providing quality service and getting to the point where your nonprofit can begin making a difference in that person’s life.
3. The cloud
Cloud technology is a huge trend because of its productivity and connectivity benefits. It allows nonprofits to access their data at any time from any device with an internet connection. You can use it to enable a mobile workforce, gain access to real-time data so you can make proactive decisions, streamline approvals and overall accounting processes and even make it easier to communicate.
Plus, cloud technology comes with many automation features that make your employees’ lives easier. Manual processes and outdated technology have the power to drive employees away, making it hard to retain talented staff. But the cloud can make employees feel valued by giving them the time back in their day to focus on core priorities and use their skills in a way that truly matters.
Read more: 3 ways to tell your accounting software is truly in the cloud
4. Artificial intelligence
We already mentioned how a new VMS uses AI to effectively manage and deploy volunteers, so it’s no surprise it’s one of the biggest trends of 2020.
Many nonprofits are using AI to improve the client experience and make their processes more efficient, mostly through software as a service (SaaS) tools like a VMS, modern financial systems and client management solutions, or even new threat detection, prevention and response cybersecurity services.
AI can sift through vast amounts of data and provide valuable insights — from where your nonprofit should expand its services to how labor allocations affect your bottom line. AI can automate routine tasks. It can even improve customer service. Chat bots are more sophisticated than ever, and they provide instant answers to client questions.
There’s seemingly no limit to what AI can be used for.
5. Digital transformation
When you use technology to save your staff time, streamline your processes, collaborate more effectively and use data for decision-making, you put your organization in a better position to achieve its mission. It’s no surprise that all the above technologies combine to enable a digital transformation — one of the top things both businesses and nonprofits are looking to achieve in 2020.
Digital transformation is a strategy where a nonprofit’s leaders re-envision existing business/service models and adopt a different way of using people, data and processes. This allows them to create greater value for clients.
Digital transformation uses technology to engage with clients, empower employees, optimize operations and transform your services. It sets your nonprofit up for long-term success, both in meeting your mission and in literally surviving as an organization. In this digital age, it’s worth it.
Read more: The keep-it-simple approach to digital transformation