2013 nonprofit tech roundup

2013 nonprofit tech roundup

This guest post was written by MAP TechWorks community member Steve Boland. Steve Boland is principal of Next in Nonprofits, a content and consulting firm in Saint Paul.

Sure, Google is out buying up animal robots, but what’s a cash-strapped nonprofit got for tech help? Some stalwarts, some cheap new stuff, and a couple quickly fading away.

Reigning champs

  • Email. Yes, a technology invented in the 1970s is brand new again in 2013. Sure, there are new messaging technologies in 2013 (e.g. Snapchat), but new doesn’t make it best. Results make it best. What still gets best results in tech for nonprofits? Email. That’s not to say charities shouldn’t be using all the right tools for the right time, but let’s thank our good old stand-by for the hard work in 2013 for community engagement, donations, advocacy and more. Improved tools like Mailchimp integration into WordPress just keep making this easier to do.
  • Techsoup.org. More and more, cloud-based systems can make the work of a nonprofit easier. But as anyone who’s ever opened a complex Excel document in Google Sheets can tell you, sometimes you want more power. TechSoup.org is still the indispensable hub for getting what your charity needs at free (or near free) prices.

Up-and-comers

  • Crowdfunding. Kickstarter is already becoming a verb, and while the tool isn’t limited to nonproifts, the idea of renting technology infrastructure to do what amounts to a capital campaign fits the charity wheelhouse nicely. Lots of competitors in this space is good for nonprofits in keeping pricing affordable, but also hinders outreach if donors get confused. For example, using Indiegogo to Kickstart your project. Huh?
  • Mobile hardware we can afford. Mobile is increasingly the way people connect, including most email (see above!) and many social sites. Your nonprofit team needs a device that can load a page or answer a question, not just sit buffering. This year saw the introduction of the iPhone 5C, the Nexus 5, and the VERY affordable Moto G. All perfectly capable machines, all at way less than last year’s models. Some may even say at nonprofit pricing. Now, to get Ting and Freedompop level pricing to keep them running….

The soon-to-be MySpace-ers

  • Vine. Really short, choppy videos to tell your nonprofit story. What could go wrong? Well, Instagram could. Business Insider shows the 2013 burst for Vine may be gone by 2014. The lesson here: the big dogs can eat your lunch. Nonprofits leaping into anything new should only do so if they need very little time to try it or they have a good expectation of a fast return on investment. If not, it’s likely best to wait and see if the adoption curve goes back down as quickly as it came up.
  • Free Facebook pages. No one thinks Facebook is going away anytime soon, but the constant manipulation of the Newstream means fewer and fewer organizational posts are showing up at all, unless they are “boosted” with a paid ad. Remember the rush to get all those Facebook fans in 2011? Most of them will never see you – check your analytics. As much as nonprofits hate to do it, it may be time to budget for some paid posts.
Photo CC BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives
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