Charities have fallen behind in upgrading to modern technologies — and it’s time to catch up.
The volunteer sector of the economy is anywhere from five to 10 years behind the commercial sector in staying up-to-date with technological advances, and industry insiders say that the nonprofit world must embrace new technologies to stay relevant.
The next two years will likely see a sea change for charities, which either get with the times or go bankrupt. These changes will include virtual events, augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and other emerging technologies that are already reshaping many other industries around the world.
Part of the necessity for these changes was fomented by the pandemic, which resulted in a decline of the use of cash for its likelihood of spreading the coronavirus. That has big ramifications for charities that rely on cash for fundraising, especially the organisations that have long used on-the-street fundraisers, like Save the Children, Planned Parenthood, and many others.
This change has been evident in eCommerce, which has been forced to make the digital payment transition to stay in business. For nonprofits, the necessity for a similar transition is clear: they must be mobile-friendly and ensure that digital donations are available and easy-to-use.
The digital transformation isn’t just about money, either. It’s also an opportunity for charities to connect with clients and volunteers in an entirely new way.
At Canada’s WE Charity, for example, the organisation has partnered with several other companies to offer services that engage with students without ever visiting a classroom in person.
WE Charity offers the WE Schools kit, which is “packed with resources to help your students build their skills and take action on the issues they care about, from access to clean water, to bullying and the environment.” They also have a WE Schools Edition of the uber-popular video game Minecraft, and a Global Classroom video tutorial, which teachers are encouraged to watch with their students to “learn how technology is leading to innovative solutions to the most pressing issues of our time.”
“Find out how technology can be used as a tool to bring students together to collaborate and take action on causes they care about, with examples from the Tech for Good Guidebook,” according to the WE Charity website. “Get inspired to use tech tools in your classroom to make an impact in your community!”
These are far from the only tech trends changing the nonprofit sector.
A March 2021 article from Forbes asked members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council to describe the tech trends most likely to change the industry within the near future.
They identified 13 major trends. Some of the highlights included the need for multimedia storytelling so that charities can engage their audience amidst a crowded online space filled with high-quality content. That will be a necessity considering that 82 percent of all consumer traffic on the internet will be video by the end of 2021, according to Cisco.
Many charities have also not moved their data to the cloud, which could result in significant savings while making it easier for employees to work remotely. It could also result in lower rents and smaller office spaces, reducing the need for costly servers and other digital infrastructure.
This is a challenging time for charities, most of which have not flourished in pandemic times. There are many lasting changes brought about by Covid-19, and charities must adapt to them. New technologies can allow the “third sector” to find new ways to thrive and evolve, not only to maintain their current size, but also to grow and connect to a global audience.
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