Marnie Webb, CEO at Caravan Studios, recently asked nonprofit tech folks via Twitter “I’m giving a talk on the next wave of technology for NGOs. What groups of technology would you include? And why?”. I think Marnie was asking about tools or technologies, like Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning.
Thinking beyond the tools, the question made me think of the next wave of nonprofit’s behaviors in relation to technology I’d like to see. Behaviors that I hope will start to create the Next Wave of Technology for Nonprofits.
More Collaborative Delivery of Digital Services like SafeChatSV.org
SafeChat Silicon Valley is the first collaboratively managed online peer counseling chat service in the United States for those impacted by domestic violence or intimate partner abuse. The SafeChat Silicon Valley Domestic Violence Collaborative, made up of four nonprofits who provide services in the San Jose, California area, launched this online chat service in August 2016, successfully completing its two-year pilot phase in August 2018. The service was planned, designed, implemented and is now maintained as a joint effort.
Providing digital services in a networked way, working in collaboration to do together what cannot be done alone, is the natural evolution of technology use in nonprofits.
Nonprofits Act Consistently on #Cybersecurity
I know dozens of nonprofits whose systems have been hacked or networks compromised, costing them thousands of dollars. When I ask them to share their case study to help others avoid the same fate, they refuse. Worried about how they will look as leaders or what the public relations issues might be, they refuse to share. Some have about minor incidents but like an iceberg, the visible is dwarfed by the invisible.
Think what the cost would be to replace every piece of computer hardware in your organization, including any internet related hardware, servers, even printers and tablets. For a small organization of under 10 people, lets say $15,000. Add to the the cost for someone to investigate the problem, help fix it and set up all that new equipment including emails and websites, etc.- easily $25,000 because it will be an emergency response call. Plus the two weeks of lost productivity and stress for the staff as they clamor to try to work with no computers and no past emails and no access to digital files, at least another $10,000. Add in the cost of the cybersecurity insurance your board is likely to insist you purchase to avoid such a catastrophic unexpected outlay of money. You are lucky if you get away without spending more than $50 – $60,000.
As the scale of nonprofit losses from hacking becomes clear, #cybersecurity finally gets the attention & funding it needs.
Reach and Usefulness of Social Media Plateaus
Now that the hype and the newness of social media is wearing off, the reality is setting in. Some people use social media and many do not. Many tried it and have stopped using or use it less and less. Facebook lying about its numbers, video views and sharing users personal data are turning people off.
While Pew Internet research shows 69% of adults in the US use at least one social media site, LinkedIn and Twitter haven’t been able to get more than 25% of U.S. adults to use the service (Pew Internet Social Media Fact Sheet 2018). There also remains a generational difference, with only 37% of people over 65 using at least one social media site. While some services like Instagram have seen growth (mainly among adults under 30), Facebook is doing its best to ruin that as an enjoyable space and from what I hear they will soon succeed.
Social media will continue to be around and be one avenue for communication online, but others like text based services and new tools will continue to develop. Behaviors and communications that are too “social media-centric” will need to change.
Owned spaces – good old websites -delivering client centered digital experiences you control – will become more the norm as the best place for your content to live and to provide services. Providing information and services through your online “house” on land you own, not on rented land, as is the case with social media.
I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m limited by the information I can access and my lived experiences. From where I sit now, I can see – and hope – that these waves of new behaviors are coming for nonprofits and technology.