The Biggest Nonprofit Technology Trends of 2015

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2015. The year of the sheep (or goat – depending on who you ask – but goats are jerks). The year David Letterman gets his last laugh on the Late Show (and Stephen Colbert achieves his first). The year of another royal baby, and the onset of royal sibling rivalry.

nonprofit technology trends

What’s happening in the world of nonprofit technology might not be quite as revolutionary as Marty McFly and Doc finding hoverboards and flying cars, but it’s vital in the future of achieving your mission.

These aren’t new-fangled gadgets to totally revolutionize the way you work toward your mission, but many of the same themes we’ve seen lately continuing to grow.

Here are the big trends to watch this year:

Mobile

Smartphone with application icons

On the train, on the bus, in line at the grocery store – it’s no secret that we’re see the world more and more through our devices.

According to Pew Research Center, 58% of U.S. adults had a smartphone at the start of last year. That number increases dramatically (to 83%) when you look at adults ages 18 to 29. As the next generation – which was handed an iPhone alongside a pacifier in the crib – matures, it’s only likely more adults will be accessing the internet away from their desktops.

When they connect, they’re doing more than playing Candy Crush Saga. They’re reading email (with mobile now replacing desktop email for open rates), skimming social media, surfing with a browser, and – if your site supports it – making donations.

An npENGAGE study of 343 nonprofits found nearly 10% of donations came through devices, with one in six of those who donated doing so from an email on mobile. People are using their phones to buy memberships and register for events, too.

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by npENGAGE

But what happens when someone opens a site that’s too slow or clunky to use on mobile? Frustration, sadness, an exit. In an ExactTarget report, more than 25% of consumers surveyed said they would leave a site if it wasn’t  made for a mobile device. Those are potential donors and advocates walking out the door.

Don’t let that happen.

Instead, create a second version of your website specifically for mobile, or opt for a responsive design, which changes based on the screen size of the device where it is displayed. (Check out our Essential Guide to Going Mobile for Nonprofits to learn more about making the switch.)

Responsive websites get more visitors making donations. npENGAGE also found donors were 34% more likely to give when they landed on a donation form on a responsive website versus a nonresponsive site.

In addition to making the site more user- and donation-friendly, planning for mobile will make your cause easier to find in the sea of the internet.

Google has announced that, starting April 21, it is expanding how it treats mobile-friendliness in search rankings, meaning websites optimized for devices will show more in search results.

Mobile’s not just the web, though. Texting remains one of the top thumb activities, and it’s another opportunity to connect with potential donors.

In an mGive survey, the sample of previous text donors scored texting as their preferred method for giving. That might not sound so surprising on its own, but it’s the first time texting has earned the top spot since mGive started the project in 2011. In 2015, texting surpassed online donations as a means of philanthropy, with 85% of respondents saying that were more inclined to stick with it in the future, citing its simplicity and speed.

Visuals

Don’t let this emoji keyboard make you feel like we’re in a post-literacy society, but visual communication is becoming increasing important in reaching an audience.

Tunnel of media, images, photographs. Tv, multimedia broadcast,

Most nonprofit professionals are going to put more marketing attention on videos, images, and infographics this year, according to the 2015 Digital Outlook Report on nonprofit trends and strategies. Organizations are using integrated marketing to connect through multiple channels and reinforce the message.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Vine are making video production and sharing easier than ever, with newcomers like live-streaming app Meerkat changing the way we experience events online.

Instagram is also on the rise in top social media sites for nonprofits, jumping two spots since last year to #5 in popularity in the 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report.

Facebook is holding tight to the top of the list. Where photos once ruled, now Facebook is turning its attention to video, perhaps to compete with (also top-3 club member) YouTube.

Even Twitter, once letting 140 characters tell the story, has gradually become more involved with photos and videos within the newsfeed.

And, of course, all of these are accessible through our phones.

Software

Social media concept. Communication in the global computer netwo

The cloud continues to loom large for 2015, with web-based software delivering tools to nonprofits without their having to buy, host, or maintain the system. That’s a big deal for organizations short on funds and IT departments.

As cloud computing costs steadily declining, it will make more sense for nonprofits to store their data and programs in the cloud, available from anywhere through an internet connection, rather than on premises.

Looking for more about software to meet your needs? See our database of nonprofit software.

Looking for Nonprofit software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Nonprofit software solutions.

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Hannah S. Ostroff

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Hannah S. Ostroff is a writer for Capterra, a free resource that matches buyers and sellers of business software. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, she spends her free time cooking, singing, reading, and watching videos of baby animals.

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