We are nearing the end of the 2.0 generation of Web tools for the nonprofit sector and witnessing the emergence of 3.0. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride since the dawning of the technology revolution with ups, downs, twists, and turns, all at lightning speed. Here are some highlights from the first two generations:
Program and fundraising databases that allow us to track our work and gain insight into it. Nonprofit Web sites that turned us into 24/7 advocates and resources.Virtual teaming technology that increased efficiency. Instant access to valuable information, from international media to research to the Foundation Center database.Online donations and team funding mechanisms. E-mail communication and newsletters.Matching labor to needs on Web-based platforms (VolunteerMatch, Craigslist, and Idealist.org).
Online storytelling via sharable videos.Expanded access to information through Wikipedia and Google.Micro-everything, from micro-finance (Kiva) to micro-volunteering (Sparked) to micro-association (Causes) to micro-communication (Twitter).
Now we’re poised to enter yet another phase of online behavior and thinking that will fundamentally redefine the way we interact with the Web and, consequently, one another. Here are my insights into what we are likely to see for the 3.0 generation. What other predictions would you make for the future of nonprofit technology?
1) Mapping of the Citizen Genome
The technologies and insights from tools like StrengthsFinder (identifying personal strengths, values and interests), LinkedIn (public sharing of resumes), Charity Navigator (cataloging and evaluating charities), and eHarmony will enable people to reliably find their preferred nonprofit and ideal service role to maximize personal impact and satisfaction.
2) Rise of Direct Engagement
Donors Choose and Kiva created a breakthrough by enabling philanthropy that expands our reach to directly support individuals, from teachers to social entrepreneurs.This is just the beginning of a trend that will eventually allow anyone to post their financial, material (e.g. The Freecycle Network ) and labor needs. This will change the role of ‘charities’ and also redefine our perceptions of ‘someone in need.’
3) Convergence of Platforms
There are too many tools for managing our relationships with nonprofits that require our attention. We don’t want to have to maintain accounts with a dozen vendors and networks just to gather information, make a donation, or find volunteering opportunities. Facebook is the most likely platform for a convergence of these tools, but a new one might emerge.
4) Convergence of Knowledge
With changes in health care and government programs as well as crowdsourcing, we might finally see the Holy Grail of universal data platforms. These will not only greatly expand our ability to effectively serve, but also raise a host of privacy issues.
5) One World Labor Market
The rise in effective online communications and project management, along with a more global attitude, will begin to open up the nonprofit labor force. We will see off-shoring of nonprofit labor and more Americans working and volunteering abroad from the convenience of their office or home.
6) Handheld Innovation
Just as the advent of the Web led to majors changes in the sector, smart phones will bring some new and unexpected changes. Mobile phones are likely to take the place of credit cards and driver licenses over the next 10 years. This will change how we interact with the world around us and how nonprofits can connect with clients and donors.
We will begin to see the manifestation of the negative impacts from the first two generations of technology as people will have more than 20 years of experience using them. This will likely range from health issues to education issues to civic engagement. A new crop of nonprofits and programs will emerge to address these issues.
8) Online Literacy Required
With Generation X taking the helm of the sector and millennials filling the ranks of middle management, we will phase out the need to for legacy ‘print-based’ models of working. Media from The Chronicle of Philanthropy to BoardSource will phase out nearly all their print publications.
Aaron Hurst is the President & CEO at the Taproot Foundation.