Who doesn’t like to toss out some predictions about the upcoming game/meeting/primary/year? The thing is: predictions about nonprofits and technology tend to push the envelope of the latter while ignoring the needs and practices of the former. Sure, the iPhone 5 might include Near Field Communication (NFC) technology allowing its owners to round up purchases to the nearest dollar as micro-donations to their favorite charities. Perhaps indeed cloud-computing services will bring nonprofits’ databases to their staff’s tablets in the field.
But some of the most important work for a nonprofit takes place off the grid and away from the latest thinnest laptop. Which is worth remembering, even as your nonprofit absolutely should be keeping an eye out for the tech innovations that can indeed help your colleagues and community.
Charities tend to work with those who are part of their community’s poorest, who – almost by definition – do not enjoy access to even last year’s latest-and-greatest technologies. Ken Banks of The Guardian newspaper in the UK wrote a sobering reminder of how tech buzz can quickly outstrip the needs of the poor and the opportunities of organizations engaged in working with them.
Trumpeting the need for “appropriate technologies” at a development conference is only helpful if people don’t then run off and build iPad 2.0 apps for African farmers. The reality is that we’re still figuring out how to best use text messaging in a development capacity, and that particular technology has been around for years.
No doubt the technology will continue to jump forward at a much faster pace than almost anyone will be able to implement it soundly and efficiently. Nonprofits have a particular interest in getting the guidance necessary to sort the really useful from the shiny because they are working with and for communities whose main concern is not the shiny. In fact, the guidance could be the most valuable investment of the new year because the nonprofit should be focussed on its core mission.
The focus and investment should start within the organization (Is your donor database standardized and in a fairly recent software package? Is the entire staff on board with the plan to increase hits on the current website? Have email lists been kept up-to-date? … ). Then outside guidance can push your own strengths to the proverbial ‘next level.’
What resolutions has your nonprofit made for 2012? We’d love for you to share some with our reading community in the comments below!