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What the latest tech and demographic trends mean for your nonprofit

Originally published: January 2018

The way people use the internet — and who's using it — is changing fast, and charities need to adapt to keep up. Here are some of the big trends in online communications and fundraising, identified by Nonprofit Tech for Good, and what they mean for your nonprofit.

1. Ignore the Internet of Things at your peril

We’ve already seen our online world evolve, from broadcast media to social media to mobile internet. Now the next phase is coming, and those who don’t embrace it risk falling behind.

By 2020 (and that’s merely months away!) 20-30 billion things will be connected to the Internet of Things. You might think cars or home appliances have little to do with your nonprofit, but what if a smart fridge could remind users to donate on a certain day? What if a panel in a bus shelter could gather petition signatures from waiting commuters?

Keep up with the discussions by joining the Internet of Things for Nonprofit Organizations LinkedIn Group.

2. Keep growing your email list

It’s easy to get distracted by the latest social media upstart, and one or two of them might even be crucial channels for reaching your audiences.

But don’t ignore email, which Nonprofit Tech for Good’s Heather Mansfield says is “still the most powerful tool we have… nothing raises more money than email.”

It may be 45 years old, but email has stuck around (and is expected to last) for a reason. And it’s growing: there are 6.3 billion email accounts worldwide, with expected growth of 22 percent within four years, as middle classes expand and a new generation comes online.

3. Use social networks, apps and messaging services

Facebook is the big talking point right now, with Facebook Donate and Fundraisers spreading quickly since they were introduced in the US in 2015 (and expanded to Europe in 2017). Less successful so far, but worth keeping an eye on, are Periscope Coins and YouTube Donation Cards.

Then there’s the rise of mobile payments (e.g. via Apple Pay or Android Pay) that enable transactions with a mere tap of a smartphone or watch. In the U.S., this method is expected to overtake the use of both credit and debit cards by 2020, while messaging apps are already hugely popular in other regions (one in three internet users in China uses WeChat Pay, and WhatsApp Payments is to launch soon in India). The more consumers get used to paying for things digitally, the more natural it’ll feel to donate to charity without cash too.

4. Experiment with live reporting using social media

Live broadcasts have become a valuable tool for organizations to share their impact. Live content on Facebook attracts 10 times more comments than regular videos and Facebook Live videos are watched three times longer than non-live ones. Combined with fundraising features like Facebook Donate, they’ve also proven their potential to raise significant amounts of money.

It’s not just about bringing in donations during the broadcast, though. The best social media managers, says Mansfield, are also repackaging the livestream in other pieces, blog posts, emails and social media content.

5. Prepare for a social media backlash (maybe)

Nonprofits may be embracing new ways to communicate with supporters, such as 360 video and virtual reality — but might online audiences become more elusive?

From stress and anxiety, to physical strain and injury, to bullying and harassment: we’re becoming increasingly aware of the potential damage caused by social media, excessive screen-time and the “always-on” mentality. If supporters do turn their backs on social media in significant numbers, nonprofits may need to offer face-to-face opportunities, as well as online ones, to engage with a cause and be part of a community.

6. Think beyond your national borders

The 2017 Global Trends in Giving Report found that 45 percent of donors give to organizations outside their country of residence. Potential supporters may be further away than you think: should you adapt your communication to a wider audience?

Meanwhile a pretty staggering 3 million more nonprofits, mostly from developing or emerging nations, are expected to come online by 2025. As this global space becomes more crowded, any successful charity will have to be really good at online fundraising.

7. Get ready for big demographic shifts

Society’s going to look pretty different in future decades. Africa’s population is set to double by 2050 (while Europe’s is on the decline); white people will be a minority in the US by 2045; and the “mobile-first” and socially conscious Generation Z will make up 40 percent of all consumers by 2020.

Nonprofits will need to start adapting how they communicate to this much more diverse audience, says Mansfield.

For example, Islam is the fastest-growing religion. Giving to charity increases significantly during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr — but how many nonprofits put as much effort into fundraising campaigns at these times, as they do into Christmas appeals?

This article draws on Nonprofit Tech for Good's webinar and article, '10 Emerging Trends in Online Communications and Fundraising to Watch in 2018'.



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.




Writer/editor focusing on all things nonprofit and social enterprise. Youth media trainer. Storyteller through words and pictures.