THE BLOG
07/09/2013 04:19 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2013

Nonprofit Trends: Technology and Transformational Change

Back in January, when I "peered into the nonprofit crystal ball" for my 2013 predictions, I noted that the use of mobile technology and "the cloud" would reach a tipping point in the nonprofit sector -- a point that causes a transformational change in the way people relate to technology.

I didn't just pull this idea out of the sky. The most recent State of the Nonprofit Industry report tells us that the use of mobile technologies will more than double for most nonprofit organizations this year. 2013 is the year when "testing" the experience is shifting to "delivering" the experience. Really, can this be true?

Consider this... According to The Wireless Association (a nonprofit trade association that represents the wireless industry), there are more than 321 million mobile subscriptions in the United States. That's more subscriptions than there are people, which means that many subscribers have more than one mobile device. I bet you know someone like that yourself!

More and more, consumers are using mobile devices for just about everything in their lives, from banking and shopping to watching videos and consuming information. Think about how you use your phone, how often you check your messages, how you rely on it to connect you to information when you need it. We simply take for granted that we're connected, all the time.

If we're connected in all these ways, then why shouldn't we also be connected to the nonprofits we either support or rely on for services? We can. Today, mobile computing is enabling nonprofits to always be present to those who care about them and to be more efficient in how they engage donors and customers by giving them anytime/anywhere access through their phones, iPads and so on. This access helps the donor feel connected to the cause, on his or her own terms, not the nonprofit's. And it helps the customer or recipient of a nonprofit's services see that the organization is really there for them, all the time. And in terms of nonprofit management, mobile technology is equipping staff members to stay in the loop wherever they are -- at home, on an errand or on the road. It's empowering them to step away from the computer and be more effective in the field.

Cloud computing is also creating powerful change by leveling the playing field in terms of the technology services nonprofits have access to today. In the past, cost kept many nonprofits from being able to invest in the hardware and software they needed to get their work done. But, today, many IT services can be "run in the cloud" for pennies on the dollar (think email, storage, power to process large chunks of data, etc.). Basically, this means that nonprofits can pay a smaller fee for a service that maintains their data in a secure environment that they can access via the web, from wherever they want. This frees nonprofits up from having to spend a ton of upfront money on hardware and tech expertise.

Ultimately, embracing mobile technology and cloud computing in the right measure will help nonprofits focus on what they really should be focused on -- their missions.