In 2008, the App Store on IOS was released. I can still remember being on a trip to New York in December of 2008 with my wife and using AroundMe for the very first time. It was mind blowing. Most of us as individuals were all so amazed and exited to jump into the digital future that no one gave thought to think how these apps and smart devices might evolve, interact, and change our lives today. Well, that change that started almost 14 years ago has been significant. 

Every year, it is inevitable that new trends emerge to monitor, keep up with, and analyze how they fit into our individual and organizational futures. Below are the top trends we have seen repeatedly throughout 2021.

Connecting vs Converging

Ten years ago, there began a trend to merge disparate technology solutions into one platform that can be customized to each organizations’ specific needs. That trend has undergone significant change with the continual investment in middleware tools that utilize open APIs.

There are niche tools constantly popping up in the nonprofit space. The best tools address specific needs, streamline timely processes and organize data in meaningful ways, but they are usually separate from your primary system.  The point and click middleware tools of today thrive as a result of their ability to fix the problem of data being siloed in multiple systems. With the continual investment in and expansion of tools like Mulesoft, Workato, and Zapier, nonprofits can not only deliver needed functionality to their end users and constituents with pointed solutions, but they can simultaneously integrate disparate data with their existing systems.

While the tools are easy to connect, poor implementation can derail even the best of offerings. Mission Matters has encountered numerous occasions where an organization signs up for middleware like Zapier, connects their fundraising app with Salesforce and their reporting becomes garbage and inaccurate. But this is an easy trap to avoid. With some focus on detailed requirements, structured processes and testing, cloud-based tools can be the shining star of your data integrity and insight.

Investment in Technology that supports Service Providers

This year, we have seen many organizations review the systems that directly support and enable their service providers. The driving factors for this analysis include:

  • Expansion of existing services or creation of new services necessitating new data elements or system architecture changes
  • On premise applications and filing cabinet’s inability to support remote access
  • Data privacy and multi factor authentication
  • Inadequate reporting for compliance and performance analysis

As nonprofits continue to uncover deficiencies in their existing programmatic systems, we expect to see a wave of new investment in the software space to meet these evolving needs. Salesforce releases in 2020 and increased marketing on the Program Management Module and NP Case Management is only the beginning of this trend. 

The ever-present force of funder influence is also fueling this analysis. Many Funders are looking to fund nonprofits who are approaching problems uniquely. As a result, nonprofit technology systems need to support those new approaches. Due to “now is the time” trends, we will see a wave of programmatic system revamps that our sector will ride for years to come. 

Clean Data, Dashboards and the Scorecard:

Last year, many organizations started looking at data in new ways. While waiting out the pandemic, we pondered how to pivot the state of our organizations. Those crisis time lessons galvanized the nonprofit sector to monitor pertinent data on a routine basis. A current quarterly snapshot is no longer an acceptable cadence for review. Empowered leaders are constantly leveraging data to understand both upward and downward trends that could impact the health of the organization.

As 2020 drew to a close, there became an incredible focus on the accuracy and standardization of data being tracked. Inconsistent data invalidated your organization’s ability to spot new trends.  With real-time data, scorecards to review KPIs, and key metrics, we can illuminate deviations from benchmarks or desired state. We expect an increasing amount of nonprofits will develop these habits of reviewing dashboards and scorecards to gauge organizational health. The new found data-informed insights will fuel a more rigorous strategic planning process in the future.

Investment in Cybersecurity

2021 has seen numerous cyber-attacks to organizations’ critical systems. Unlike previous years, the impact stretches beyond digital data like credit cards or SSNs. 2021 has seen cyber-attacks shutdown gas pipelines that resulted in higher prices and regional scarcities. A quarter of American beef operations at JBS were also shut down for by a similar cyber-attack. Furthermore, the pandemic has increased the volume of online activity and risk from employees working remotely. The more digital an organization becomes, the higher risk it faces. No one is immune. As a result, organizations are investing in risk assessments and development of cybersecurity strategies to address the following areas:

  • Ransomware attacks and cyber resiliency strategy
  • Cloud-based applications including office365
  • Remote workers – personal laptops, mobile devices, and other connected devices at home.

In alignment with Cybersecurity Awareness month in October, we have partnered with Omega316 to provide a free webinar to help your Nonprofit evaluate and address these mission-critical risks within your organization.

Reserve Your Spot Today

My college roommate used to love watching Shark Tank and so I got roped into more than a few episodes. Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner and renowned entrepreneur, used to often ask contestants “What’s your core competency?” Usually, the people would respond with a predictable answer like sales, or product design, but the question always stuck with me.

We all thrive at our ‘core competencies’. And yet, by definition, that also means we thrive less in other areas. If you or your organization needs help focusing on your core competency by delegating the evaluation of these trends, give us a shout.