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Digital Trends in the Nonprofit Sector

Although an improvement in the Covid-19 crisis is on the horizon, vulnerable and marginalized communities continue to bear the brunt of the economic downturn and health disparities exacerbated during the pandemic. The nonprofit organizations that support these communities have been forced to quickly to manage the crisis within their own organizations, while also offering support to the communities they serve. Many nonprofits are turning to technology to safely and effectively drive their programs forward at a time when in-person delivery is not feasible. In an increasingly digital world, it’s more important than ever for nonprofits to have the digital tools necessary to effectively educate and engage their communities.

Whether on a personal, community, or organizational level, digital tools have become ubiquitous with innovation in our technology-dependent society. Technology has helped people engage globally, transforming how individuals become work, maintain relationships, and stay informed. According to a recent report from Salesforce, nonprofits that have embraced digital are experiencing tremendous gains in their effectiveness and societal impact. However, despite the well-known consensus that technology will positively impact both beneficiaries and service delivery, many nonprofits have failed to embrace a comprehensive digital adoption strategy for their program delivery. Although most nonprofits understand that technology is vital to their daily operations, many have failed to fully embrace an alternative to in-person program delivery.

Despite barriers such as the high costs of technology and tech literacy amongst staff members, nonprofit leaders are acknowledging that organizations who invest in the right technology are better suited for constituent engagement and are well-positioned to embrace younger demographics. Currently, there are an estimated 72.1 million millennials living in the United States according to Pew Research. In 2019, they surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult population; partly due to a large immigrant population. Millennials, in spite of the criticism the generation has received, have spurred digital transformation across multiple industries. As leadership within organizations changes, the drive to adopt technology at higher rates will continue as millennial employees increasingly advocate for improved technological solutions.

Additionally, millennials are changing the standards for how nonprofits need to engage with their constituents. We’re already starting to see this take hold on the periphery of the community service and non-profit sector. Non-profit and nonprofit support services like the Khan Academy, and GoFundMe, have each cultivated over 10 million users/members and countless contributors in a few years using only basic elements of next-generation communications and network platforms. The United Way, by comparison, has 2.6 million volunteers, and 9.6 million donors after being in service and cultivating a massive service infrastructure over more than 120 years.

By using digital tools for program delivery, nonprofits will become more effective in reaching their constituents and offering ongoing support, while improving their staff's digital fluency. Additionally, digital resources such as a virtual program delivery system will help nonprofits connect with a wider ecosystem of community members and partners in academia, government, and the commercial sector. Increased connectivity is an opportunity for nonprofit organizations to reach a greater portion of beneficiaries. As we look ahead to the promise of 2021, it’s apparent that digital program tools will continue to be crucial for nonprofits delivering their missions.

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