Recently, I facilitated a session with nonprofit leaders from agencies across Central Indiana. We dug into what technology challenges they had. Three common themes came up:
They need better technology to organize, connect, and analyze their data.
They need consultants to help them decide which technology to buy and how to implement it.
They need training for their people so they know how to use new technology in their work.
And oh yes, they need to do all of this on a shoestring budget!
Why have tech companies been slow to serve nonprofits?
In my more than 10 years of experience working with nonprofits, I’ve seen a distinct trend: Nonprofits are often the last organizations served by the tech world, both in products and services.
From a purely financial perspective, it makes sense. Historically, businesses have the most money, consumers come next, maybe government and education after that, and then you have nonprofits. By the time the tech world got around to building products for nonprofits, there just weren’t as many software companies and consultants available to fill their needs.
Therefore, nonprofits have often made due with software designed to a solve a business problem.
But as any nonprofit will tell you, there is a big difference between Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Donor Management Software (DMS). Donors are fundamentally different than customers in their expectations, but until recently, there were relatively few quality donor management tools on the market.
The Future Looks Bright For Nonprofit Tech
Fortunately, things are beginning to change. Many great tech companies have met the call, creating a surge in the quality and quantity of great nonprofit software-as-a-service (SaaS) products over the last few years.
In the Indianapolis area alone, we have Bloomerang, BidPal, Weblink, and Brackets For Good just to name a few. And of course, Boardable. Nationally, we see relative newcomers such as Aplos and Donors Choose offering next-generation tools for nonprofits.
And let’s not forget Salesforce, with its second headquarters in Indy, who is making a serious play to own the nonprofit tech market. Things are getting interesting.
$60 Trillion Dollars!
I believe the nonprofit market is worth attention from tech companies for several reasons, starting with market size and culture fit. Consider the wealth exchange driven by the baby boomer generation. Almost $60 trillion will change hands in the coming decades, and about 10% of that ($6.3 trillion) is predicted to go to charitable causes. Not exactly pocket change.
Now consider how nonprofit culture aligns nicely with many Millennials—you know, the generation starting some of these tech companies. Millennials, as a demographic, tend to care more about causes and experiences than money. Although I’m a Generation Xer, I can relate to this mentality. Whom I work with and what they do matters to me. It’s part of why I co-founded a nonprofit tech company.
These factors signal a potential nonprofit tech boom. Nonprofits flooded with cash and staffed with Millenials will be eager to leverage technology, leading to investment in teams and tools, and likely followed by an overall increase in programming.
The net could become a thriving nonprofit tech ecosystem. Of course, there will be challenges managing that change and growth, but that also opens the door for even more tools and solutions to serve nonprofits.