Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 24 seconds

newTech2011While the actual hardware or software might have varied, most non-profits agree that the most significant technology in 2011 helped them communicate and connect better.

In terms of connection, social media remains a favorite of non-profits looking to connect with potential donors and in some instances with other branches of their own organization. For example, the Association of Junior Leagues International, cheered when earlier this year Facebook made it easier for organizations to update their pages on the social media site. Prior to the update, Facebook required organizations to authorize one individual to make Facebook posts, and while the posts appeared on the organization’s page, the posts were under the individual’s name.

Susan Chavez, Non-profit Social Media Consultant for the Association of Junior Leagues International, applauded Facebook’s decision to allow the organizations to make wall posts as themselves. This was a significant development for those organziations run by volunteers and lacking a dedicated staff member to do social media updates.  “The changes in Facebook,” says Susan, “help keep the focus on the organization”.

While each Junior League posts about its individual projects, the overall brand remains cohesive across the board. In addition, the Association of Junior Leagues can “Like” each local Junior League’s Facebook page, and keep up with the organization via their newsfeed. This allows the Association to keep abreast of what each local chapter is doing, and in turn, headquarters can help spread the word about the local community projects.

In terms of connection, Susan is thrilled with the cloud. With so many local organizations, the cloud makes it possible for each local Junior Leagues to have access to the same materials. Susan explains, “Smaller Junior Leagues, who perhaps don’t have a physical location have instant access to materials stored in the cloud.” Moreover, access to the cloud means local chapters do not need elaborate computer systems, keeping their overhead low.

Other ways to connect include, Skype, which has made a huge difference for the Children of Armenia Fund, says Joel Mazmanian. Along with the huge cost savings on international calls, Joel believes Skype has brought a “sense of unity and familiarity between the New York office and the offices in Armenia” Along with a sense of unity, Joel feels the combination of Skype, faster internet speed (from wireless carriers) and improved coverage by providers abroad has been “key to his organization's growth.”

In some cases, technology meant improved access to services for those in need. Pam Weisz from Probono.net explains, “In our case, this includes providing online, interactive legal forms that allow those who can't afford a lawyer to help themselves.” According to Pam, The LawHelp Interactive service uses interactive online interviews that, when completed, produce legal forms for common civil legal problems. “After using the online service users can print forms for family law (child custody, child support, divorce, and guardianship), orders of protection for domestic violence victims, wills, housing, consumer issues and more.”

Also, 2011 saw growth in micro giving sites. Whether the site is for a specific cause or one that allows users to select from a variety of charities, the goal of micro giving sites is to help non-profits tap into a larger donor pool. Sites such as Power2Give, which was developed by the Charlotte Arts and Science Council, allow individuals to donate directly to a local project that interests them.

Other sites such as Snoball, DonorsChose, and GlobalGiving work on the same principal. The idea is to give donors an easy way to connect with causes they believe in, and then they can use the power of social media to encourage others to give. Linda Devlin Executive Director of VisitANF picks an unusual technology that made a difference to her organization, GPS.  Since the VisitANF is located in northwestern Pennsylvania, within the Allegheny National Forest Region, in a rural area with limited signage, GPS ensures visitors can find the various hotels, attractions and services they seek in the area.

Going forward, there is no doubt that non-profits will continue to harness the power of technology to reach a broader audience.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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