Nonprofit Technology News for March 2013

Jim Lynch's picture

It's time to catch up on some of the nonprofit technology trends and news out in NGO-land. We're in the season for charities to brush off their video cameras to tell their story and it's looking like the other Facebook (Google+) is starting to become a more useful tool for community organizing. Finally, swing into spring with new web design fashions. This piece was orignially published on the blog.

Since we're three months into the new year, you're welcome to revisit my new-and-improved list of 2013 forecasts for hot nonprofit technology trends as well. We've added a handy infographic to make it easier to see how right (or wrong) I am about this year's tech trends for the sector. You can also check out predictions from our friend Pat Callihan at Tech Impact to see whether we're on the same page.

Time for Nonprofit and Charity Videos

Early spring this year is shaping up to be the time for charities to make their case on video. The YouTube doGooder Video Awards are accepting submissions of videos from individuals and organizations that are using video to create real impact for important causes. The contest is hosted by YouTube, NTEN, and the marketing firm See3.

Four winners will receive $3,500 in cash prizes donated by by Cisco, and also free registrations to the upcoming NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference in Minneapolis in April. Winners will also be featured on You Tube's Spotlight Channel on April 12. The submission period runs from now through March 22. You can have a look at current submissions and also last year's winners. Here's a bit of the fine print and official rules on this one:

  • Nonprofits or charities or individuals from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia only are eligible to enter the contest.
  • They're looking for newer videos created no earlier than January 1, 2012.
  • Entering the contest is no cost, but nonprofits must be registered with the YouTube Nonprofit Program.

Coming immediately after the doGooder Video Awards is TechSoup's 2013 Digital Storytelling Challenge (TSDIGS) coming April 1. While this is a similar nonprofit video competition with prizes, free entry, and lots of public exposure. There are a few differences though. We're accepting videos of any age, even ones that you submit to the doGooder Video Awards. Also charities from anywhere in the world can participate. One of the things I like about our TSDIGs page are the array of how-to resources: webinar recordings on the tools for digital storytelling, pre- and post-production of videos, also blog pieces on things like Capturing Your Story on Camera, and Digital Storytelling Methods: Time and Resources Needed. Definitely check those out if you're new to nonprofit video making.

Nonprofits Using Google+ Communities

This is an interesting trend I found out about in the Nonprofit Quarterly. Several nonprofit-focused Google+ Communities have now formed, and they're worth looking at. Google+ Communities are similar to Facebook's Groups. Both let you communicate with a group of people in a more specific way than you would by sharing information broadly with the entire social network. Any Google+ user can start a community on any topic. Google+ Communities can be public or private, and either open for anyone to join or by invitation-only.

Some nonprofit communities include Nonprofiteers, Social Media 4 Good Community, Nonprofit Web & Tech, nptech, and Nonprofit News & Trends. These last two are useful for leads on nonprofit technology news, I must say. Google+ has been relatively slow to gain social media traction, but it now has more than 135 million active users.  

New Nonprofit Web Design Trends

I am definitely not the guy paying close attention to fashions in nonprofit web design, but according npEngage there are such things, and we'll all be hopelessly out of date if we don't know about them. Here are a few of them for 2013:

  • Flatter is better. Instead of having users click down several tiers to find what they want, it's better to use drop-down boxes on a page, so they only need to navigate two tiers.
  • Bigger is better. npEngage cites the new World Wildlife Fund website as a great example of using larger graphics to establish a visual hierarchy on pages.
  • Simpler is better. Now this is one I've noticed. The idea here is to have home pages that are cleaner and simpler; one to two key takeaways and a few timely updates. We just did that with the new TechSoup home page.
  • Mobile-friendly is necessary. Flatter, simpler websites make them much easier to optimize for mobile devices, which are the largest current trend in IT.

Cheaper Cloud Storage?

I think this is more like a wishful thinking trend forecast, but there are signs of vigorous competition in the area of cloud storage. 

  • A New Zealand-based cloud storage service called Mega announced that it is offering 50 GB of free storage with each account. This is currently the largest free storage space offering to-date.
  • Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service, which serves many enterprise cloud customers has dropped its on-demand prices substantially. Google, Rackspace, and Microsoft Azure have all also dropped their storage prices. These are all major cloud infrastructure companies.
  • For a rundown on current pricing on the top 10 personal cloud-storage services, I recommend Steven Vaughan-Nichols' ZDnet piece.

Coolest Social Good Mobile App

The U.S. mobile carrier, AT&T has created an Android and Blackberry app that addresses the problem of driving and texting, arguably the most lethal aspect of mobile technology. Over one-third of U.S. drivers (37 percent) have sent or received text messages while driving, and 18 percent said they do it regularly.

The app, called DriveMode, automatically replies to texts, calls, and email on your behalf while you drive. It is free to AT&T customers and is part of AT&T's  It Can Wait Campaign. It is available from Google Play.

You can vote on your favorite apps for good for Windows 8 and Windows Phone in our Windows 8 Apps for Social Good Contest now through March 15. Winning apps can receive $15,000 cash prizes and Windows 8 phones!

Nonprofit Technology Trends in Australia and Canada

Finally, in case you haven't seen them, check out the recent nptech news stories by Ben Teoh from Connecting Up in Australia and Jane Zhang from TechSoup Canada.

Ben and Jane both think that 3D printing will soon be something useful for charities.

Please let me know if you agree or disagree, or tell us your nonprofit technology news and trends in the comments below.

Image: See3 Communications