NPTech News Forecasts for 2014

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NPTech News Forecasts for 2014

We now have some idea of the tech for good trends for 2013, so I checked in with NPTech leaders to find out what they think is in store for us in 2014. Find the original version of this post here.

Amy Sample Ward

Amy Sample Ward who is the executive director of NTEN. She is also one of our great online community organizers. In 2013, she co-authored Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to implement online multichannel strategies to spark advocacy, raise money, and engage your community. She also writes for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and she also has one of the leading personal blogs in NPTech.

  • "If 2013 was the year of the infographic, I think 2014 will be the year of more dynamic data. We have certainly seen some examples of maps or charts that the user can interact with, but with the over saturation of static infographic images, 2014 and the plethora of tools emerging that make these options really easy, we will see more organizations using data for storytelling that users can watch, click on, and really explore."
  • "In 2014 we will see websites starting to streamline, influenced by responsive design practices and the influence of microsites. Whether for a campaign, an appeal, or an organization's main web presence, I think 2014 will see organizations focus their online content on specific actions or messages, pulling back from the clutter or information overload."

Beth Kanter

Beth Kanter was the first winner of the NTEN Award in 2007: Most Valuable Person in the NPTech field. She is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of most popular blogs for nonprofit technology.

Beth’s prediction is that cows will tweet! By that I think she means that the Internet of Things (IoT) will become more evident and more a factor in our lives in 2014. IoT is the trend in which non-human things are more and more connected through the Internet to each other.

“Now the people are connected with each other, we will be connected to more things. The convergence of mobile, social, data, and wearable technologies means a lot of data about our preferences will be generated and that means we will have a more customized experience. It also means that privacy issues -- when there is a person on the other end of aggregated data are going to be much more of an issue." Find out more on her blog here.

Marnie Webb

Marnie Webb is CEO of TechSoup’s new app development project, Caravan Studios. She is the 2010 NTEN Award Winner and was named to the NonProfit Times list of the 50 most influential people in the charitable sector in 2008. She’s one of our great forward-thinking people at TechSoup Global. She just did a presentation to the Gates Global Libraries Working Group in November 2013 on the top tech trends for libraries. The presentation also has additional resources to foster a culture of innovation.

  • Marnie is watching the field of complex data. As online tools and information become increasing available to non-statisticians. She cites the City of Oakland California’s Open Data Platform that make over 50 datasets viewable and understandable to the public including ones on crime, city infrastructure, parks and recreation facilities, and green businesses.
  • MOOCs or massive online open courses are one of Marnie’s technologies to pay attention to this coming year. Marnie cites the work of the nonprofit Khan Academy, which offers “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” Khan Academy’s comprehensive library of content covers a full primary school curriculum plus classes in math, and science including biology, chemistry, and physics. She also cites the MOOCs being offered from Harvard, Yale, MIT, Columbia, Stanford and several other universities in other countries.
  • DIY Hardware, according to Marnie will be something to watch in 2014. This is a deep tradition among technologists. This past year the nonprofit Raspberry Pi caught some attention. It’s a very low-cost little credit-card sized computer designed for education. Lifehacker has a great list of things DIYers are doing with it. In her presentation, Marnie also talked about DYI design work being done using tools like the Autodesk design suites that recently became available to nonprofits by donation. She also likes the Suprmasv hacker community where NPTechies can go to get help, information and find others interested in harnessing the power of hacking for good. That’s an astonishing resource.
  • Privacy is also on Marnie’s top five list, so she agrees with several of our NPTech celebrities that it is a top issue and that it will shape our work in the coming year.

Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell is the CIO at Legal Services Corporation in Washington DC. It is a large nonprofit and the largest funder of legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation. He got the NTEN Award IN 2011. Find his blog here. Here are his predictions:

  • 2014 will be the year of the cloud platform – more and more nonprofits will move to Salesforce and Microsoft integrated solutions as Microsoft gets more stable and usable and third party Salesforce fundraising systems mature.  Cloud services are rapidly scaling to the point where larger NPOs can safely adopt them, and Google and Microsoft will keep the heat on to get NPOs there at low cost. 
  • The progression with social media will be steady.  As Twitter and Google Plus still adopt their more business-focused strategies, nonprofits will benefit from the added functionality. Facebook will still dominate.
  • Tablets will rule. Most of us will redo our websites to be responsive in light of that (and those that don’t will look really bad).  It probably won’t be until 2015 or later that tablets reach the point where they can replace a laptop or desktop completely – office application use is still too stunted by the small screens and keyboard issues – but more and more people will have them.
  • In 2014 there will be some important new CEOs. Microsoft’s changes will probably be healthy for nonprofit technology as Bill Gates still chairs the board and his focus on philanthropy probably won’t dampen. It will be interesting to see how quickly they’ll migrate their users to Office 365. My guess is that it will continue to be aggressive. Blackbaud’s new CEO, Michael Gianoni, will probably be less aggressive. There are acquisitions (like Convio) still to be sorted out and most importantly I’ll be watching to see which products will be discontinued.

Nicole Wallace

Nicole Wallace is Senior Writer for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. She writes about innovation in the nonprofit world, social enterprise, and charities’ use of technology. She has overseen the Chronicle’s technology column since 1999.

  • 2014 will be the year that nonprofits stop thinking about mobile in isolation, but will instead integrate mobile into their overall fundraising plans, social-media strategies, and in some cases even program work.
  • In 2014, a growing number of nonprofits and foundations will move beyond just collecting data about their programs and start using that information to improve performance.

Lisa Pool

Lisa Pool is the executive director of the Technology Affinity Group (TAG), the online community and annual conference for foundation techies.  Full disclosure, she also manages Simplify, a new partnership between TAG and GuideStar, which is a new approach to applying for grants. 

  • Foundations will radically change their grant application process by adopting Simplify, a new approach to information-sharing between funders and grantees that includes a common database of core organizational information and a common data standard for the sector.  For more information, visit   
  • Foundations will no longer need to provide laptops/desktops for all staff - the increased functionality of tablets will lead to tablets replacing laptops/desktops as the primary device for some staff and combined with the increasing popularity of BYOD policies, the foundation will not have to provide laptops/desktops for those that opt to use a tablet instead of a laptop/desktop.

John Merritt

John Merritt is the CIO of the YMCA of San Diego County. He is the 2009 NTEN Award winner and has been a nonprofit techie for over 18 years. John runs a complex IT system at the YMCA and always works toward making it people-centric. He is known in NPTechland as one of the great ones who has helped many organizations.

  • In fundraising, John boldly predicts that single channel fundraising is dead. Nonprofit fundraising in 2014 will be multi-channel. By single channel John Merritt means using only one, often traditional, way to reach donors – like email or direct mail, but leaving out all other options. He says that this is a critical issue, especially with potential younger Generation Y and millennial donors, who expect to be contacted on their terms. Their terms include channels like text, Twitter and other mobile oriented channels. John’s bold recommendation is that nonprofits not using SnapChat to get their stories out there are missing a golden opportunity – especially with millennials. He cautions that the practice of reaching people via mobile, web, social media, email etc. will require solid analytics to track & leverage donor engagement. 

Cloud & Mobile 

  • Cloud backup will evolve into cloud disaster recovery: smart organizations will make sure they can recover apps & data in the cloud greatly reducing down time when disaster strikes.
  • Mobile plus cloud will fulfill computing needs for nonprofits – traditional IT infrastructure is dead. 
  • BYOD (bring-your-own-device) and the consumerization of IT will give nonprofits huge cost savings for leveraging technology to meet their missions, but will require solid security systems & policies coupled with industry standard Mobile Device Management

Lucy Bernholz

Lucy Bernholz is deservedly among the biggest names in philanthropy and technology. She is the founder and president of Blueprint Research & Design. She is also the publisher of Philanthropy 2173, one of the leading philanthropy blogs and the philanthropy contributor to the Huffington Post. She is a Fellow at the New American Foundation and a visiting scholar at Stanford University where she’s doing astonishing work at the Digital Civil Society Project, which examines the 21st Century technology-driven innovations in philanthropy and civil society. I especially like her Emergence of Digital Civil Society report that she wrote with Rob Reich, Chiara Cordelli. 

Blueprint 2014 is the latest Lucy Bernholz forecast on philanthropy. It’s a monograph published by GrantCraft, a joint service of the U.S. and European Foundation Centers. One thing I always like are her list of buzzwords for the coming year.

  • Topping her 2014 list for buzzword of the year is ‘privacy’. She notes that we are all stakeholders in a public verses privacy data debate due to our vulnerabilities in our digital communications.Several NPTech celebs agree with her.
  • She also likes the word ‘makers’ which is the movement toward old fashioned handmade goods, no doubt made available online via Etsy, the increasingly popular marketplace for handcrafted items.
  • She also likes the word ‘metadata’ which cropped up in the 2013 NSA spying scandal. Metadata are the tell-tale tracks we leave behind with our computers and mobile devices that are being carefully collected by governments and companies.

Here are some of her predictions:

  • Digital tools for humanitarian aid work will become more common in disaster responses and be integrated in the disaster relief infrastructure.
  • New mobile money tools will be bigger in 2014, things like peer to peer payments, perhaps like the new free service called Square Cash that I covered in our November NPTech News, that lets you email cash to anyone with an email address.
  • She forecasts that GitHub will be a big deal for charities in the coming year. It is a new web-based hosting service for software development projects.
  • She forecasts that humanitarian groups will develop codes of ethics and new standards for digital privacy. If this is so, I fear we’re putting a lot on the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Futures Foundation.
  • And now very for Lucy’s most mysterious prediction: we will have a major scandal in the crowd funding marketplace. What does she know and how does she know it?
  • And now for Lucy’s charity superhero prediction: Nonprofit organizations will take over city functions such as managing transportation infrastructure. Nonprofits will become the savior for financially strapped cities. Wow. What can you say to that?


Idealware is a Portland, Maine-based nonprofit who’s mission is to inform charities on making smart technology decisions. They are far famed for their deeply researched, and impartial reports on a wide variety of nonprofit and foundation technologies, including their recent book, “The 2013 Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits.”

Idealware recently did a free webinar presented by all six of their full-time staff members called “Hoverboards and Videophones: Idealware Looks to 2014.” It was a great online event where I got a much better sense of the people there. Here’s a bit of what they covered.

  • Kyle Andre, research analyst, predicts that Twitter’s Vine app and its seven-second videos will be appearing more on our smartphones and further shortening our attention spans. Wearables like Google Glass and smartwatches will further require us to establish personal relations with real humans.
  • Tyler Cummins, Marketing and Learning Associate, predicts mobile devices and apps will become ever more multimedia oriented. Words are not enough anymore. Photos and videos need to be added to communications. Look to smaller mobile friendly tools like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Tumblr. The jury is still out on the success of Google Plus.
  • Chris Bernard, communications director, predicts that charities will lead the debate on the civility of anonymous comments on social media and websites. He also suggested that we resist the trend to ever-briefer communications. Some things we need to convey need a bit more than a tweet to get across.
  • Andrea Berry, director of partnership and learning, forecast that the multichannel fundraising trend will grow in 2014. We’ll need lots of tools to reach our donors. She sees a trend toward dedicated charity giving days like #GivingTuesday, in which nonprofits compete for attention. Mobile will continue to be transformative in the way we deliver services and work with each other remotely.
  • Elizabeth Pope, director of research and operations, predicts that constituent or client databases will get simpler to use so that database manager roles will be changing. She expects that databases will be more visual and results will be more readable with better graphs and charts. The trend is toward nonprofit CRM databases in which a variety of constituents (donors, volunteers, newsletter subscribers etc.) will be included in a single database.
  • Laura Quinn, founder and executive director, forecasts increasing confidence in cloud tools because security and privacy concerns in the cloud are no greater than that in our own offices. Mobile will more and more be everywhere. Our information we send out will be viewed on phones more and more. Text messaging will be bigger than ever. She predicts that passive data collection generated by mobile phone GPS will be coming to the nonprofit sector in 2014.

How would I summarize all this? Certainly several of our celebrities mentioned ongoing concerns around privacy. The public debate spurred by the NSA spying scandal won't go away any time soon. In a weird flip-side of that, as more data is stored in the cloud, there is a trend toward our using imaging tools and online databases to further our causes. Another trend that is bearing down on us is that multi-channel marketing is becoming a necessity for charities. And to do such marketing, we have to pay serious attention to the growing number of people using mobile devices to find us, donate to us, and volunteer for us. Peter Campbell said it best: "tablets will rule" in 2014. All we need to do is to integrate all this in our plans, but as Amy Sample Ward suggests, figure out how to also pull back from the clutter and information overload. Happy new year!

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Images: courtesy of our celebrities