Emerging tech for good - our top trends for the charity sector in 2017

Published 17/01/2017 by Advanced, Editor

1. Donor-centric change

2017 will see the digital experience define the way organisations react with their supporters. This experience will become the catalyst for transformation, meaning charities start with the supporter/donor and work back from there.

The pressure of digital change was recently revealed in Advanced’s inaugural Trends Report when looking at how organisations are handling their customers, the results showed a significant lack of understanding of what is expected in the digital era. Although organisations seem to grasp the importance of evolving customer behaviours and preferences, only half of those responsible for digital transformation cite this as a primary catalyst for change. (The 2016 State of Digital Transformation – read more here: www.oneadvanced.com/trends).

We have known for some time that “command control” fundraising is not the way forward. Charities have recognised that it’s not possible or appropriate to try and manage the way donors interact with them – instead, supporters want to engage and donate on their own terms, and take control of the way they decide to donate. Supporters need a tempting platter of digital options so they can choose how to have a relationship with the charities they support. Different social media platforms attract different audiences and communities, and charities must keep this in mind when deciding how to communicate through these platforms.

So 2017 will be about connecting digital transformation with the entire donor/supporter experience to fully achieve a connected charity.

2. Disruption as an enabler

For many charities, digital disruption is viewed negatively, literally tearing through existing processes and ‘disrupting’ day to day activities. We believe there will be a shift change in this in 2017. With organisations such as Amazon and Uber illustrating the advantages that digital transformation can achieve, especially in enhancing the experience that can be delivered to customers – in this instance to donors. Charities of all sizes will recognise digital change as an opportunityrather than a threat.

The new opt-in changes will be the biggest disruptor in the way digital technology is used by charities. The increased transparency and consent required has resulted in many fearing that the new rules will lead to a decimation of their mailing lists. However, some charities such as the RNLI are already embracing the technology necessary to meet these new requirements. They will find themselves with a growing database of supporters and donors who have chosen to opt in to receive their messages, on their channel/s of choice, and are therefore far more likely to engage. Those charities that see digital transformation as an enabler will be able to unlock potential in every aspect of their organisation, engaging more effectively with donors and driving fundraising revenues.

3. Data responsibility gets bigger

Digital transformation requires an organisation to be digitally ready. Data is the lifeblood of every organisation, and 2017 will see it truly recognised as a dominant force. The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will mean it is vital that data is held efficiently and responsibly; it will all be about the wishes of donors. In preparation for this legislation, charities need to ensure donor data protection. It will be vital to maintain control of this data at all times, and to be able to follow its journey step by step through every touch point with the organisation, so that it can carry an audit trail. IT systems will consequently need to be able to integrate, to ensure the data within them can flow freely yet securely and with data privacy at the forefront, 2017 holds a wealth of opportunities for the charity that embraces digital transformation, and reimagines how it operates in order to make the most of these challenges.

2017 holds a wealth of opportunities for the charity that embraces digital transformation, and reimagines how it operates in order to make the most of these challenges.

4. Platform integration

As charities prepare for the GDPR, the ability to integrate data from multiple platforms and databases will become critical, driving ‘connected charities’ as a force for success. Charities will increasingly use an ever more mature ecosystem. Whether it is data collected from web sites, social media channels, mobile devices, events or manual input – it is vital that this information is seamlessly connected. Charities will need to become experts in integrating data so it can be used to maximum effect in tailored supporter/donor communication and meet the new stringent data directives.

5. Cloud services will gain momentum

Cloud services will gain momentum and start to dominate discussions. It is certainly not the end of on premise, but the arguments will become increasingly balanced in favour of cloud.  This will open opportunities for smaller charities who won’t need to have IT expertise in house, and will also be able to boost security in line with new cyber threats. One of the big benefits for charities with cloud services is that systems can be accessed anywhere. Secure access can be gained by volunteers whether they are working within a small branch, from home, or after fundraising on the street.

6. Increased security will become a requirement

Security of data will continue to dominate and become an even higher priority in 2017. In line with the new data protection mandates, data will need to be held in a professional, managed and highly secure data store. Virtualised desktop control may also be an important element to manage end users, with restrictions over what can be printed outside of the office environment as a tangible example. It will be vital to consider security at an early stage in the design of every facet within every single charity.

7. The Internet of Things will develop into Intelligent Things

For years, there has been much talk of the revolution of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and resulting interconnectedness of smart technology. Now that bigger companies such as Google and Apple are getting involved, we expect to see major advancements in the coming year.  

Intelligent things, seamlessly controlling and optimising our environment and systems, gathering data at every stage, will come together with digital platforms, augmented reality, process automation and artificial/augmented intelligence to power the next wave of innovation. But what does this mean for charities? The opportunities are actually endless - for example, imagine having a wearable device that integrates with your charity membership card, and tracks when you have run 10k, and donates an agreed amount to that charity at each milestone. Those innovative thinking charities will be able to surprise their donors with creative uses of IoT and begin to engage with a new audience of donors through new ways of fund-raising, permeating all areas of everyday life.

Mark Dewell, Managing Director, Specialist Solutions at Advanced