Nonprofit Trends Report: Technology Drives Relevance and Growth


Getty/Thomas Barwick

Digitally mature nonprofits are exceeding their organizational goals, including being 4x more likely to have exceeded mission objectives. Nonprofit organizations thrive on relationships. Fulfilling a nonprofit mission requires strong connections with stakeholders — including employees, donors, volunteers, program participants and more, according to the latest nonprofit research.

Salesforce’s fifth edition Nonprofit Trends Report reveals how technology-embracing organizations have the strongest relationships and the highest goal achievement rates—regardless of their size, revenue, or geography. Here are the four main takeaways:

  1. The strategic use of technology is directly linked to improved organizational efficiency and performance across operations. Nonprofit organizations with a high level of digital maturity are more likely to exceed their goals and have stronger relationships with all stakeholders.
  2. Technology has clear benefits for the nonprofit culture and workforce. Digitally mature nonprofits report more engaged and optimistic employees, a more positive corporate culture, and lower levels of employee burnout. These organizations are also more advanced in meeting their climate change and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) goals.
  3. Nonprofit organizations recognize the importance of technology in achieving their goals, but struggle to realize its full potential. While nearly three-quarters (74%) of nonprofits say digital transformation is a “must” or “must do,” only 12% do well on the Salesforce for Nonprofits Digital Maturity Index.
  4. Obstacles to digital maturity can include budget or resource constraints and competing priorities. Nonprofits double down on employee retention and well-being to offset internal challenges like increased turnover and employee burnout. Externally, nonprofits focus on awareness and fundraising to diversify and rebuild connections with their supporters. Overall, nonprofits feel resilient and ready for the future.

My key takeaways from this report focus on using technology to drive better outcomes and stakeholder benefits. The Nonprofits Trends Report is a 58-page document with incredible insights, but in this post I want to focus on digital transformation and the use of technology in nonprofit organizations.

The nonprofit landscape

Over the past 12 months, the majority of nonprofits have met or exceeded their overall goals, specifically their program, financial, and mission goals. Despite high goal achievement rates, nonprofit organizations face a number of challenges ranging from awareness raising to employee retention to impact measurement and beyond. The top four challenges nonprofits face include: 1. Awareness, 2. Employee retention, 3. Hosting in-person events, and Spending control.


Nonprofit organizations struggle to raise awareness and retain employees.


In the coming year, nonprofits expect to face challenges in terms of staffing and the state of the economy, technology, finance and fundraising. This is reflected in how nonprofits are shifting their priorities in the coming year, with 48% placing a greater focus on fundraising, 46% on employee retention, and 44% on employee wellbeing.

Today, leading nonprofits are slightly more optimistic about their own organizations (65%) than the broader nonprofit sector in their country (58%). Nonprofits also believe in the role their organizations play in society: 74% believe society trusts nonprofits to do the right thing.


Employee retention and well-being are top priorities, right after fundraising.


Nonprofits report weaker relationships with volunteers and donors — two stakeholders critical to mission accomplishment and organizational continuity.


The strength of stakeholder relationships varies by industry.


Digital transformation drives growth and impact

In the next 12 months, nonprofits will prioritize cybersecurity and privacy (39%), add new programs and services (27%), or implement remote working models (26%). Online services to increase sales and engagement are also top priorities for nonprofit organizations.

A sizeable minority of nonprofits (46%) say they make strategic decisions quickly. These agile nonprofits describe their organizations as tech adopters (51%), adaptable (51%), empowered (50%), forward-thinking (48%), and innovative (48%). These traits represent a positive “change mindset” that enables nonprofit organizations to strategically evolve and become more resilient.


Nonprofit organizations will most likely take action related to cybersecurity, growth, and the shift to online models.


Advice from qualitative interviews with nonprofit leaders on innovation, adaptability, and change:

  1. Be pragmatic. Hire specialists or work with trusted private sector advisors, particularly for advice on technology or legal issues; Reach out to banking partners, board members and corporate partners for their expertise.
  2. Market the benefit to donors. Think in terms of “wrapping” the benefits of becoming a backer to make them easy to understand and act on.
  3. Listen to improve. Use polls and other listening tools to get feedback from internal and external stakeholders.
  4. The aim is to multiply the effect. Simultaneously think about the new and evolving needs of end-users and the needs of the economy as a whole – e.g. B. the training of users in areas where the economy shows gaps.
  5. think together. Learn your company’s capabilities and find like-minded people to fill gaps. Explore partnerships with other nonprofits and businesses.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of nonprofits say digital transformation is imperative, and organizations that describe themselves as “tech adopters,” “forward-looking,” or “empowered” are more likely than their peers to say that the digital transformation is a must-have.


Nonprofits that rely heavily on technology are more likely to see digital transformation as important.

selling power

A key takeaway from the report is how nonprofits are connecting data to impact. Most nonprofits consistently use data to design programs and services (75%), personalize communications with stakeholders (74%), and make decisions (73%). Uses of information ranked lower include problem solving (69%) and income forecasting (58%).

More than half (55%) of nonprofits say their organization needs to invest in technology to increase fundraising, and 60% say their donors expect a better experience than their current technology provides.


Technology helps nonprofit organizations be more efficient and improve their impact.


Technology providers need better support for nonprofits. Only 36% of nonprofit professionals are “very satisfied” with the technology they use to do their jobs. The lowest level of satisfaction is with the integration of data sources and systems (34% very satisfied) and the availability of easy-to-use reporting tools (33% very satisfied).


Digital maturity strengthens relationships with everyone involved.


Technology vendors also need to better educate nonprofits about the importance of digital maturity. Digitally mature nonprofits outperform their peers, regardless of their organization’s revenue, headcount, or geographic location. Organizations with high digital maturity are 1.9 times more likely (93% vs. 50%) to have experienced improvements in organizational efficiency or impact on their mission. They are also 3.5 times more likely (38% vs. 11%) to have achieved their mission objectives than their peers with low digital maturity.

Digital transformation is the path to maturity. The report finds that cybersecurity and data protection (34%), cost efficiency (33%) and data management and optimization (32%) are the top drivers for digital transformation. Impacts such as improving stakeholder relationships (23%), competitive advantage (19%) and meeting stakeholder expectations (18%) rank lowest.

Digital transformation is hard work and requires organizational commitment, the right culture, people and processes. Without a commitment to resources and a clear vision and execution, transformation can be difficult and slow. The most frequently cited obstacles to digital transformation are a lack of budget or resources (37%) and higher priorities within the organization (30%). Other challenges include a lack of skilled talent to implement and manage technology (28%) and a lack of understanding of those technologies (26%).

For more information on Salesforce’s Nonprofit Trends report, click here.


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