SEATTLE — Researchers are innovating new ways to tap into online data and discover trends. The Global NGO Online Technology Survey is tracking the changing face of digital communication on behalf of the nonprofit sector, taking stock of online strategies and platforms that connect NGOs with donors and supporters.
The 2016 Global NGO Online Technology Survey went live from August 3 to October 31, at which point a full stop was put on data collection to begin the processing stage. Results are to remain under wraps until the release of the 2017 Global NGO Online Technology Report on January 30 next year.
The survey was the brainchild of the Public Interest Registry and Nonprofit Tech for Good, which devised distinct question sets for NGO representatives and donors willing to participate.
Breaking Up (And Piecing Together Again) a Diverse Data Pool
The researchers behind the 2015 Global NGO Online Technology Survey and its subsequent 2016 report extracted an impressive amount of data from relatively simple sets of questions. This year’s survey — available in English and, for the first time, French and Spanish — is shaping up to do the same.
More than 58 percent of last year’s 2,780 NGO respondents were located in North America, but every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, was represented on some level, as were 130 individual countries.
Questions geared toward NGOs sought to identify the online means through which nonprofits engage the wider public. After a round of preliminaries that, among other things, asked NGOs to specify their size and primary causes, social media activity became a focal point of inquiry.
Roughly 95 percent of all participating NGOs in 2015 had Facebook pages, while 92 percent had websites and 83 percent had Twitter accounts.
Social media also worked its way into questions posed to donors, incorporated alongside queries tailored to individual respondents. Donors were asked to specify their political ideology, as well as their generation (based on year of birth). They then indicated which form of NGO outreach inspired them most to give, selecting from options such as social media, email and websites.
The donor component of the 2016 report compiled the responses of 355 donors spanning 27 countries. Generation-wise, the respondents were nearly evenly split into Baby Boomers (29 percent), Gen Xers (37 percent) and Millennials (28 percent).
As one might expect, the social media activities of NGOs attracted millennials (43 percent) more than did any other form of promotion. Emails were more likely to attract Gen Xers (26 percent) and Baby Boomers (30 percent), but social media still scored above 20 percent for all groups.
Donors found common ground in their preferred means of payment, with 62 percent expressing their partiality to online giving. The figures meshed fairly well with the NGO end of the data pool, which indicated that 75 percent of NGOs accept online donations.
Turning Numbers Into Solutions
After the numbers are crunched, they are displayed side-by-side in the Global NGO Online Technology Report. The result is a visually and statistically striking comparison of NGO outreach strategies and donor inclinations. NGOs can use the research to, according to the 2016 report, “assess their competency in online technology use” and “set online communications and fundraising goals.”
Another end goal is an assemblage of globally applicable baseline data points that accurately exposit the NGO sector’s current technology use.
The World Bank Institute considers baseline data “essential to enable stakeholders” and “monitor and track changes” in a project’s progress. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, baseline data collected in this year’s report will likely service NGOs of the next decade, or even of the next century.
The Global NGO Online Technology Report, after all, is itself a product of technological and cultural evolution. Gathered through transparent and easily comprehensible means, the project caters to an Internet-savvy audience that rejects cloak-and-dagger schemes and demands explanation. What results is a data-filled time capsule — a snapshot of the present, for the future.
– Josephine Gurch