The high importance of technology to the not for profit sector, and the desire to keep apace of the rapid changes in digital communication, were clearly reflected as nearly 200 delegates, comprising senior managers and executives of 126 membership and charity organisations, attended the IRIS NFP Roadshow at the Royal College of Surgeons in London on Tuesday 7th February 2012.
They gathered at the event organised by IRIS NFP Solutions - suppliers of integrated software, services and infrastructure to the not-for-profit sector – where partners and consultants, including global technology players Microsoft and IBM, laid out their vision for the future of technology and what it may mean for the sector. There was also an accompanying exhibition, where delegates were able to view many new initiatives and share their challenges.
Overall feedback from delegates was extremely positive. David Combes, Director of Knowledge & Information Systems at Action for Hearing Loss, commented: “It was a very worthwhile event, and so good to see a partnership-based approach to meeting the needs of the NFP Sector.”
The day started with the views from two keynote speakers on how digital technology was impacting membership organisations and charities.
Rob Smith of Indigo Blue talked of “another revolution” to match the impact of the digital revolution. He saw the rapid growth of “cloud” applications as a “game changer” for the way we all work and how organisations source technology. Also, he warned that the growing number of “online communities”, such as common-interest groups on sites like LinkedIn, was creating a new threat and real competition to long-established membership bodies.
Simon Morrison, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Institute of Fundraising echoed this theme, saying that digital and mobile technologies were “changing the way charities work” by offering new and exciting opportunities to fundraisers to have more personal, integrated, experimental and collaborative engagement with stakeholders. He cited examples of how mobile and text giving and the use of social media was enabling charities to reach and engage with new donors, particularly in the 18-24 years old demographic, traditionally viewed by fundraisers as a difficult to reach audience. According to the IoF figures, text-giving had increased 12% in the past year, against a background of an 11% decrease in overall fundraising income since 2008.
The day continued with presentations from other IRIS companies and key partners, such as NetXtra, QAS, Transoft, IRIS Exchequer, Orbis and Communicator, describing how their products and services were meeting the new challenges and being applied in all aspects of the sector’s activities, covering online and email communications, automated workflow, through to data quality and integrity. Solutions included automated verification of emails and mobile numbers at point of entry, through to ground-breaking tablet based and web-integrated solutions to support an increasing mobile and disparate workforce.
Jim Adam of IBM explained how the vast increase in data available to organisations from the communications explosion presented a real challenge but how the use of analytics was helping top companies use this data to make more informed decisions.
Mark Bloodworth of Microsoft presented his organisation’s vision of the future, in which there will be more pervasive displays and innovative, and more natural, human – technology interfaces, facilitated by touch and motion sensors. A glimpse of this future was seen when Paul Sparkes of IRIS Exchequer talked about the pioneering work IRIS had done with Microsoft on finance applications delivered through tablet and touch technology.
“I believe it was a high value day for all those involved, with real buzz as suppliers and consultants shared their visions and concerns.” said David Pinches, Director of Product Management & Marketing at IRIS NFP Solutions. “ We were delighted to involve so many of our key partners and I think the high level of attendance and positive feedback we received reflected not only the importance of technology, but also how IRIS and our partners, as key suppliers in this market, are able to provide innovative solutions to meet the fast-changing needs of our customers.”
Copies of the presentations given on the day can be downloaded at http://not-for-profit.iris.co.uk/iris-nfp-roadshow-2012/agenda.aspx