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11 Helpful Terms to Know for Creating a Nonprofit Digital Strategy

Starting your nonprofit digital transformation is exciting, but it can be a little daunting! If you are ready to make the leap to go digital, congratulations. At AssoConnect, we know all about the digital transition and want to give you all the tools you need to tackle the project.  

The digital world has its own terminology, which can seem a bit complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is actually pretty simple. We have selected 11 helpful terms to know to help you with your digital transformation!

If you are a large organization with multiple chapters, be sure you understand these terms before sharing your strategy with your network.

Today, we are covering:

  1. Digital Transformation Services
  2. Programming language
  3. Front-end and Back-end
  4. Framework
  5. UX/UI
  6. Agile method
  7. CRM
  8. ERP
  9. API
  10. SSO
  11. SaaS

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Digital Transformation Services

Digital transformation services are companies that are experts in the field of new technology and computer science. Their main objective is to help companies in their digital transformation. They cover consulting, design and development of tools, maintenance, training, and more. 

We would like to point out that digital transformation services are different from software publishers. A software publisher has a product that adapts to a customer's needs, while a digital transformation service can design a custom product from A-Z.

Why Is It Important?

Not only because we will use this term in the rest of this article, but you are likely to come across it during your other research as well! It usually comes up when you are considering possible solutions for starting your digital transformation. 

Digital transformation services and software publishers have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cost, speed of implementation, security, ownership, etc. Knowing the terminology is a great first step to getting familiar with them!

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Programing Language

A programming language is a written, digital language that tells computers what to do in order to work. Programming languages are used in all computer programs and software. It is the code that runs everything your computer does. 

Think of it like this:

Languages share common characteristics: words, verb conjugation, tenses, and so on. Every language has its own vocabulary, grammar rules, nuances, and spelling. The same goes for programming languages.

The more languages you learn, the easier it is to learn new languages. The more popular the language you are trying to learn, the easier it will be to find resources to help you translate an idea into that language. 

Why Is It Important?

When focusing on your digital transformation, you will probably have to choose one, if not more, computer programs. This means you are also choosing programming languages!

The initial choice of programming language is important. Take into consideration the language of a software you may choose, because it would be difficult to impose a very small, unknown language onto a tech developer who you may need to help you with your software.

By choosing a software with a well known programming language, it reassures that any tech developer you may need to consult will be able to address any updates or problems relatively easily. 

For context, the some of most common programming languages are: 

For the Front-end: Javascript, CSS, HTML, and React

For the Back-end: PHP, Ruby, Python, and C++

Some things to consider: 

  • What programming languages does your software use?

  • If that language is not widely known or popular, can you justify your choice of language? 

At AssoConnect, our tech team uses a few different languages. For the back-end, we use PHP and SQL. For the front-end, we use CSS, Javascript, and React.

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Front-end and Back-end

These are two terms you will hear frequently in the tech world. When people talk about the Front-end, it simply means the elements of any software, website, or platform that are visible on the screen. Anything you see or can interact with is the Front-end. 

The Back-end refers to all of the elements that go on behind the scenes. It is invisible to visitors, but it represents a huge part of development. Without it, a website or software is an empty shell!

The Back-end can be broken down into three essential parts:

  • A server (or web hosting)

  • An application (in this case the website, the software, or the application)

  • A database (where the application data is stored)

Be careful not to confuse Back-end and back-office (the administrative side of a website or software). 

For example: 

Let's say you are looking for someone in your AssoConnect member base.

Finding the person in the database and returning the correct information to you is the responsibility of the Back-end.

The way you see the information displayed (position, color, shape, font, effects) is the responsibility of the Front-end.

Front-end and Back-end Developers

The roles of Front-end and Back-end developers can be found at most tech companies. Developers can choose between the two, because the job descriptions are a little different.

Front-end developers are usually very creative, and have a great eye for design. Back-end developers generally have good analytical and problem-solving skills. Then, there are the superstars of development, or the “full-stack” developers, who do both!

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Framework

A framework, also known as software framework, is exactly what it sounds like. It is the foundation on which software developers can build upon.

A framework is like a template that software developers can use whenever they want to build a new application, which helps streamlines the process. The framework is based on a programming language. There are PHP frameworks, CSS frameworks and so on.

A framework consists of:

  • A coherent set of reusable components like classes and functions that can be used to interact with a system’s software, manage devices, process input, etc. 

  • Recommendations for the design and development of applications

The framework is essentially a guide for developers to use so they do not have to start from scratch. 

Why Is It Important?

The creation of frameworks in the digital world is one of the most important developments of the last 20 years! It has helped maximize the productivity of programmers who use it, and guaranteed lower construction and maintenance costs of computer programming. 

Just like with programming languages, it is important to make sure that your initial choice is well-known and easy for developers to use.

For context, the most common Back-end frameworks and their programming languages are Symphony (PHP), Django (Python), Ruby on Rail (Ruby), Angular (Typescript), and Meteor (Javascript). 

The most common Front-end frameworks currently used are jQuery (Javascript), Bootstrap (CSS), Foundation, and Semantic UI. 

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UX/UI

The term UX is an abbreviation for “User Experience”. It is the total makeup of a user’s feelings and opinions on any digital product. 

UX is hugely important when it comes to any application, website, software, or any other computer product. If a product is not user friendly, people will not be interested in using it. 

To make sure products have a good UX, there are UX designers that focus specifically on this topic. They listen to the needs of users and provide effective solutions to any problems identified on their product. When they are designing a product, it is their job to keep the user in mind and make the interface as visually appealing and easy to understand as possible. 

UI stands for “User Interface” and is a huge part of UX. It is all about the design of the interface, including things like: Typography and fonts, navigation buttons, attractive visual elements, organization of the interface, and so on. 

For example:

Let’s take a look at importing your member database into the AssoConnect platform. Our UX designers have taken careful thought about the easiest way for a client to import their member database into the member management feature.

Many of our clients were using Excel or Google Sheets to store their data. Our UX designers therefore designed a simple 4-step process that allows users to copy and paste their cells and upload them directly into AssoConnect.

Why Are They Important?

The user experience on an interface is one of the most important features of any digital product. Many tech companies have been hugely successful because they differentiated themselves from others through an exceptional UX. 

Apple is a great example of this type of UX. 

UX is especially important now when we have largely made the switch to self-learning software rather than ones that require detailed instructions and training. Most users expect to be able to understand any product they are using relatively easily

For example, as a nonprofit, you have a variety of users. Employees, donors, members, volunteers, etc. The easier it is to use the software, the better it will be for the entire organization. 

We suggest that when you are considering adopting an existing nonprofit software, like AssoConnect for example, you test it out to make sure you agree with the UX. We offer a 30-day free-trial to do just that! 

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Agile Method

The Agile Method is a type of project management style that is mostly used for software development. The primary objective is to deliver a quality, finished product within a set of deadlines. The idea is that demands and solutions evolve through collaborative effort and cross-functional teams of developers. 

Ultimately, it saves time and improves a digital product. You can think of it as the tech world’s version of the assembly line. 

It involves dividing a large project into very small pieces

The objective is to produce an “MVP”, or “Minimum Viable Product”, as quickly as possible to meet the basic needs of the customer, and then to make updates and improvements.

The Agile Method makes it possible to deliberately go towards the technical constraints of development and to overcome them progressively. 

Why Is It Important?

It allows companies to go faster at a lower cost, and regular listening and consideration of users’ needs. Therefore, a project developed using this methodology will often give a response much closer to the real needs of users.  

Learning the terminology and principles of this method is helpful not only to understand a bit more of the digital world, but it can also be useful for your nonprofit project management. 

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CRM

CRM stands for "Customer Relationship Management". It refers to all of the tools and techniques generally used in companies to monitor, manage, and improve relationships between their current and future customers.

In a nonprofit’s case, it is used for members, donors, and other contacts.  

A CRM aims at centralizing and analyzing contact information so it is easily accessible and understood. All the contact information you have gathered like name, address, email, date of birth, etc. can be found there. You can also see your communication history with them, any purchases (donations in your case), or member history. 

Why Is It Important?

Nonprofits need to communicate with their contacts to recruit donors, retain volunteers, keep their community updated, and so on. By using a CRM, they can easily accomplish this! 

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ERP

Our next acronym is ERP, which stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. An ERP is an all-encompassing management system in which all features exchange information. Essentially, you can think of an ERP as an all-in-one software package.

An ERP allows you to manage and monitor all of your organization's information and operations on a daily basis.

Why Is It Important?

An ERP centralizes your data, saves time on administrative tasks, improves data protection, and helps reduce management costs!

If you find an ERP that fits your needs and has a good UX, it can be a wonderful solution for your digital transformation.

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API

APIs stands for Application Programming Interface (we know, another acronym!). However, this one is easy. An API is an interface that allows two applications to “talk” to each other. 

It provides developers with basic commands for performing tasks and operations so they don’t have to worry about writing the code from scratch. It allows for exchanges or “conversations” between multiple different software programs. 

You can think of an API as an interpreter that allows you to interact with a software. Many softwares use APIs so different softwares can be integrated. At AssoConnect, we have opened up our API so that we can be interfaced with other systems.

Why Is It Important?

A single software (even an ERP) may not meet all of your organization’s needs. Rather than having everything redeveloped by a digital transformation service, you can choose different softwares that can communicate with each other via an API. 

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SSO

SSO stands for Single Sign-On. It is a technology that allows you to connect with a single identifier or login to multiple different applications, websites, and online software

Once you are connected to the SSO service, it will automatically indicate that you are already authenticated. This means that you do not have to manually connect one by one by entering your login information. They will know you who are, and you can connect straight away!

A common example of SSO is the “connect with Facebook” or “connect with Google” button found on many websites, applications, and online software. Once you are connected on your Google or Facebook account on your device, you do not have to enter your login information anymore, the SSO service does the work for you. 

Why Is It Important?

If you opt for multiple applications, it can be useful to set up an SSO. It will help you save time when connecting to all your different tools.


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SaaS

The majority of modern software today runs in SaaS mode, which stands for "Software as a Service". It is simply an online software. AssoConnect, for example, is a SaaS company!

Online software (Saas) is different from traditional software, because traditional software has to be installed on your computer, while online software runs on the Internet.

In the case of SaaS, the software runs in a data center that manages all your data on the Internet (also called "the Cloud"). This means that you are not responsible for storing anything, and the company does all the work for you! 

SaaS has become so popular because it has a huge amount of advantages, including:

  • Rapid deployment and production

  • No technical knowledge is required for the customer to take advantage of the software

  • No maintenance is necessary for the customer, all updates are done by the provider

Why Is It Important?

Saas is an important aspect to take into account when deciding on software for your nonprofit. Except for special cases (no Internet access), we recommend that you opt for a SaaS software!

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We hope this has helped you understand a bit more about digital jargon and the importance of it. Keep these terms in mind when you begin your nonprofit’s digital transformation!

AssoConnect is an all-in-one software designed for nonprofits. Find out why over 15,000 nonprofits trust us with their daily management! Try it free for 30 days.

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