Jason Hutchins, President (Managing Principle) founded Nonprofit Solutions Network
in 1998 to help nonprofits increase capacity, lower costs, and improve their overall operation through the use of technology. Learn more about them at www.nonprofitsolutions.net.
Written by Jason Hutchins
In many nonprofit organizations, hardware and software is only replaced when it becomes unresponsive, a funder requires a type of report the current system can’t produce, or employees use applications they’ve discovered off the IT department’s radar (often on a personal smartphone). Meanwhile, the technology landscape has changed. There have been major advances in cloud computing, the cost of bandwidth and data storage has fallen, nonprofit specific technology grants are on the rise, as are the availability of numerous apps for record keeping and reporting. At the same time, requirements for nonprofits have increased and become more complex, leaving many to feel they are ‘behind the times’ even when implementing new technology.
A simple way to make IT spending strategic rather than reactive and to select technology that works well for your staff is to have an internal technology committee. How can you possibly ask staff to participate in another meeting? Make it a working lunch or mid-morning coffee break meeting. There is someone motivated and interested in technology in every department who will want to be part of the conversation.
Meet regularly (bi-monthly or quarterly) to share observations about what’s working well and what’s not. During the first meeting, it is a good idea to create a shared central document that details the department/function areas that are represented, contains an inventory of which databases are in use for accounting, donors, programs, marketing, etc., and for how long (how long what?). Discuss staff satisfaction and make note of known performance issues. This will help identify the need for support and staff training, as well as be a jumping off point for brainstorming solutions and creating an action plan.
- Properly budget and fundraise for technology
- Find opportunities to cut expenses and receive technology grants
- Keep an eye out for advances in technology to improve operations
- Better define operational and capital costs
- Help your grants department make the case to funders and agencies to pay for technology and training
- Evaluate a potential technology’s benefits for your organization and the complexity and time to implement it?
- Create staff buy in for implementing new technology and business process changes
- Develop contingency plans for obstacles during implementation
- Identify IT related organizational risks and update IT personnel policies
A working technology committee fosters collaboration and is well worth the time. For more ideas on how to implement a technology committee or other organizational changesvisit the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy website or contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].