Nonprofit 411: Tips for Investing in Technology and Moving to a Proactive IT Strategy

By Debbie Crooke, Senior Consultant, and Carmen Mincy, Sales and Marketing Associate, Ninestone Corporationninestone_0002_software-industry-implementation-expertninestone_0009_information-technology-industry-expertise

Many nonprofit leadership teams struggle with how to balance technology investments with other organizational priorities and financial constraints. Too often, IT is not involved when initiative prioritization and funding decisions are made.  Given this environment, it’s tempting to engage in a reactive IT approach, where everything is handled on an as needed basis as budget exceptions.  However, nonprofit organizations can make the move to a proactive IT strategy by following these recommendations.

Manage Existing Technology

Define a role in your organization for someone to oversee technology. Rather than be taken by surprise at growing inefficiencies, become proactive and organized when it comes to vendor contracts and the periodic upgrades that can be made to existing technology. This approach allows for IT issues to be centralized and will assist in how to prioritize upgrades and establish effective maintenance activities.

Have a Strategy

Investing in technology is complex, and may have implications for varied aspects of your organization. When considering an investment,

  • Define the goals of the investment, including identifying whether it’s a reactive or proactive decision,
  • Prioritize the implementation of the new or updated technology along with the rest of planned initiatives, and
  • Execute a plan to communicate with and train staff and volunteers related to the new technology.

Once you have decided to invest in a technology solution, you should consider a tiered rollout to different parts of your organization and give ample time for smooth adoption. Defining tiers of needs helps to allocate a limited budget effectively and should provide for a smoother transition to the new solution.

Select the Right Software Solutions

There are many software solutions for managing volunteers, donors and day-to-day operations. Review them to determine which ones best fit your organization’s needs.  In addition, look for inefficiencies in office infrastructure and prioritize needs. This approach will help your organization move methodically towards implementing solutions that have the most impact and provide a clear way forward.

When looking at software solutions, keep in mind the possibility of nonprofits rates from vendors or third-party organizations. Techsoup, for example, offers discounts on basic office tools, such as Office 365, as well as webinars to train your staff on basic office technology such as Microsoft Word or Excel, as well opportunities to purchase laptops, hardware, and other software at nonprofit rates.

Expand Your IT Architecture

Identify ways to expand IT within the organization to better support day-to-day activities and reduce administrative burden.   For instance, moving data to the cloud has advantages for security, backup, and sharing data efficiently, but should be done with an understanding of how the cloud will be accessed by users and ensures that you only pay for what you need.  Increasing mobile connectivity provides advantages for allowing employee flexibility but needs to be planned carefully with budgets and security in mind.

Make Use of Data

Data analytics are becoming increasingly important to expand and target fundraising and/or volunteer campaigns. Select data analytic tools which will help make sense of the data you collect and asking the questions you want answered to tailor your marketing campaigns will ensure you collect appropriate data and build better datasets.

By implementing these recommendations, your nonprofit organization can develop a robust IT strategy to take advantage of existing technology, expand technology appropriately and be more prepared for future requests.