Technology is no longer an optional accessory for running a business, even for nonprofits. From websites to email to financial systems, technology drives the daily operations of every business or organization.
But even considering today’s budgetary limitations of most nonprofit organizations, are technology bare minimums still acceptable? Or is investing in nonprofit technology the key to truly making an impact within a community?
Upgrading to the latest technology isn’t usually on the to-do list of most nonprofit organizations. According to Yale Insights, only 11 percent of nonprofits think their organizations are doing a good job keeping up with advances in technology. And it makes sense. You’re focused on what’s important: achieving the mission of your organization.
But regular reviews of your nonprofit’s technology can actually facilitate making a bigger impact for the people you serve. In fact, you might find that investing in new technology solutions saves your organization money in the long run.
“The nonprofit sector is not known for being particularly innovative or open to change,” Suzanne Laporte, president of Compass, a nonprofit that provides strategic consulting services to other nonprofits, told Yale Insights. “Organizations are focused on their mission — feeding people or educating people or helping the disabled. They’re not spending time thinking about how to increase their margins or bringing in more business the way that a startup or any for-profit company would.
But mission is all-encompassing in the nonprofit sector. To the extent they understand how technology can help them deliver better on their mission, they will get on board.”
Nonprofits should consider regular reviews of their technology solutions because nonprofit technology can:
- Improve operational efficiency
- Increase the impact you have on your community
- Improve collaboration within your community
Nonprofit technology solutions like MPOWR case management software are accessible tools that can help your team have more impact on more people, while utilizing scarce resources more efficiently. Moreover, this unique solution actually allows your organization to collaborate with other nonprofits within your service area, making the social service experience much more within reach of your clients. There are so many innovative ways your organization can use technology to enhance your mission impact. So how do you bring technology to your organization?
Technology Is More Accessible Than You Think
Convincing your board of directors they need to approve funding for what may seem like a luxury can be challenging. Doug Kelly, a volunteer for Compass, says a good strategy is to explain how not using technology can adversely affect your organization. “Nonprofits that choose not to invest in necessary technology will see an ever-widening performance gap between their outcomes and the organizations that have adopted technology effectively,” Kelly told Yale Insights.
That means your organization will be left behind if it doesn’t upgrade to newer technologies sooner or later. But what if the funding just isn’t there? Luckily, technology grants for nonprofits are available that can help your organization get the funds you need to upgrade to new technology. Here are just a few places you might want to watch for nonprofit grant opportunities:
Attending nonprofit technology conferences is also a good way to discover funding sources, as well as newer technologies that are hitting the market. You’ll also learn about marketing strategies, nonprofit management best practices, and you’ll get to network with other professionals in the industry.
A Few Tips For Implementing New Technology
To ensure implementation doesn’t lead to buyer’s remorse, it’s best to do your research up front to ensure whatever technology you’re thinking about adopting fits your organization’s unique needs. You don’t want to invest in technology that doesn’t actually do what you need it to. Make sure that you:
- Consider more than just the initial cost. Are there any other ongoing fees, such as costs for software upgrades, training costs if you have staff turnover, additional costs to add users, etc.?
- Find out if it’s scalable. Do you have to pay for more than what your organization needs right now? Can you turn on additional functionality as your organization grows?
- Make sure it adapts to your needs. You want a tool that adapts to your organization’s processes, not the other way around. You shouldn’t have to change your processes to fit a tool. (Take this one with a grain of salt, as we’ll get into in just a bit)
- Ask about hardware. Is the tool web-based, or do you need any hardware to use the technology? Do you already have that hardware, or will you have to buy it? Who will service that hardware, and is that an extra cost?
- Get details about support. You’ll want to know not only if support is included in the cost, but what level of support do you get.
- Don’t skimp on training. It’ll be tempting to save money by refusing training from the technology provider, but don’t do it. If you’re going to invest in the technology, invest in getting fully trained on how to use the tech.
If you do your due diligence up front, you’ll have a new tool that will fit your organization’s needs like it was custom made for them. But a word of caution when you’re researching new tools: don’t get too fixated on matching the tech with how you’ve always done things. Remember that technology is about innovation, so if you limit the technology you choose to your current workflows, you’ll close yourself off to the chance to truly transform your organization. Be open-minded to the possibility of how a new software or device could change the way your organization operates, improving the impact on your clients and community.
Consider that investments in new technology are exactly that: investments. These are investments in your organization, your employees, your clients, and your community. And a little research and legwork to obtain nonprofit technology grants make newer technologies more accessible to these organizations than ever before.