As nonprofit leaders and staff, it seems that there’s always more to do and never enough time to do it. So looking after your organization’s technology - an area that might be out of your comfort zone - is one more thing that might slide down the priority list.
On the other had, technology is extremely important for any organization, no matter what your mission. Good technology helps you to be more efficient - to save time and reduce duplication. It also helps you to be more effective - to increase the impact of your work.
If that’s not how you’re used to thinking of technology, here’s one way I like to frame it. Think of your organization like a house:
The roof represents the mission of your organization - your goals, what you are trying to achieve. The pillars represent your programs and services - the activities that you go about in order to achieve your mission. Which leaves your administration and shared services: the foundation of your organization. For most organizations this includes finance, communications, marketing, fundraising (no, fundraising isn’t a pillar, it’s part of the foundation), and technology.
Seen in that light, building a strong technology foundation is a necessity for your programs and ultimately your mission to succeed. Of course as nonprofits on a limited budget, we can’t afford all the newfangled technology bells and whistles, even if they would be nice to have. On the other hand, it’s worth considering how much staff time is lost on a day-to-day basis in wrestling with old or uncooperative technology?
Now it’s one thing to know all this, it’s another thing to be able to change it. Since the first step in changing is to reflect on where you are at right now, I created a simple technology self-assessment to help you organize and prioritize your needs. If you have the resources it’s great to do a more in-depth assessment, however my goal is to make it easy for any organization, no matter where they are at, to get started with tech planning.
Technology can be seen from many different perspectives, so I’ve grouped the assessment into 4 areas:
- The Basics - stuff like security and backup that everyone with a computer needs to plan for
- Day-to-Day - the software and systems like your email, files and database that help you carry out your work
- Strategy - how technology is viewed in your organization, particularly by leadership
- Innovation - how you are using technology to transform your organization and service delivery
This is the first version of this tool, so please share your comments below on whether you found it useful and how to improve it. As well, if you are interested in using this self-assessment with your members or a group of organizations, please let us know so we can learn from your experience and improve the assessment.
Update: version 2 of the tech self-assessment is now available.
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