Community IT Innovators’ Katherine Mowers, Senior Consultant, and Matthew Eshleman, Director of Professional Network Services, shared about their work to build nonprofit capacity through strategic assessment and implementation of technology, at the Anne Arundel Funders Roundtable Feb. 23, 2012, an event sponsored by Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.
Here are a few highlights from what they shared on the topic of nonprofit capacity building:
- Prioritize programmatic and functional needs.
It is vital for nonprofit organizations to know and prioritize their programmatic and functional needs before examining technology solution options (for the network, software and web tools). Just like a person would not go out looking to purchase a car before they examined their needs, the same is true for nonprofit organizations who are looking to increase their effectiveness through how they use technology. No one with a family of 5 desiring to be a one-vehicle family would choose a two-seater sedan if they examined the reality of their needs. The same thing is true for an organization seeking technology to support its operational needs.
- Remember that one size does not fit all.
The uniqueness of a nonprofit organization’s business model and its philosophy of service are more significant than one would think. Just because one hears from a colleague at another nonprofit that Salesforce is great, or that Raiser’s Edge is the best, or that Google docs has revolutionized their work, does not mean another organization should select the same solution. Even two nonprofit organizations serving the same community with similar programs, for example youth development, may have different nonprofit business models. One organization might have the majority of their staff working at multiple site, the other everyone is based in a single location. One organization might focus on mentoring, while the other on workshops. One organization might rely on local and federal government grants and another on individual giving. These factors play a significant role in the unique needs of the organization, and thus the solution(s) that would best fit their needs.
- Research solutions/software beyond what you have heard about.
The nonprofit market has expanded and matured a great deal in the last 5 years. There is more out there than Raiser’s Edge and ETO. A resource to turn to is idealware.org , which provides impartial and accessible resources about software to help nonprofits make smart decisions about software.
- Follow the 80/20 Rule.
Many times it is easy to think that if we only get that new system, everything will be better. It’s actually the opposite, 80% of the technology project’s success will depend on how effectively the staff and involved stakeholders adopt the new system and processes, and only 20% depends on the actual technology solution. Keep in mind that switching to a new automated system may just enable an organizations to make bad decisions faster. Technology is there to help support staff and organizational processes.
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