This quarter we are turning our attention to IT Management at nonprofits, and sharing some of our experience and insight into how our community manages technology at nonprofit organizations. How we manage IT departments or consultants, IT projects, platforms and the cloud, budgets, the whole management list. What are some tips and tricks for maintaining connectivity while getting through an office move? When do you need to break from your IT provider, and find a better fit? Who should IT report to, a CIO, the CFO or the ED?
But to start I’d like to share this short description of the rewards of working in nonprofit technology from a post our friend Peter Campbell wrote for the NTEN blog in December.
“…So if you are thinking of working at a nonprofit as an IT implementer (System Manager, IT Director, CIO), take heart: The work is rewarding, because the motivations are broader than just bringing home a paycheck. The people are nice, and most nonprofits recognize that, if they’re going to pay poorly, they should let people have their own lives on nights and weekends. There are opportunities to learn and be creative. The constrained environment rewards inventive solutions. If you’re a tech strategist, you can try things that a more risk-averse for-profit wouldn’t, as long as the risk you’re taking isn’t too costly. … If money isn’t your motivation, but accomplishing things that make a difference in people’s lives does excite you, this is a fertile environment.
That said, if you don’t like to talk to people, and you don’t think that marketing should be part of your job, think twice. Successful technology implementations at nonprofits are done by people who know how to communicate. The soft skills matter even more than the tech skills, because you will likely be reporting to people who don’t understand what tech does. If you can’t justify your projects in terms that they’ll understand, they won’t consider funding them.
You should be as good at the big picture as you are at the small ones. NPTech is all about fixing the broken routers while you configure the CRM and interpret the Google Analytics. You have to be good at juggling a lot of diverse tasks and projects, and conversant in multiple technologies.
Creativity trumps discipline. If you strictly follow the best ITIL policies and governance, be afraid. Strict adherence to for-profit standards requires staffing and budget that you aren’t likely to have. Good technology governance at nonprofits is a matter of setting priorities and making strategic compromises.
Collaboration and delegation are key. Nonprofits have a lot of cross-department functionality. If you are all about IT controlling the systems, you’re going to have more work on your plate than you can handle and a frustrated user base to work with. Letting those who can do tech do tech—whether or not they have the credentials or report to you—is a key strategy towards getting it done.”
You can read the whole post here, which describes the challenges of the nonprofit environment from the cultural perspective, and reviews the ways “technology” isn’t all that different but implementation and terminology set nonprofits apart. If you are interested in nonprofit technology and IT management at nonprofits join us for our next webinar July 21st when I will be presenting Nonprofit IT Department Best Practices, talking about staffing, structure, budgets and more.
And if you think this sounds like the best job you’ve heard of, please check out our careers page, as we are always looking for technology professionals with a passion for working with mission-driven organizations!