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Managing Nonprofit Technology May Put You In Conflict With Your Nonprofit's Mission

Mar 8, 2008
Are you the executive director of a nonprofit organization spending nights worried about making your presentation to your nonprofit board and yet your printers and computers are failing? Have you spent the day fixing problems that are not part of your nonprofit job description? Are you feeling overwhelmed because somehow without you knowing it, you have become deemed technology support for your nonprofit organization?

If you are wondering how to start a nonprofit or you are running a nonprofit, at some point you look out at your internet, office, voice and client acquisition environment and wonder just how will you survive. The internet operation requires you to look at the website and all incoming connections. The office work involves the computers and all that borrowed or loaned nonprofit software on it. And of course it includes security against viruses. Then the voice network which means making sure the telephone network is secure and operating for the upcoming fundraising campaign. This means the main nonprofit mission of getting more clients, donors and additional fundraising special events gets put on the back burner.

When the resources of a nonprofit organization are scarce, money and true funding do not really exist to any major extent. This means an accidental techie situation is a reality. Your nonprofit job turns into you becoming an accidental techie because planning to handle technology was the last thing thought about when you were hired or during the starting of the nonprofit. This is especially true when you and the organization have the same name and the same business function, then that probably mean the organization is you.

When this reality sets in, you must review the whole situation and get a complete assessment of what you will need to do in order to meet your nonprofit goals. The last thing you want to do is try and embark upon a program to address all your office technology needs at once. Jump in to where there is an immediate need at the moment because if you try and do all the projects at once nothing will get done. Look at the immediate problem areas technically and start addressing those areas first. Take a systematic approach and go for a strong solution that you can demonstrate a strong return on the money you may be asking your board to spend money on. In other cases you need to get someone to help you. As a business system analyst from the corporate world, the objective is to get out of this no win situation by following a process as defined below.

You first need to get a comprehensive review of your nonprofits operating environment. Your opening move is to develop a picture of your current business operation. This includes your entire internet, out of office and in office technology needs. Second, look around and review your support staff, if you have a staff that is. Next establish how you presently make use of and purchase your technology and related computer equipment. Then launch a program to define how your nonprofit group is dealing with or the nonprofit board thinks of situations like system crashes, stolen property and more importantly unrecoverable s disaster recovery type situations. Finally do some reflection and define how are you managing your technology support role? Have you decided if what you do is effective or is it beyond providing real help to your group anymore?

Next we move on to another piece of building yourself, a get out of technology jail card. You are then required to put together executive board support for your technology initiative. This happens because when you started, the group probably had one PC and dialup. Then as the organization mission became clearer and more defined, technology needs grow by osmosis. They just multiply all by them selves. It is like an organic growth process. One day you go to work and there are needs for 10 people not one person.

When the organization you work for equates to a one for one situation, then you should evaluate what your time is worth. When you do this, you have a basis for making sound decisions. Are you spending time doing things that hamper your true mission? If you have a nonprofit board then as the default techie who is really the accidental techie, you have to confront the problem of educating and influencing your nonprofit boards' policies and procedures. You may want to find out how to conduct a technology survey for nonprofits and present the results to your non profit management.
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