Modern technology has streamlined and optimized the way nonprofits do business. Using digital tools, nonprofits can connect with donors, inform the public about their mission, services and impact, track grant applications, manage volunteers, and more.
A challenge faced by many nonprofits is operating on a tight budget. Rather than running IT as a cost center, organizations can shift it to a value center by developing a technology strategy that will support the nonprofit’s business goals associated with achieving its mission.
What is a Technology Strategy and Why Does Your Nonprofit Need One?
A technology strategy is a blueprint for how IT fits into your organization. Developing an IT strategy can help organizations create alignment between their business and IT goals.
Two important elements needed to create an effective IT strategy are an understanding of the current state of IT and the current and future business goals. This will provide direction and context to ensure that IT is focused on the right things to enable and drive the business forward through operational efficiencies, risk mitigation, innovation, and more.
Many organizations start with an IT review or assessment to get a holistic look at the IT portfolio, including people, process and technology. This provides an overview of the opportunities, risks and gaps that exist in the current state, which are addressed in the forthcoming IT strategy.
5 Steps to Developing a Technology Plan for Your Nonprofit
While most nonprofit leaders believe in the value of IT, it is often difficult to know where to start and how to prioritize IT investments. These five steps can help leaders begin the process.
1. Understand Your Biggest Technology Challenges
The best way to improve is to first identify what’s not working well. For instance, are you able to easily analyze data about your donors and supporters? If not, you will need help with data analytics. Are processes hampered by legacy technology and software? If so, you will likely need to consider new options for the future.
After identifying challenges with your current technology, it’s time to prioritize these issues. One way to do so is to determine the most critical areas where technology can serve your mission. For some organizations, that might mean integrating new donor engagement tools or focusing on process automation.
2. Re-Evaluate Your Existing Technology Ecosystem
The next step is to assess your organization’s existing technology ecosystem. What software and hardware do you use today? How is it working for the organization as a whole? By understanding your current ecosystem, you can identify redundancies and areas for improvement.
Many nonprofits operate on legacy technology that has not been updated with the latest improvements. Assessing your current ecosystem offers valuable insights into where upgrades will have the greatest impact.
3. Outline Your Goals and Desired Accomplishments
It’s now time to align your goals for both the long and short term. Review your organization’s strategic plans in other areas, including fundraising, marketing and development. Then ask where technology can add efficiency or visibility to help the organization reach its goals. Ensure that all recommendations map back to the nonprofit organization’s mission statement.
4. Create A Technology Budget That Meets Your Needs And Resources
Setting a technology budget early on can shape your priorities and guide the implementation process.
What costs should you expect when developing and implementing a technology strategy? Consider the following expenses:
- Consulting: Many nonprofits benefit from partnering with IT consultants to conduct assessments, develop a strategic technology plan, and help implement new digital tools.
- Technology and Vendors: After conducting an assessment, implementing a technology strategy may require an investment in software, data management and other digital tools.
- Training and Development: New technologies require team training. Your budget should include instructional time and resources.
5. Ensure Your Team is on the Same Page
An effective technology strategy requires the buy-in of stakeholders at every level. That means involving staff members who will use the new technology, board members who approve the budget, and organizational leaders who will guide the process.
Building a team with diverse backgrounds ensures that your technology plan will incorporate the viewpoints of your key stakeholders. For some nonprofits, that might also mean reaching out to key donors or volunteers.
To ensure that your team is aligned, document the roles of each member of the team. Well-functioning teams have defined responsibilities and roles to play in developing and implementing the technology strategy.
Build a Strategic Nonprofit Technology Strategy with Hartman
Nonprofits need to think strategically about IT to leverage it to achieve their goals and objectives. Partnering with an experienced IT leadership firm like Hartman Executive Advisors can help your organization create an effective and strategic technology plan that aligns with your mission and supports your goals for growth. Contact Hartman today to schedule a free consultation.