Show. Me. The. Tech.

Say it with me! 

I’m a non-profit volunteer who is quite tech savvy, and I recently realized the tech at my non-profit is completely outdated! I think it’s one of the most important aspects of everyday life, and would like to bring this organization into the 21st century, but I don’t even know where to start when it comes to convincing the board that tech matters. Any suggestions?

-Lucas S., Rochester, NY
Hand holding a phone displaying a hologram, and a title reading, "Show. Me. The. Tech."

My experience is that most nonprofit board members can come to welcome change, even in the form of technology, if you focus on the right talking points. No organization wants to be the last to the party, especially when nonprofits with updated tech can see huge returns on their investment.  

However, non-profit organizations often fall into a rut, with management ignorant of how things work on the ground level, unaware of how much limited technology hinders their staff. These rough times can involve using volunteers to fill in administration and other roles, which means that the bulk of your organization’s tech advancement may fall onto your shoulders. If you are serious about making technology changes happen at this nonprofit, you might have to be prepared to do it yourself. Now, I’ve seen plenty of technology mishaps happen from even the best of intentions, so if you’re all in, let’s get to it! 

First, you have to convince the board by demonstrating how incorporating tech into your nonprofit’s services will benefit the organization. With technological improvements, there are amazing opportunities to facilitate valuable infrastructure on your organization’s network. For instance, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can show visible evidence of improving your efficiency and increasing your donation potential. Many nonprofits find that it’s beneficial to develop a technological team that is familiar with top-of-the-line technology being utilized within the nonprofit world, and as a result, have a great understanding of what is required in terms of infrastructure and software development. Drive home that fostering and supporting technologies will have a long-term benefit to the charity and/or their leadership roles, allowing your organization to tap into strategic thinking. 

Despite all these points, the board is still likely to be reluctant when assessing new investments, leading to more cautious decision-making. Even in technologically advanced organizations, the tricky point is that both the proponent of technological change and IT development teams are highly aspirational and aggressive. It makes it hard for them to see the big picture. You may often need to differentiate and explain to board members what is being done.   

The only others ways that I see to change the views of a nonprofit board which is resistant to technology are:

  • Recommendations by a trusted non-tech-savvy peer organization 
  • Demonstratable evidence of another organization’s success with technology 
  • Prior experience of one or more board members with better infrastructure than the current organization 

If you’ve considered each of these avenues and find your board-approved funding comes up short, you still have options. Try using opensource and free tools available to your nonprofit organization online, and then use your successes as proof of tech’s importance to get funding approved in the future. Free tools like LastPass or 1Password can improve your security by protecting staff passwords; more robust options such as MailChimp can be used for mass emails and marketing. Imagine the possibilities to promote your nonprofit once you know who opens and clicks through your e-mails! 

Technology might not solve everything right away, but the long-term benefits are clear. By committing themselves to improving your organization’s technology, board members can create and nurture a well-rounded nonprofit organization. Good luck!

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