Aligning technology with nonprofit needs (IT Strategy Part 1)

Aligning technology with nonprofit needs (IT Strategy Part 1)

Building a technology strategy requires a basic assessment of how technology impacts your nonprofit.  Once that is clear, presto!  The rest of the IT management puzzle simply falls into place.  Just kidding on that last part.

Alignment of nonprofit mission and objectives to technology tools can be hard, particularly when you do it for the first time.  In the world of small nonprofits, these technology optimization exercises are extremely rare – most organizations simply aren’t thinking at that strategic level.

  1. The first step is setting clear mission and organizational goals.  Where do you want to be in the next 3-5 years?  What strategic initiatives do you plan to work on?
  2. The second step is to review those goals with stakeholders, mapping them against available technologies.  How will technology impact help to achieve the targets you’ve set for the organization?
  3. Finally, tracking and measuring progress via metrics and evaluations is critical.  In our data-driven world, everything should have standard metrics which are constantly reviewed against an achievable target.

It’s important to note here that not every initiative can be accomplished by technology.  Sometimes humans need to step in and do the real work.  In our experience, there should be two to four major strategic initiatives where technology can make a major impact – anything more runs the risk of stretching the organization too thin.

Then comes the fun part – shopping!  Once the goals are set and the enabling technologies are chosen, it’s time to decide which specific tools, platforms, and gadgets fit with the nonprofit’s budget and goals. The business side sets spending limits, stakeholders determine a target return on investment, and IT staff figure out how to measure results.

Naturally, this combination of technology and business skills requires a strong CIO.

Wait a minute – what small nonprofit has a CIO?

This is where things get interesting.  An IT director may have excellent technical skills, but often misses the business insight.  Someone on the executive team may see the business logic, but will probably fail to grasp technical details which can make or break an IT strategy.

Small nonprofit organizations can (and we might say must) have a CIO.  Consider the following options:

  • Hire a virtual or fractional CIO
  • Outsource the CIO role
  • Form a CIO committee

Now you probably either think we’re crazy or are intrigued by what we’d say next.  Hoping it’s the latter, we’re going to invite you to learn more.