The Risks of Outdated Technology for Nonprofits
In 2013 Dan Pallotta changed the way we talk about nonprofit management. Pallotta gave a TED talk and said that too many nonprofits are getting rewarded for how little they spend, not what they get done. And, he said, in order to have impact, nonprofits need to spend money on marketing and infrastructure, similar to corporate America.
His talk resonated with many and started a national conversation about how we evaluate nonprofits. And while some are taking notice, it is difficult to challenge a core tenet of nonprofit DNA: spend as little money as possible on overhead.
However, spending as little as possible on infrastructure and overhead, while understandable, can carry risks; particularly when it comes to information technology. Just four of the risks of outdated or cobbled together information technology are:
It seems we can’t go a week or two without hearing stories about corporations, credit card companies, stores, etc. getting hacked for confidential client information. While I can’t recall reading a similar story about a nonprofit, it could happen; especially for nonprofits that maintain donor credit card information. Keeping donor credit card information secure is vital when it comes to maintaining individual support.
2. Loss of Information:
Outdated hardware and software can more frequently result in computer or systems crashes. And computer or systems crashes can result in the loss of critical information if proper safeguards are not taken. If money isn’t available to make upgrades, at a minimum, cloud storage solutions should be considered.
3. Loss of Productivity:
Not only do hardware and software crashes result in loss of information, they also result in loss of employee productivity. The longer it takes to get the team back online, the greater the loss. Furthermore, outdated technology results in lost productivity: systems move slower and organizations cannot take advantage of software that provides integrated, collaborative solutions.
4. Loss of Opportunity:
Our world increasingly relies on information technology to communicate in our personal and professional lives. And if nonprofits don’t have the tools to be a part of the conversation, there is a loss of opportunity.
None of this information is new. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before. The trick for the nonprofit is: how to pay for IT upgrades, especially if donor money is earmarked for programs. The best solution might be to apply for a corporate or foundation grant specifically for information technology upgrades. We live in an area with a high concentration of tech companies: if any corporations or foundations understand the need for technology investments, it would be those that are based in the Bay Area.