Many nonprofit organizations struggle, quite understandably, with technology planning and investment. New computers, sophisticated Websites and database systems can be expensive. Staff members may be resistant to change and to learning new applications.
But, to quote a famous saying from my homeland: "penny wise can be pound foolish". Sound and well-thought out purchases in short term have potential to save significant resources in medium to long term.
So, how should your Board of Directors and / or your Technology Committee approach technology planning and investment?
One technique is to start out with a "blue-sky" session. First, take an inventory of capabilities that you currently have, what's working in your operations, and your limitations and frustrations. Then, without consideration of constraints such as cost or staff resources, list things that you should ideally be able to do.
I like to use "What's One Thing" questions for this process to help you focus and prioritize:
* What's One Thing that you're currently doing that is most valued by your constituents? (i.e. Board, members, funders, staff, general public . . .) * What's One Thing that you currently don't do that your constituents wish that you would? * What's One Thing that would give you maximum competitive advantage? (or fundraising edge, or whatever is your most burning need . . .)
Look at procedures that are currently absorbing staff time and resources. Is there potential to streamline these, or to recreate them in a way that would be more cost-effective?
For example, many organizations produce small informational leaflets, brief white papers, or regularly updated research findings. These are sold for a few dollars, which may not cover true cost of printing, mailing, and check or credit card processing.
An alternative is to provide these as downloadable e-books on your Website. When buyer enters their credit card, they gain instant access to your materials in whatever format you choose - Adobe Acrobat (pdf), Word, html, etc. Once this system is set up, you should have few maintenance or support issues, and you're in business on a 24/7 basis. You can change documents whenever you need to, without leaving stocks of outdated print copies.
Are you using e-mail as effectively as you could? There are two elements to successful implementation of e-mail:
1. Maintaining a comprehensive database of all contacts that your organization has, including appropriate details of your dealings with each one.
This allows you to create personalized, targeted and timely e-mail messages that you can send to selected recipients, such as: