The Nonprofit Technology Gap – Really? New Report Sheds Light on the Issue

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    I am so enthusiastic to be the new co-host of the Nonprofit Capacity Blog here at the Free Management Library. Greetings! One topic that hasn’t been mentioned much here, that is an interest of mine is the nonprofit technology gap and so I plan to write about that subject. Frequently when nonprofits talk about capacity building they forget to include technology as a critical and important piece of that puzzle.

    Recently the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Studies in association with ten leadership nonprofit organizations completed a study of nonprofits and technology. I’d like to share some key findings.

    Although virtually all nonprofits use technology and it is frequently well integrated into financial, administrative and fundraising functions it lags well behind into integration into program and services.

    I was surprised to see the low level of importance was put on technology for advocacy/lobbying, staff training and recruiting/managing volunteers as I see technology playing a key role in these areas.

    Small nonprofits sometimes have older computers that are not networked, have outdated virus and other important updates, literally no IT support, slow internet connections and no ability to access information and work from home. They didn’t ask but if they have these problems security is also a nightmare. Fortunately, they are in the minority.

    Here’s the good news – many nonprofits – large and small are making great use of technology and it is paying off.

    Some innovative ways a diverse group of nonprofits was using technology in delivering programs and services:

    – Putting client data and assessments into digital format to determine service needs;

    – Enabling the public to access materials such as oral history recordings, archival photographs, and

    genealogical information;

    – Releasing public policy alerts to mobilize members and supporters;

    – Screening benefits and eligibility online for elderly individuals;

    – Providing opportunities for autistic adolescents to communicate using technology;

    – Making exhibits available on-line so that teachers can use them in their classrooms;

    – Employing YouTube videos for therapy with children.

    Organizations reported that over the previous year alone, incorporating

    IT into program and service delivery

    • • Helped create a public presence for their organizations -89%
    • • Increased their capacity to communicate with clients, customers, and patrons – 87%
    • • Resulted in faster service delivery – 83%
    • • Improved the quality of services delivered – 80%
    • • Allowed them to be more client, customer, and patron-friendly in delivering services – 78%
    • • Allowed them to serve more people – 71%
    • • Satisfied funder and/or regulator requirements – 71%
    • • Allowed them to make innovations in their programs – 67%
    • • resulted in cost savings in service delivery – 67%
    • • Allowed them to expand into new program areas – 56%

    Lack of funding is one of the leading reasons given for this lag by some nonprofits. In a future post, I’ll have some ideas for dealing with technology funding more effectively.

    See the whole Johns Hopkins report here.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.