Information technology has revolutionized the global society, with a significant increase in productivity and efficiency. It offers benefits such as automation of processes, streamlining of work and better organization of information. However, the non-profit sector seems to be rather slow in catching up to IT, in comparison with other sectors.
Due to both internal and external pressure for directing maximum funding to their program work, non-profit associations generally tend to underinvest in technology. This decision to repeatedly under budget for technology and staff training prevents non-profit associations from reaching their full potential.
A survey by Fairfield County Community Foundation found that 22% of non-profit associations have no budget for information technology. The few non-profit associations who have appropriate software do not have a proper budget for training staff on how to make the most of the software. Many such associations and societies miss out on the efficiency of IT systems mostly because of this lack of funding for technology.
The Need to Adopt Technology
For every new hire, some of the basic technological skills include proficiency in Microsoft Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Although these are not considered as necessary skills in most non-profit associations, it is obvious that proficiency in these will contribute greatly to more effective operations. As non-profit associations struggle to deal with the world’s increasing demands along with a lack of proper funding, applying technology for improved efficiency seems to be the perfect solution.
Across the globe, non-profit organizations have embraced technology for better management, organization, streamlining, communication, measurement, and analysis. Information technology offers solutions in various areas including service, administration, and marketing issues.
Furthermore, relying on technology for administrative tasks means associations have the opportunity to reallocate staff resources towards the more immediate task of direct services instead.
Advantages of Technology
Non-profit associations can benefit from technology in many ways. Using computers and mobile phones, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, help in gathering and circulating knowledge and information quite effectively.
If these instruments are employed and integrated well, non-profit associations stand to benefit a lot while serving both themselves and their clients better.
Technology assists associations by helping them create a greater social impact as well as taking forward their social mission as a whole. For effective advancement and management of a non-profit association, technology plays a crucial role in advertising its services, better communicating its mission, and recruiting volunteers.
Some of the areas where non-profit organizations can make use of computers, internet and other networking technology include
- Volunteer management and support
- Donor management
- Client tracking and support
- Project management
- Human resources management
- Financial accounting
- Program evaluation
Adopting the latest digital and information technologies leads to cost reductions and drastic improvements in efficiency as well. They can use IT tools to support daily operations, fundraising, community engagement, and much more. Furthermore, they can also leverage technology to deliver services faster to a larger number of people within the community.
However, as mentioned earlier, limited budgets lead to non-profit organizations becoming unable to upgrade their hardware or software or provide the necessary training for their staff. Thus, more often than not, non-profit organizations fall on the wrong side of the digital divide. This growing performance gap limits their organizational mission and fundraising potential significantly.
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Things to Focus on in Technology
- Personalization of volunteer requirements
With the aid of the internet, non-profit associations now have the opportunity to personalize stories like never before. They can bring the stories of their beneficiaries to life and make it easy for others to connect with them through images, videos, voices, sounds and music. This helps people to relate better with the beneficiaries of the association, and volunteer for their cause.
- Social networking sites
Websites, blogs and social media are cost-effective tools to stay connected with the volunteers and community members of an association. Social media is a great place to build an online community and to engage more people in the cause — which ultimately leads to not only an increase in volunteers and donations but to an overall increase in public awareness as well.
- Use of online banking services
With the world moving to online banking, it is time non-profit associations make the shift as well. Adding a ‘donate’ option on the website and allowing donations using major credit cards and electronic transfers are imperative for the sustenance of such associations.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Regular review of technological requirements and making the necessary changes to them is very important. However, as most non-profit associations operate on a limited budget, skipping one or two upgrade cycles — especially if they only use technology for basic processes such as word-processing, spreadsheet and Internet — is also recommended.
Furthermore, training the staff and volunteers in the proper use of the available technology assets must not be overlooked. Online monitoring of media coverage about the organization is also of utmost importance. If the media coverage seems inaccurate or unfair, news editors and webmasters are to be immediately contacted.
Over the years, it has become clear that non-profit associations become significantly more effective when their digital team plays a major role in their management and campaigns. Ultimately, what it comes down to is not just technology, but the strategic use of it. The challenge is to use the available technology the right way — for better management and bookkeeping — as well as appreciating the volunteer efforts and creating more impact.
If done effectively, technology adoption does not merely amount to gadget chasing. On the contrary, it is the strategically selected digital tools that empower its members to deliver the organization’s mission effectively. To improve operational efficiency, and increase mission impact, you need to take a look at using the right tech solutions.
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