Why you should care
Because technology is friend, not foe.
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“At smaller nonprofits, the person who set up the office Wi-Fi can often become the IT director,” notes Ed Boden, Global Lead for Technology for Social Good Programs at JPMorgan Chase. In other words, many nonprofits are unable to make technology a priority — especially when they’re first getting started. According to NetChange’s Digital Teams in 2018 report:
Only 11 percent of nonprofit staffers view their organizations’ approach to digital as “highly effective.”
Boden, for one, is hoping to change that by helping nonprofits leverage the latest technology to better enable their missions. He spearheads Force for Good, a program in which JPMorgan Chase engineers volunteer a few hours a week, over the course of eight months, to help nonprofits build out their technological capabilities. This can lead to a variety of solutions, including app development, website improvements and data analytics.
“Technology can be a great enabler to help nonprofits and social organizations become more efficient, reach more volunteers and deliver their services to more people,” says Boden. And while the individual needs of nonprofits vary, chances are technology can help them make a bigger impact in the communities and people they serve.
Below are three simple ways nonprofits can benefit from incorporating technology into their everyday processes:
Nonprofits are just as much at risk for data breaches as big for-profit companies, so it’s vital they have effective security measures in place.
“Many people believe nonprofits are not targets because they’re smaller,” says Patrick Callihan, Executive Director of Tech Impact, a nonprofit that creates technology for communities and nonprofits. “But we see the exact opposite. Sometimes criminals view smaller organizations as more vulnerable and easier to infiltrate.” Callihan recommends nonprofits secure their data — especially donor information and other sensitive material — with a secure cloud computing platform, such as 1&1 or OVH.
Make Data King
Nonprofits can use data in many ways — from targeting fundraising efforts to streamlining operations. But an issue Boden has noticed is that some nonprofits have been slow to transfer their data into a digital format.
“Data is often something that’s a huge challenge for social organizations, which start off small and paper-based,” he says. And while many have found ways to centralize their data, according to a survey by Every Action, more than half of nonprofits aren’t fully aware of the ways data can improve their work.
One way data can help nonprofits is with fundraising. Amnesty International, for example, uses segmentation and predictive modeling to identify fundraising targets.
Force for Good volunteers have found that nonprofits often want something to improve operational efficiency, which indirectly helps them make a bigger impact in the communities they serve.
Boden reinforces the importance of an organization being able to sustain any solution for the long term. He explains that this can often be the biggest factor when considering whether to build something new or leverage an off-the-shelf software as a service solution, which doesn’t require a significant amount of technical skill to support.
Between coordinating fundraising, volunteers and board members, nonprofits have a lot to manage. And like most companies, they have an obligation to service their staff as well as their clients — the difference is that they are often dealing with a particular social cause. Technology can take some of the pressure off, keeping sensitive information safe and making it easier for nonprofits to make the greatest impact and continue to advocate for their specific missions.