While non-profit organizations are slow to invest money in technology, there are a considerable number of long-term benefits that make the investment worthwhile.
There are four areas of technology that need to be considered when making technology plans.
It is likely that most every non-profit organization has a computer that is currently used for word processing and basic data storage. However, investments in hardware items like high-speed modems, scanners, zip drives, and laser printers improve the efficiency of the organization and reduce outsourcing costs.
As mentioned before, most non-profit organizations currently have some basic software on their computers that allows them to do crude word processing and simple databases. Strategic software investments can significantly decrease the amount of outsourcing the organization must do and increase the efficiency of internal affairs.
Purchasing additional software such as databases, accounting programs (Peachtree), and desktop publishing programs (Adobe Pagemaker), saves both time and money.
A large problem that many non-profit organizations encounter is finding a staff to utilize the technology they acquire. A NPO does not typically have room in its budget to pay a technology person and it can not easily add the responsibility to other staff members who are already overworked and underpaid.
Still, this is the most important element of the technology planning process.
Convincing funders to invest in personnel will be challenging, but it is not impossible. When the technology team presents the realistic results that investing in technology will achieve, the money will come.
Investors must keep in mind that any investment in software or hardware is jeopordized in terms of implementation and future maintenance without a technology person.
Equally important as having a technology person to implement programs in the organization is developing a training program to ensure that the technology plan is carried out. This is another area that non-profit organizations struggle with since supplementary training that is not directly related to meeting the mission is difficult to justify.
High turnover in the non-profit sector attributed to lower salaries puts NPOs at risk of spending resources to train someone who might not be around long enough to benefit the organization. However, any investment in the other 3 areas mentioned here without training is a waste of time and money.
Documenting a process correctly through written training will safeguard the organization from wasting resources by making it easier for another person to pick up the task.