[GUEST POST] Nonprofit Technology: Key Takeaways from Cathexis Partners’ Educational Panel with NXUnite

Mark Becker, Founding Partner of Cathexis Partners, joined NXUnite’s “Beyond Turning It Off and On: Nonprofit IT Best Practices” with nonprofit professionals Tara Bartels of Dataprise, Christopher Brewer of Unit4, and Thomas Anderson of IT4Causes to discuss the advancement of technology and its impact on the nonprofit industry. 

Assessing Your Nonprofit’s Technology 

Technology has become crucial in today’s work environment. The advancement of technology has been rapidly growing for years, but the pandemic caused many industries, including nonprofit organizations, to adapt quickly as remote work became the new normal. For some nonprofits, it might have determined the difference between efficient work and wasted time.

The first step to optimizing your nonprofit’s information technology (IT) environment is a self-assessment. For an organization, it is important to understand the current state of your IT environment before beginning to make changes. 

One great way to keep track of your nonprofit’s IT environment is to document your progress and current activities on a regular basis. 

“Have a document that you update and add feedback to once a year. Document the tools you are using and how they are being used. Document who is using it, and who has access to it,” said Mark Becker, Founding Partner of Cathexis Partners. 

When it comes to document management, it is best to not overwrite anything. As an organization, it is important to see the history of the technology performance and usage over time to understand how to optimize it moving forward. 

Developing a Technology Strategy 

Most nonprofit organizations have a strategic plan which provides them a map of where and how they want to complete their objectives. In today’s time, it is best  for a nonprofit organization to have IT conversations involved with their strategy. 

“Everything that your organization revolves around should answer ‘How do we optimize our ability to deliver to those constituents?’ You need to involve your people,” said Christopher Brewer of Unit4. 

There are several ways to incorporate technology conversations into the mix, such as making it a part of your organization’s annual planning process. For organizations with a budget review cycle, this would be a perfect time to review the technology as well. 

“Understand and be comfortable with the amount of money you put in an IT model, but make sure your organization is capturing your budget correctly,” said Tara Bartels, Team Lead of Technology and Consulting of Dataprise. 

For many businesses, nonprofits, and others, it is likely that the funding may have lived previously in another department. If that is the case, it is important to know your budget clearly before moving forward. 

Choosing a Technology Platform 

Technology is rapidly advancing every day, and choosing which platform or tool to implement may be the question that stops your organization from incorporating new technologies. How can you determine which platform works best? The answer is that there is rarely an “all-in-one” solution when it comes to technology. 

“Do not assume you have to stick with one vendor for everything. Do not assume that just because they are under one name, they are all under one stack. This is not always the case and might lead to poor integration capabilities,” said Mark Becker. 

Instead, focus on the requirements aspect. The largest reason for failure in technology is user adoption. If your organization’s team is unable to use the technology properly, the end result will not be positive. 

“Ask yourself what the business objectives and business processes are. If you can get a demo or free trial, this will be a great way to determine if the software you are seeking will actually meet your organization’s needs,” said Thomas Anderson, Founder and CEO of IT4Causes

Ask yourself these questions the next time your organization is looking for new technology: 

  • What are you trying to accomplish? 
  • What features are a need or want? 
  • What steps are you taking to accomplish this? 

Resources for Nonprofit Technology 

Technology should help your nonprofit organization, not cause more difficulty. Focus on the people within your organization and what they need to deliver the organization’s mission. As your nonprofit continues to invest in new technologies, leverage educational resources like nonprofit podcasts and webinars to help guide your decisions. 

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