One of my favorite NPTech people, David Krumlauf, has been making the circuit and speaking with foundations to convince them of the importance of funding technology for nonprofits. The days of "we only fund programs" and "we don't fund overhead" is just so backwards thinking. It is like saying we want to fund you, but it isn't our concern how effective, efficient or if you can get the tools to succeed.
But with that being said, I have heard too many nonprofits talk about and almost hide behind the excuse of "we don't have the budget for technology."
One of the things that I respect about my new job is how they get every penny out of the technology they have. They are able to make magic happen with spreadsheets, a custom SQL database built over time, low cost software, and 1 tech person (until I started).
When someone talks about their low tech budgets the questions I ask are:
- Are you using your current technology to the full capacity?
- There are often features, modules, add-ons, plugins, short cuts and other parts of our tools that we just never took the time to explore, implement or use
- Often we don't even know where our inefficiencies are, are we working smart?
- Technology does cost money and you have to make the budget for mission impact technology
- Look for cost savings on non-mission impact technology
- Fighting fires costs more than preventing them
But even with those questions it is a lost point often because of a lack of time be proactive and\or a lack of staff expertise in business process. In those cases it is best to look for outside support, turn to your board, lean on vendors, look for pro-bono help and start your planning somewhere!
Nonprofits often work on shoestring budgets but make huge impact on real issues. Nonprofits get creative with their solutions. Nonprofits change the world every day, often with very little funds. They find a way to make it happen. I would love to see some of that effort, creativity and problem solving put toward their core technology (and no I don't mean social media, web or the surface tech). The trains need to run on time.