I would like to cover some technology topics in this blog as it relates to charities and missions. Before an organization of any size can leverage technology successfully I believe first and foremost in today’s economy an organization has to promote a culture of innovation and change. The traditional model of growth, especially in the not-for-profit world, addresses growing complexities of operations and increasing amount of activity by adding labor dollars to the budget and beginning the burdensome process of hiring and retaining employees. Now, employees are great, and most of us are in the “people helping” business so it requires dedicated staff to minister to the needs of your population. The issues arise when we take these people and have them spend much of their time doing task that support processes that have not been looked at carefully with an eye for technology and innovation.
The first step to change is identifying what is happening now. When you ask for a report from one of your programs, how does it get produced? Do your case workers and counselors have to gather post-it notes , interpret a volunteers handwriting, and work all night to make something look pretty and hopefully close to accurate? Or do they click a button and send you a link to a report that’s easily read and customizable? Its important to identify how things get done.
It would be worth it, if you haven't done it in a while, to set aside 2011 to document what is going on. Start with the core departments like finance, development and work your way to the maintenance department. Once things are identified the proverbial low hanging fruit will stand out and you can make simple changes that have a high impact. Eventually you will want someone, be it a volunteer, a group of grad students that are working on a project or a hired professional to help you identify the innovative changes you need to make that will help you spend your precious payroll dollars wisely.
Here are some helpful links
Technology for non-profits www.techsoup.org
Documenting your processes http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/library/ar-procdoc/