Last week, NTEN hosted another successful Nonprofit Technology Conference. During the event, there were a variety of informative breakout sessions identifying trends and key themes throughout the Nonprofit industry. We compiled our top three insightful takeaways and topics from the conference that you are bound to hear a lot more about in the year ahead so that you don’t miss a beat.
1) The Future of Nonprofits
Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies are certainly top of mind when discussing the future of nonprofits. The Future of Work: Looking Through Nonprofit Tech Lenses session looked at some of the implications of incorporating these new technologies into the nonprofit sector.
While artificial intelligence is expected to aid in hiring processes and fundraising, there are growing concerns regarding security and ethics in the industry. With sensitive data, such as donor information, being held online, organizations are beginning to focus on increasing their security systems to ensure the safety of their donors and reduce the potential increased risk of money laundering and fraud.
It will be interesting to see the influence this has on the way nonprofit organizations internally run their technology systems and other impacts these trends may have on the industry.
2) The Starvation Cycle
Many organizations have fallen into the Nonprofit Starvation Cycle, which was explored in the Talking Tech to Your Board session hosted by a panel of Nonprofit leaders. The cycle begins with funders’ unrealistic expectations of the cost that goes into running a nonprofit organization. In an attempt to stay under budget, the organization cuts the investment needed of critical systems and overhead. Because funders only see that the nonprofit is making budget, the organization continues to underspend to satisfy the funders unrealistic expectations, thus “starving” the organization.
To break this cycle, organization leadership needs to identify and be candid with funders about the true costs to running their organization and invest in critical systems and infrastructure.
For more information, explore this article by the Stanford Social Innovation Review: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_nonprofit_starvation_cycle#
3) Laws of Successful IT Strategy
In the session titled The Five Laws of Successful IT Strategy and Learning, speaker Nathaniel Payne of Better Business Technology discussed a simple outline to help nonprofits create a well-executed IT strategy.
First, the organization needs to share the belief that the IT strategy enables their success and isn’t just a line item of the organization. Payne suggests that if you need to get your leadership on board with creating a strategy, research similar organizations that have had success with their own strategies and present as a case study. When sharing your idea to leadership, keep it simple and discuss how it will help the organization rather than getting into the technical details.
Next, he mentions the importance of the IT vision. This should align with the organizations mission and helps to measure the success of the IT strategy. Most organizations start in the planning phase, however this should be the 3rd step. This is the “playbook” of what to do to reach the vision, and involves looking at platforms and vendors.
Then comes time to execute changes. Implement new systems and discuss why these changes need to happen at all levels of the organization. The strategy will be most successful with everyone on board. Finally, the last law is mindfulness. Change is constant and it is important to understand that you will very likely need to make small changes along the way in order to reach your overarching goal.
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