Smaller non-profit organizations get some encouraging news in NTEN’s newly released 2008 IT Staffing & Spending Report,
produced in partnership with the Nonprofit Times. When it comes to
being on the cutting edge of non-profit technology, size doesn’t matter.
We’re starting to see that what makes leaders succeed is not size
or, necessarily, the blunt force of spending, but thoughtfulness and
strategy. Of course, this seems like common sense, and we even expected
it — but it’s nice to see the data backs it up.
Of the 243 respondents to NTEN’s annual survey on Information
Technology use in non-profits, just 32 percent identified their
organizations as technological leaders — either early adopters of new
technology or fast followers. While small nonprofits were less likely
to consider themselves leaders, but 14% all respondents from small
IT leaders across all size categories tended to spend more on
technology and IT staffing than those organizations that saw themselves
as lagging behind, but training — whether self-initiated or outsourced
— seems to be a bigger factor than budget alone.
What’s also clear is that among leaders, a majority of
57 percent reported that their organizations have a formal plan for
technology, compared to just 32 percent of stragglers. This data
suggests that having a formal plan for technology may be an
organizational best practice, and one of the factors that sets leaders
But long-term planning can become a challenge if, as the data
suggests, most IT staff have a tenure of 1 to 3 years. Continuity,
especially for those whose tasks include putting a public face on the
organization online, blogging or engaging in social media.
Not surprisingly, only the very largest of non-profits are likely to
have a dedicated IT department, while medium-sized organizations tend
to roll it into general administration and 36 percent of small
non-profits have no one with designated responsibility for technology.
Outsourcing offers smaller non-profits a way to take advantage of
emerging technology without the budgetary burden of carrying an IT
specialist on staff, and the NTEN survey found that “back-office,
specialty, and hosting functions are the most likely to be completely
or partially outsourced” :
- Web site hosting (84 percent)
- Web design and development (72 percent)
- Custom programming/software development (70 percent)
- Telephone services (70 percent)
Website redesign was reported as the top project completed in 2008,
which the report’s authors attributed to non-profits’ growing
recognition of the importance of a “strong, branded Web presence” and
use of web sites “for everything from outreach and information
dissemination to online donations.”
Interestingly, although only 40 percent of non-profits reported
having a formal technology plan in place in 2008, 60 percent of
respondents named planning as a top priority for 2009.
If you get nothing else from this report, let it be this: in
terms of your organization’s ability to use technology effectively,
overall size does not matter. Targeted spending, thoughtful staffing,
the appropriate training, and having a formal technology plan are more
important to your organization’s success than its size.
I've barely touched on some of the highlights of NTEN’s 2008 Nonprofit IT Staffing and Spending Report, and highly recommend that you take a couple minutes to read through it yourself to see what other organizations are doing -- and what might work for you. The report may be downloaded free from NTEN.org.