Non-Profit Technology Report: Size Doesn't Matter

Lori Halley 17 June 2009 2 comments

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 organizations did.

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 apart.

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.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 17 June 2009 at 12:44 AM

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Comments

  • Marion Conway said:

    Tuesday, 16 June 2009 at 6:04 PM

    Rebecca,

    Thanks for this concise summary.

    Marion

  • Sue Anne said:

    Tuesday, 16 June 2009 at 10:56 PM

    Yes, thanks for the summary. :)

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