2022 Technology Professional of the Year: Molly Dirr
Technology Professional of the Year
Associate Executive Director
As associate executive director at CoachArt, Molly Dirr has become an advocate for nonprofit technology and is celebrating the nationwide rollout of the CoachArt Connect app. Her embrace of nonprofit tech for good has resulted in her recognition as NonProfit PRO’s Technology Professional of the Year.
The app, which Dirr oversees, connects kids impacted with chronic illness with a volunteer offering free in-person or online lessons in a variety of artistic and athletic skills in any city. New features, such as in-app video conferencing and “match me” algorithmic matching, have been added. The app has more than 1,400 student users and 2,400 volunteer users.
“We’re on pace for 27,211 lesson hours on the app between kids and volunteers in 2022 — CoachArt’s key metric to measure the volume of our impact — which would represent a 3.4-times growth in total impact since before the launch of the app in 2018,” her nominator told NonProfit PRO.
Dirr, who has her bachelor’s degree in theater performance from Ohio University and her master’s degree in health services management and policy from The New School, worked in case management for HIV/AIDS programs in New York City before joining Los Angeles-based CoachArt in 2011 as a program director. She started doing case management of CoachArt services when she began working with the organization’s donor database.
“In a story that is surely familiar to lots of nonprofit employees at different organizations, she eventually became the unofficial go-to person for other team members’ more complicated database questions,” her nominator told NonProfit PRO.
By 2017, the nonprofit started developing the app, so it hired a development firm. The goal was to eliminate the seven hours, on average, of staff time required to manually match a volunteer with a child. In a series of interviews with all staff members to discover the requirements for the app, the firm discovered Dirr’s programmatic and technical expertise was invaluable to the app’s development. She was quickly looped into the app planning process, and app oversight was added to her job description.
In 2018, she reduced her operation responsibilities in order to make time for the app’s adoption and stakeholder feedback processes. The next year brought a transition to a new development vendor and the phasing out of an external product manager, which resulted in Dirr’s unofficial title of “de facto PM.” Last year, the nonprofit hired its first official product manager and created a product team that Dirr leads.
“Molly Dirr’s CoachArt story should be a case study for any nonprofit professional who wants to chart a career path to use technology for good,” her nominator told NonProfit PRO. “And the results of her story should be a case study for any nonprofit organization that believes technology can be used to scale impact.”