Tim Lockie has always had a knack for technology. After college, he worked for a nongovernmental organization that developed community asset programs in poverty-stricken areas around the world, but soon found his passion with technology consulting.
“But here's the thing that really struck me: I found out that while 90% of nonprofits collect data, only a small fraction of them actually use that data to make decisions,” Lockie said. “That's when I knew I had to pivot again.”
As founder and CEO of The Human Stack, he now focuses on helping nonprofits develop the human side of their tech stacks and believes tech can help create more impact with the right structure.
“Imagine a world where back-end nonprofit staff experience less fear, anger, shame, and trauma around technology,” he said. “To get there, we need to identify which tech problems can’t be solved by tech and need a human solution instead.”
Lockie will present at this year’s inaugural BridgeTECH, a tech-focused event for nonprofit executives, fundraisers and marketers on Aug. 2 at the 18th annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference. In his lunch keynote, “Tired of Bad Data? Focus On Feelings, Not Features,” Lockie will discuss the human stack that is needed alongside your nonprofit’s tech stack.
NonProfit PRO caught up with Lockie to learn more about his work in nonprofit technology and why he’s so passionate about the human component of nonprofit technology.
What impact has technology had on nonprofits that you’ve worked with?
The impact of technology on nonprofits is tremendous, but what truly satisfies me are the personal victories experienced by back-office staff. Witnessing teams transition from manual processes to digital expertise is truly rewarding. Operations staff members who were once frustrated with technology become enthusiastic advocates because their work lives are improved. Automating the 15-step process of matching mentors and mentees enables kids to access much-needed mentors.
My work has had several positive effects on nonprofits, including improved tech execution, enhanced data management, better decision-making and more efficient resource utilization. However, my favorite impact, without a doubt, is helping teams reduce drama by fostering understanding, minimizing shame and creating a sense of belonging through technology.
What is the most common misconception nonprofits have about technology?
The biggest misconception nonprofits have about technology is the belief that acquiring more tech will magically solve their problems. It's frustrating to witness organizations investing significant amounts, ranging from five to seven figures, over an extensive period of 18 months, only to find themselves back where they started.
But here's the truth: Before we go hunting for new tech solutions, we need to learn how to drive the tech we already have. The reality is it's our human capacity that puts limits on technology.
When nonprofits encounter tech challenges, their knee-jerk reaction is to switch to a different system, as if blaming the car for not working when they can't even drive. That's precisely why we developed digital driver’s ed — a solution that helps teams master their existing systems. It's not only cost-effective but also minimizes disruption, acknowledging that humans can only handle so much change. By embracing this approach, nonprofits can save time, money and frustration, while maximizing the potential of their current tech resources.
Why is it so important for nonprofits to embrace technology regardless of staff size, revenue, overhead misconceptions, etc.?
It's crucial for nonprofits to engage in technology because, in today’s organizations, culture is hosted by digital tools, and users who lack digital maturity on those tools will struggle to belong. Technology plays a significant role in shaping organizational culture, with digital tools, like Zoom, Slack or Teams, often hosting a substantial part of that culture.
Organizations that fail to engage with technology aren't merely falling behind; they're leaving crucial aspects of their culture to chance. Belonging is the base code of The Human Stack, and in today's workplace, organizations without a strong digital culture run the risk of disconnecting their staff from the digital elements of their organizational culture. By embracing nonprofit tech, nonprofits can foster a cohesive culture that includes both the physical and digital realms, ensuring that their staff remains connected and engaged in all aspects of their work.
Why are you so passionate about technology and what about BridgeTECH are you most excited about?
I’m passionate about technology, nonprofits and humans. And at this moment, [artificial intelligence] is prompting nonprofits to contemplate the distinction between what's human and what's technology (finally). While we often refer to zeros and ones as the base code of the tech stack, the base code of the human stack is belonging. AI isn't striving to belong; it has just learned to speak human.
Humans relate. They are constantly seeking ways to find their sense of belonging, even when using technology. The increase in interest in AI acts as a catalyst, compelling organizations to consider the immense power and potential of human capacity. And they are starting to recognize that investing in their human stack, rather than solely acquiring new tech for their tech stack, is not just an option but more resource efficient and culturally effective.
It's a shift that acknowledges the significance of humans and their ability to leverage technology effectively. The interplay between humans and technology is becoming a key focus in exploring how nonprofits can harness the power of human capacity in conjunction with technology for an even greater impact.
Join Us at BridgeTECH
Listen to Lockie’s lunch keynote at BridgeTECH on Aug. 2 at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Sign up for BridgeTECH and the Bridge Conference by selecting the "BridgeTECH + Bridge" option.