Focus On: Software: Are You Plugged In?
Jennifer Keller Jackson, senior consultant at Community IT Innovators, says her company helps nonprofits “navigate through a very crowded marketplace” to make informed choices about technology. The main factors to consider while helping with those choices are the size, budget and expectations of a nonprofit.
“Maybe Microsoft Excel isn’t working for them anymore,” Jackson explains. “Maybe they need special software that will track donors, grantees and so on. We’re very familiar with the fundraising software packages out there, and we also do Web development.”
CITI, which has an active client base of 250 nonprofits, most in the Washington, D.C., area, also helps companies deal with the human side of technological change.
“Once you’ve got this great new tool or this new system, your worries have only just begun,” Jackson says. “You have to make sure people are trained to use it, and that they aren’t scared or annoyed by it.”
Jackson notes that new technology is being sought largely because funders of nonprofits are demanding greater accountability and outcome measurement. On the other hand, she says, executives at nonprofits don’t want technology to intimidate the people who have to use it. The goal is to make it “as painless and invisible as possible” so that development professionals can devote their energies to marketing, communications and other strategic activities.
Ahlquist has a slightly different take. He stresses that the world of nonprofits has become highly competitive and that senior executives at nonprofits must set an example for employees by embracing not only donor-management software but also new technology solutions in general.
For instance, he says, a smart executive at a visiting nurses association will realize that improved efficiency depends on staffers making the transition from filing paper reports to filing reports on laptop computers.
Or maybe the new tool is something as obvious as an HTML-based e-mail instead of a printed newsletter to publicize a children’s museum opening. The tech-savvy executive will understand that an online newsletter that includes pictures of kids playing in the museum and other attractive features can save money for the museum and enhance its image.