“Technology should work for the organization, not the organization for the technology.” Or “Business decisions should drive technology decisions.”
No matter how it is specifically expressed, this truth has been core to Build’s belief system since our founding in 2015. Too many times in our careers, we had seen nonprofit leaders attempt to implement a new software system in the hopes that the technology itself would drive transformation at their organizations.
This rarely resulted in long-term success. So, we founded Build to help nonprofits transform themselves with the support of technology—using technology as a facilitator or accelerator or organizational change.
While all of the above is true—and profoundly so—I believe nonprofits go too far in the direction of technology playing a purely supportive role in the organization when they do not have a strategic voice to represent technology and data in their organization’s strategic planning and ongoing conversations.
Technology is a part of almost everything we do. From the time we get up in the morning until when we go to bed at night, most people living in the United States (and similarly privileged countries) lead technology-enabled lives—at home, at work, and within our communities.
As such, our expectations for how we engage with the world, and what is possible in how we engage with the world, is informed by our knowledge of and facility with technology—and through that technology, with data. Your nonprofit technology strategy needs to reflect this reality.
This has many possible implications for nonprofit organizations at an executive level, of which I will mention only two. Nonprofits with awareness of available technology and its use:
- Develop and maintain a better sense of what is possible within their mission—and how to direct their organizational strategic plans, programs, and operations. This can include how the organization might extend its impact by developing and delivering services and products in ways that it previously did not think was possible, or of which it may have been previously unaware.
- Are more familiar with constituent expectations regarding how they should be able to use technology to engage with the organization and its mission. This can include how the organization can meet those expectations to develop deeper engagement with constituents of all sorts (funders, donors, volunteers, staff, program beneficiaries, clients, etc.), particularly within competitive environments.
None of this means that the technology voice should be the tail that wags the dog when it comes to establishing your nonprofit technology strategy and plans.
But given that technology and data are so essential to how we do… almost everything… perhaps it would be best to have a strategic voice integrated into those important conversations, to represent how technology can help support and expand an organization’s mission?