A new report out this month found that 46% of organisations in the nonprofit sector say that their IT systems don’t work well for them. Slightly less than that say that their systems are not capable of capturing information about client outcomes. The report, published by Techsoup in conjunction with ConnectingUp and Infoxchange, is the result of a survey of 385 nonprofit organisations in Australia and New Zealand. You can read the full report here (The graphic comes from this report. How does this compare to your spending?)
The need to have well-functioning IT systems is becoming more urgent as government, funders and the general public continue to demand more information about the impact organisations are making. Not only are organisations expected to be able to collect data on impact/outcomes they are also expected to presented it in polished, professional-looking packages, infographics etc. All this requries nonprofits to engage with, and make effective use of digital technologies. In many cases small businesses find themselves with very similar needs.
If you’re one of the 46% of organisations whose systems don’t work well, where do you start?
Getting started with developing an IT strategy or overhauling existing systems can often feel very daunting.
It can feel like there are endless options and possibilities when it comes to computers, systems and software/programs. So where do you start?
For me, the starting place is always to get clear about what you need to achieve.
REMEMBER Digital Technology is meant to serve you, not the other way around!
Working through the questions below can help you to decide on your initial priorities and get clearer about where you need to go. It’s often helpful to get the perspective of other members of your team also.
Ask yourself and your team the following 3 questions:
1. What’s working well in terms of Admin and Digital Technology?
- It’s always important to pat yourself on the back and recognise where you’ve made progress and what you’ve already got nailed! If nothing else it builds energy for the next questions.
2. What problems do I need to solve?
- What are my current frustrations in my job?
- What tasks re taking a long time for me to complete?
- What have I been doing when I thought “There must be an easier way to do this!”?
- What are the obstacles for our team working efficiently & effectively together?
- Which of these things might IT/technology be able to solve or make easier?
3. What information do I need to collect/provide to others?
- What information do I need so that I know whether we are being effective as an organisation?
- What information do my funders/contractors want to know about our services, or require that we collect?
- what information do our supporters/clients/customers/the community want to know about the work that we do?
- For each of the things you listed above consider:
- Are we collecting this information?
- How easy is it to collect?
- How easy is it to analyse and understand?
- How easy is it to communicate this information to others?
Once you’ve made your list, go back and highlight the ones that feel like they are the top priority for you. They might be the things that bug you the most or the things that you feel you could solve quickly and easily. These highlighted items are the place to start.
the collection, analysis and communication of information is one of those areas where IT can excel as long as it is set up well. If you are still using paper based systems or basic spreadsheets, chances are that there is an IT solution that will save you time, energy and frustration.
If you love admin, systems and IT:
Go ahead, do your research, figure out what options will work best for you and start putting things in place. There are a number of websites and organisations that will provide you with free online tools to help you refine your plan and decide on your next steps. Have a look at:
- KnowHow NonProfit
- And, of course use your search engine – start searching for what you need and you will get plenty of options to explore, but be specific or you will likely get either side-tracked or overwhelmed
If you don’t love admin, systems and IT, or are simply too busy to put the time in:
It’s time to chat with someone who can help in this area. Of course I would love to have a chat and see if there are ways that we can help.
WHERE ARE YOU AT ON YOUR IT JOURNEY? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS