It is undeniable that technological advancements in the past couple decades have led to major boosts in productivity. Any of you involved in the nonprofit space over that period have seen newsletters go from massive literal cut, paste, and copy jobs, to word processing, and now email. How can you ensure you fund your strategy and not just on tools.
The benefits are everywhere and one can easily be overwhelmed by the options and opportunities to improve your programs and systems. Yet not all of these tools were created equal, and the impact they’ll bring your nonprofit will vary drastically.
So how should you go about choosing which technology to invest your time, attention, training, and limited resources? Allow us to provide some guidance on transitioning from tools to strategy.
From Problems to Outcomes
Stop looking at technology as a problem solver (though it can be a great one). Instead look at the mission your organization has and the outcomes you are working towards. There are tools that will assist you as your work towards these outcomes. This is the first step to fund your strategy and not just tools.
Instead of trying to fix a wifi problem, think of the outcome you need to work towards. If you need to ensure hundreds of people in a room can access the online learning tools, it helps you focus on every solution that will work. Fixing your existing wifi may not actually fix the problem. In this example you might get the wifi working, but not be able to support the number of devices, or the type of work they are doing online.
From All-Purpose to Focused
There are all-purpose technology tools you need – but you probably already have them. They are your computer, smartphone, an email address, and that swiss army knife in your desk drawer. You can change the world with them (heck, I founded Fresh Vine with only that). But it’s time to get focused if we are going to fund your strategy.
You need to let yourself choose focused solutions. There may be ways that other programs or people in your nonprofit can share a tool, but finding the right tool that is focused will be better for you. Have you ever noticed how simple twitter is to use? That’s because it’s focused! The more focused the tool, the easier it will be to use. Stay focused and the tools become more useful and powerful to help you.
From Fixes to Measurable
Every piece of technology and tool that you implement (free or otherwise) has a cost. There is time, attention, training, and money put into these and we should expect some kind of measurable outcome. By thinking of our efforts in terms of strategy, it gives us an easy framework to measure against.
Lets say we start using a tool like Hootsuite to help us better engage with social media. The goal in using it would be seeing people become more engaged and excited about our mission and programs. One would expect that the work of answering questions, thanking volunteers, posting pictures from events, and giving short reminders of upcoming dates/times to do something. If it does, then we can go on using the new tool. However, if no-one in your community seems to care or notice, then maybe it isn’t the right tool, or right time for the tool.
Lets get to Outcomes, Focused, and Measurable
This fund your strategy conversation is more than simple semantics and language games. It is a different way of thinking about the choices we make every day in regards to the technology we put our efforts and energy behind. If it isn’t helping us in our strategic mission to change our part of the world, it is taking up to much time/attention/money. If it’s helping, then we’re moving in the right direction.