Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 11:19am
 

posted by
Kathy Renfro
Spring 2016 Graduate Student,
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

Today’s world is an IT world, and nonprofits that do not recognize and accept the inevitability of this fact may find themselves fading into the background of the public’s consciousness. IT provides nonprofits with a host of tools for building capacity, thereby exponentially increasing the potential for mission fulfillment. However, Gordon (1998) notes the existence of a wide gap between available IT capabilities and nonprofits’ current usage, and he suggests that bridging that gap will improve capacity building. For example, of 165 nonprofits examined in October 2015, only 58% provided links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts from their websites and vice versa (Koenig). Even when nonprofits have websites and social media site (SMS) accounts, they demonstrate a disturbing propensity for failing to respond to direct questions from the public. The life-blood of nonprofits flows through the veins of an interested community, which makes monitoring SMS and responding to posts an essential element of nonprofits’ effective capacity building.

The causal relationship between IT usage and capacity building correlates to the definition of capacity building – “the ability of nonprofit organizations to fulfill their missions in an effective manner” DeVita and Fleming (2001). This requirement for efficacy demands that nonprofits begin thinking of the adoption of IT as a strategic investment rather than an operational expense. Only when the strategic planning process fixes its determined gaze on the capabilities of IT will the practical and fully-accepted utilization of IT become a reality within nonprofits.

Cost concerns are irrelevant in a world with an astounding array of readily available, inexpensive or free IT software programs. Organizational ambivalence remains the primary stumbling block preventing nonprofits from fully embracing IT capabilities.

Some examples of free or low-cost software programs, which enable nonprofits to fulfill their missions in an effective manner, include: 

  • Wufoo.com– focuses on the importance of branding and logos, and guides nonprofits through the process of easily dragging and dropping their brand or logo into web forms, mailing lists, registrations, and even customizing a PayPal portal. 
  • Animoto.com– expands nonprofits’ reach by providing the ability to turn their photos and video clips into YouTube videos with overlaid music. Nonprofits can build their brand by blanketing the most viewed SMS.
  • Piktochart.com–assists nonprofits in designing and customizing appealing infographics which reveal the nonprofit’s story in a compelling unique format, and which differentiate it from other nonprofits. 
  • Storify.com– another story-telling site that assists nonprofits in searching multiple SMS by subjects or themes that match the nonprofit’s mission and then organizing the results into personalized stories to embed in the nonprofit’s webpage, blogs, or SMS pages.
  • TechSoup.org- provides heavily discounted IT hardware and products to nonprofits.
  • Sparked.com– an online portal staffed by tech volunteers which may represent the most helpful technological application for smaller nonprofits.  These microvolunteers offer several hours each week assisting nonprofits with the creation of websites and web-based projects, and more importantly, this service is free. 

If your nonprofit organization has not visualized IT capability as a catapult boosting it toward higher levels of capacity building, some other nonprofit will. The competition for scarce resources requires exigent movement toward a fully-mobilized, technology-oriented organizational structure. IT-competent nonprofits reveal themselves as forward-thinking and foundationally strong, and they convey subliminal promises of organizational power to stakeholders, donors, and the public.

IT is here to stay; in fact, today’s technology will probably be obsolete in the very near future. Nonprofits must bridge the gap between themselves and the viewing public because nonprofits cannot successfully fulfill their mission and build capacity without employing techniques that draw the public into their cause. Only nonprofits that are deliberate and committed to remaining on the forefront of IT innovations will have the opportunity to experience rich capacity building and the prospect of holistically cultivating their impact on the world.

 

Sources: 

Devita, C., Fleming, C., (2001). Capacity Building in Nonprofits. A Report Delivered to the Urban Institute. Retrieved from: 

http://research.urban.org/UploadedPDF/building_capacity.PDF?q=capacity#page=10.

Gordon, L., (1998). Tech Wise: Nonprofits Join the Revolution. Nonprofit World 16(5), 37-41. Retrieved from:https://www.snpo.org/publications/sendpdf.php?id=944.

Koenig, R., (2015). Nonprofits Come Up Short With Donors on Social Media, Study Says. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved from:https://philanthropy.com/article/Nonprofits-   Come-Up-Short-With/234017.

 

Kathy is a graduate of ASU’s Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program (Spring 2016). She has been accepted into the Fall 2016 PhD program in the School of Community Resources and Development. Kathy is a retired concert pianist.

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