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ITIf asked whether or not information technology (IT) is important to a nonprofit organization, it seems obvious that the majority would say, “yes.” A study done by the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Listening Post Project last year delved deeper into the subject to find out just how important IT really is and why. The findings were interesting, and they may give you additional insight into how your nonprofit can and should be implementing IT in your day-to-day activities.

Of the 443 organizations that responded to their survey, 88% reported that “technology is integrated into ‘many’ or ‘all’ aspects of their organization.” The top reasons for using information technology in nonprofits:

  • Accounting/Finance – 98%
  • External communications – 98%
  • Tracking of clients/customers/patrons – 94%
  • Internal communications – 94%
  • Marketing and publicity – 93%
  • Office administration – 93%
  • Fundraising/Donor management – 91%
  • Program/Service delivery – 91%
  • Networking/Coalition building with other organizations – 83%
Other common uses for information technology included research and evaluation, public education or advocacy/lobbying, staff training, attracting and managing volunteers, and e-commerce.

Of those that said they use IT for program service and delivery, uses included tracing clients/customers/patrons in a database, communicating with clients/customers/patrons, developing programs and services, providing clients/customers/patrons with educational tools online, researching and synthesizing information for clients/customer/patrons, and providing virtual experiences (tours, exhibits, etc.)

It stands to reason that with so many nonprofits using IT, it must be beneficial. Again, the survey’s findings backed this up, with the majority of organizations reporting they were better able to communication with clients, to deliver services faster and with better quality. They also find they can reach more clients and that they were able to expand into new program areas.

The study aimed to take a look at the perceived “Nonprofit Technology Gap” to determine if nonprofits are indeed lagging behind the corporate world when it comes to IT. There did seem to be problems, as many organizations reported using old, outdated equipment and software. Those with the largest gap were “small, young, rural-focused and theater groups.” Internet speed also showed a similar trend, with the smaller, younger, rural-focused, and theater groups less likely to use high-speed or broadband Internet connections. Lack of money was the most often cited reason for not expanding IT (92% of organizations).

The findings generally showed, however, that nonprofits are not lagging nearly as much as is often assumed, with the exception of those mentioned above. It seems that nonprofit organizations are very much benefiting from IT, although there certainly are challenges being faced.

For a more in-depth look at the findings of the Johns Hopkins Listening Post Project: The Nonprofit Technology Gap – Myth or Reality? you can see the results online.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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