The impact of technology is huge—we can’t function without it. And though it can make our jobs easier, it can also cause serious complications.

This is why it’s essential for non-profit organizations to embrace technology with caution.

Here are a few factors that should be considered when evaluating your current and future technology platforms:

Create bring your own device policies

As society is becoming more and more mobile, non-profits need to accept that many employees will be conducting work on mobile devices. As the cost for issuing mobile devices like smartphones, laptops or tablets can be more than a non-profit can bear, bring your own device can be a solution, but there are risks and benefits to consider.

Benefits:

  • Many times the employee accepts the cost for the devices and service plans
  • As it is the employees device , they are using a device they feel comfortable with and not being forced to use a device they dislike
  • It is the responsibility of the employee to learn how to use the device, saving time and cost on training
  • Employees are more likely to have some of the latest technology and upgrade sooner than the organization

Risks:

  • It is easier to define an acceptable use policy on organization property than personal property
  • security on the Employees devices might not match the organizations standards, putting the organization at risk
  • When Employees leave how do you get the data back and disable any system access to the organization

If organizations do allow their employees to bring their own devices, they need to establish a policy about what can and cannot be done on these devices—what protocol should happen when the Employee leaves the organization and what are the minimum requirements for devices and security settings.  If an organization chooses not to allow it, they need to communicate to the employees that work will only be done on organizational property, not personal.

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The Case for New Technology

Realize that new isn’t always better

Apple may have cornered the market on mp3 players, but it didn’t launch the first one. In fact, not even the second.  This is a good reminder that the newest technology doesn’t always catch on. That is why it is important to carefully consider each technology purchase.

You need to evaluate what the latest technology can do that your existing technology can’t:

  • What are the costs for making the switch (and don’t just consider hardware and software costs, but employee time and training)?
  • How does the new technology interact with your existing network and other systems that it might need to integrate with?
  • Will you see any benefit from the new features, and if so what are they?

Also remember that sometimes purchasing a new technology means that you need to update existing technology. Your network and storage may need an upgrade to handle this new system. Or that the current applications don’t integrate with the new application, so you need to purchase a tool to integrate them.

Evaluate whether your current technology still meets your needs

Just because it met your needs 5 years ago doesn’t mean it is still meeting your needs today.

You should be evaluating your technology regularly and asking yourself these questions:

  • Do we have enough user licenses?
  • Have there been improvements to the applications that we haven’t taken advantage of?
    • If so, why not?
  • Are there additional features that can be purchased and could the be a benefit to us?
  • What other applications does it interface with?
    • How well does it or doesn’t it interface with these applications?
  • Are we getting close to the limits of the system, or can we still continue to grow?
  • Is there something better out there?
  • Are we paying too much for it?
  • Do our users like it and see a benefit to it or do they find it too hard to use?

Technology can be a great tool for the non-profit industry, but it must be carefully evaluated.

Ask yourself: Is it the best tool for my organization? Can we afford it? What are the benefits to making a switch? 

If handled correctly, technology can take your non-profit to the next level and make your job easier. But if it is handled improperly, it can put the organization at risk. Do your due diligence when evaluating your technology. You’ll be glad you did.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jody Johnson, IT Coordinator at Canadian Cancer Society AB/NT Division started working in the non-profit industry more than a decade ago after leaving the retail industry. Since then she has been a fundraiser, volunteer coordinator, website designer, IT trainer and project coordinator.

In her current role she project coordinates for the IT team and trains staff and employees on Raiser’s Edge, Luminate Online and other applications. She also assists in process and policy design taking into account data quality and ease of use for the end user. She is passionate for getting users who have never used the applications gaining knowledge and feeling comfortable to navigate the applications like a pro. She tries to translate the geek speak from the IT department into English for the users.

When not working, Jody provides respite work to special needs children, and creates cakes and other baked items for people to enjoy.

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