There's No Such Thing As a Technology Funder

We get asked all the time, "My organization wants to do this really important/ cool/ necessary technology project -- where can I find a technology funder to give me a grant for it?"

Unfortunately, there's no such beast. I'm not aware of any funder that looks to fund technology projects specifically. (This probably saddens us as much, or more, than it does  you, as pretty much every project we're trying to fund is a technology project).

Instead of looking for the mythical technology funder, look to those who support your cause, and talk to them about how the project will help you better fulfill your mission. For instance, consider:

  • Can you make the case to a current funder that the technology will help you do the things they already care about, either better or more effectively?
  • Do you have major donors who would consider funding a technology project? It's a nice, tangible thing to support, especially for donors out of the business world who generally understand just how important technology is.
  • Can you include it as a piece of a bigger proposal -- for instance, that your website redesign is part of a new advocacy project, as it will help you to reach out?
  • Can you interest local banks or corporate consulting firms? Local firms like to support local nonprofits, so they might be a source for small grants or volunteer experts.

Be creative and be persistant. Funding for technology isn't a lost cause, but seaching for an ideal "technology funder" is likely to lead you down the wrong path. 



Your assessment is spot on

Laura: Your assessment is spot on. As a development consultant and grant writer, I am frequently asked the same question with variations: Where can I find a capacity building funder? Where can I find a funder for evaluations?  

My response is the same. Engage donors/funders committed to your *cause* and then convince them to provide general unrestricted operating support. Or if they are not comfortable with unrestricted support, then make the case for what you need to e effective. They will likely get behind your ideas if you show that you have a good plan for their investments that will yield greater impact to your cause. 

The sad truth = more likely to find unicorns than funders.

This is a question that comes up for us at MAP quite often. Fortunately for us we have been able to secure some funding from local foundations for tech work, but we are a rare exception. But for those people who don't qualify, we recommend they be in touch with existing funders, as you do in the post above.

One of the best ways you can make a strong case to existing funders is to have a technology plan for your organization that serves as a road map for where you guys are currently technologically to where you want to be. Ber Yang, technology circuit rider here at MAP, recently did a great presentation with a lot of helpful resources on how to put together a technology plan yourself.

The sample budget, action plan and inventory are really handy. With that information, you can show your funder that you've been truly thoughtful about the process, and have aligned your mission with your technology needs -- not just a vague desire to update or "shiny object syndrome". Here's the link for anyone interested:

The reason why...

....there aren't technology funders is primarily because organizations haven't done enough to show how the technology provides social impact to the mission.  It's true that practically no nonprofit organization today could operate its mission without technology, but when we purchase it we are stuck in the old ROI (return on investment) outlook.  Return on Mission takes the ROI of a purchase and measures it against the potential social impact of that investment.  By doing so it can be shown to funders, board members, and others how something that seems sterile in business concept is actually an emotionally connected piece of the core mission delivery.  With that connection the funders will follow.