As you’ve probably heard by now, Idealware is celebrating its 10th birthday this month. Milestones like this lead to a lot of reflection, and one question we’ve been asking ourselves a lot lately is: “What will nonprofits need to know over the next decade?” We asked our board members and expert trainers what they thought nonprofits of the future needed to know. Here’s what they said.
If you learn best by doing, make sure someone talented is nearby when you need to “do.”
Less is more when gathering participant impact data. Measure data on the impact you have committed to influence—the impact you actually influence—not data on everything you might possibly influence. If you’re not sure, you’re probably not yet committed to it.
You work in the nonprofit sector because of your commitment to large-scale social change. Whenever you have the chance to collaborate outside of your department, your organization, or your programmatic silo—do it. It serves the larger purpose, and guess what, it will help you raise funds and friends too!
To keep pace and help you properly fund technology in support of your mission, it’s critical to include requests for some technology funding (equipment, support, training, etc.) in every grant proposal! Even if existing funders don’t explicitly fund technology, they already believe in your organization and your cause—show them how they can make the most of their existing investment in you by helping you use technology effectively.
Rose de Fremery
I’ve learned that acknowledging and factoring in change is important for ensuring technology project success. If people have had negative experiences with change, or an organization is currently experiencing a great deal of change on a macro level, you have to work that much harder to get everyone to the right comfort level in adopting new technology. You absolutely have to be sensitive to that dynamic and respectful of it as well.
Build your community and the relationships that feed it before you need them. Everyone focuses on how to push out content, but it’s more important to listen to your audience, talk to them, find out what they really need. Then, when you need help promoting your grassroots campaign, your community will care—they will share it and spread the word. But it takes time to build those relationships BEFORE you make the ask.
1) Focus on some early, small wins. When people find that it makes them more successful in their jobs, resistance to new technology starts to fall away. 2) It starts at the top. People look for signals from leadership about whether or not to prioritize technology in their day-to-day work.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Innovation requires a lot of trial and error and things rarely work the way you think they will. Just jump in and try something new and see what happens. You may be surprised at the results, and you will always learn something.
The dirty secret about us “experts” is that we don’t really know what we’re doing. What makes the people who succeed at difficult endeavors different is not that they know more than other people. It’s that they try stuff. Try, learn, try again. Never, for a moment, think you actually are an expert. There’s always more to learn.
If people aren’t using the technology, it’s not a success. Adoption is key. Technology is change and change is scary, so balance your strong championing of the new system with empathy and support.
Don’t invest in a Cadillac when a Ford will get you there. The ride may not be as plush, but you’ll get better gas mileage.