Is your non-profit smarter than a fifth grader?

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled “The School Bus Won’t Wait“. In that post, he talks about an aging professional who ends up relying on an internet acquaintance to help him with technology challenges. As things turn out, his online friend turns out to be 12-years-old.  As always, John’s post has multiple themes and meanings, but the main things I saw pertained to: “Technology.  Adapting to change.  And possibility.”

These themes are at play throughout society, and they are changing the non-profit sector in ways that couldn’t be predicted. Here are just a few examples that I’ve seen, heard of, or read about:

  • ePhilanthropy. Donors continue to contribute more via online channels. According to the most recent Blackbaud Index of Online Giving report, “… online giving increased by 9.8 percent for the 3 months ending March 2012 as compared to the same period in 2011.” Believe it or not, this has been the trend for quite some time.
  • The digital boardroom. Board volunteers are busier at work and the rate of retirement is rising. Time is a premium and some volunteers don’t want to take time out of their day to travel to a physical meeting. Retirees (esp. in colder climates) are splitting their time between their primary residence and a winter residence. Add technology into the mix and now board members are “conference calling” and using “Skype” to conduct board meetings. Documents are being distributed digitally and board members are casting proxy votes via email.
  • The paperless office? Ha! While that appears to have been a 1980s pipe dream, the reality is that there are tons of electronic tools at a non-profit organization’s disposal now. Donor databases replaced index card donor systems, volunteer files, and membership paper systems. One agency who I am very familiar with is upgrading their network server to include a few terabytes of hard drive space because a few gigs just didn’t hold everything. LOL

With change comes challenges. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Here are two tips that I hope you will take to heart as you read John’s blog post and contemplate “Technology.  Adapting to change.  And possibility.”:

  • Education doesn’t end when you receive your certificate or degree. If you want to survive, I encourage you become a “Lifelong Learner”. There are tons of free resource available to you on the internet. Carve one hour out of your schedule every week and visit an online resource like Network for Good’s Learning Center. There are tons of great articles there for you to read. There is even a section of this website where you can access pre-recorded webinars.
  • Plan to stay current. Technology is always evolving. Do you have a written technology plan in place to keep your systems from getting old? If you need help answering this question, then look at the computer sitting on your desk. How old is it? If it is 3-years-old or older, then you probably don’t have a plan in place or you aren’t funding it appropriately.

How is technology changing your non-profit organization? Are you adding fifth graders to your board development prospect lists?  😉  Please scroll down and share one quick example in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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