Building a Financially Sustainable Roadmap for Your Technology Innovation

It’s no secret that investing in new technology is the key to doing better work more efficiently. What’s elusive is getting the money to do it. Funders often view technology as an overhead cost – a luxury instead of a necessity. That, right there, is the roadblock to technology innovation. To chart the path forward, Provisio gathered a panel of three nonprofit leaders for a discussion called “Building a Financially Sustainable Roadmap for Your Technology Innovation.” Here’s their expert advice.

Put Simply

Technology is integral to service delivery. 

Driving Team Alignment

Your leadership team and board must all be on the same page about the need for technology innovation. The road can be bumpy, and you need colleagues willing to travel the distance with you. 

Flexibility with Grant Terms

Grant terms are often black and white, so you often must operate in the gray to secure funding for technology. You must have a bold CFO who is willing to get creative in navigating the rules. 

In our organization, when we’re talking about new grants, the first lines, and these are not indirect costs, these are direct programmatic expenses, because they are vital in administering the programs. … Then on the follow up, when we do our impact reporting, we’re able to show how these investments in the infrastructure yield the results that we’re claiming they will yield from an efficacy perspective. It’s a snowballing effect. You actually find yourself able to ask for increases and further this sort of resource.​

Chris Shue, Co-CEO at Trellus

Foundation Support

While most grantors view technology as overhead, some are willing to fund technology, including Mackenzie Scott's Yield Giving Open Call and MacArthur Foundation's Lever for Change.

Prioritizing Your Community Needs

The more clearly nonprofits highlight the need for technology that enables and scales their services, the more willing funders are to support technology.

Budget Transparencies

Budgets are a concrete reflection of your values. If you truly value technology innovation, it must be transparent in your budget.

It’s an issue of changing a narrative that has really historically viewed technology as overhead, or data and impact reporting as kind of administrative functions or indirect costs, because the fact is these are integral to program and service delivery. … Integrated technology and systems of engagement particularly enable programs to increase reach, accessibility, and capacity of service delivery while breaking down those information silos and gaps. And there are many studies that have confirmed that that type of technology is not just instrumental but vital to data-driven solutions and better decision making.

Chris Martinez, Chief Administrator & Strategy Officer at The Resurrection Project

Shifting Staff Mindset

Nonprofits often operate in a “poverty mindset,” so they stick with adequate technology that is merely “good enough.” That sends a bad message to the people you serve.

Investment Responsibility

There’s an ethical and moral responsibility to invest in technology that delivers best-in-class solutions. Strengthening your organization by transforming and streamlining your operations will help spark the change you want to see in the world.

Let Tech Support the Heavylifting

Allowing automation to handle cumbersome manual tasks frees you up to do the legitimate work for a client, including telling a robust story to share with funders.

It’s about being able to talk about how technology is helping you drive the mission. We’re not really good about that, at least not a lot of nonprofits are really good about saying that. It’s almost taboo. Like, we can only tell feel-good stories about the people we serve. We can’t tell them that the reason we’re actually able to tell this feel-good story is that we have infrastructure and this robust thing to be able to do that. It’s like the worst-kept secret in the nonprofit world in that regard.

Heath Parks, Information Systems & Salesforce Manager at Cincinnati Works

“Building a Financially Sustainable Roadmap for Your Technology Innovation" full recording will be available on 7/20.

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