Getting Help with Your Technology Plan

Technology planning is a process that takes time and resources to understand what is appropriate for staff and the organization. Program directors and their management staff can use this resource for tips on identifying a technology planning consultant. The resource was designed for nonprofit organizations, but can be used by most organizations seeking expertise in technology planning.

 

Most nonprofits will seek help at some point with their technology planning process. Below are some of the different sources of help to investigate in your community.

Technical Assistance Providers

Some technical assistance provider organizations have developed full technology planning programs to assist nonprofits. For instance, CompuMentor's ConsultantCommons.org provides an online collaboration space and community for non-profit technical assistance providers to collaboratively build and share knowledge. NPower affiliates around the country provide assessment and planning services to member organizations. See the TechFinder Resource List to find the organization nearest you.

Consultants

A technology planning consultant should be someone not only with planning experience and technological expertise, but an ability to think in nonprofit terms. Solutions that would be appropriate for businesses often do not fit nonprofits, which have different funding and governing structures. For example, funding is often given in lump sums, even over several years, so organizations often can't lease equipment because they can't be guaranteed the same money for the same purpose year after year.

Consultants need to understand that revenue and service delivery are often loosely linked, that multiple funders may have multiple reporting requirements that could change each year, that organizations often have a harder time justifying technology expenses to funders, and that nonprofits may have access to donated or discounted resources such as equipment or volunteers. Be aggressive about communicating your needs and your nonprofit context. It is crucial to have thought through your needs and goals for technology use before you talk to a consultant. For more information on finding and working with a consultant, see the article Working with Corporate Volunteers and Consultants.

Places to look for consultants who are experienced in doing technology planning with nonprofits include:

  • Technical Assistance Providers:
    Even if your local technical assistance provider does not do technology planning itself, it may be best qualified to refer you to a consultant who has experience doing technology planning for nonprofits.
  • Community foundations:
    Many of them realize that the impact of the nonprofits they support depends on an effective use of technology. They may have technology planning resources themselves, or be able to refer you.
  • Colleagues:
    Other nonprofits that have done technology planning may be able to tell you which consultants are good and how to get the most out of working with them.
  • Nonprofit management centers:
    These are often good sources of help or referrals, and there are thousands of them.
  • Volunteers, Interns and Friends
    In some cases, people who are affiliated with your organization but are not staff members may be able to help. Board members, volunteers or interns, if properly qualified and committed, can complete parts of the process.

Filling out hardware and software inventory worksheets is a relatively easy task to delegate, since the guidelines are clear. For this task, recruiting a new volunteer or intern is feasible. But be sure that you find someone who is very comfortable with finding this type of information, or you will need to train them how to do this. Local colleges, universities, and computer trade schools can be good places to look for interns. See the TechSoup's Volunteer section for details on finding a volunteer and structuring a volunteer project.

For more involved aspects of technology planning, it's best to work with someone who has an ongoing relationship with your organization, has technical knowledge, and is familiar with nonprofits. Do you have a board member or someone else affiliated with your organization who has technology expertise? Do you have a longtime volunteer who knows you well and has the expertise to lead a technology planning process?

TechSoup does not recommend bringing in a new volunteer cold to do a technology plan. Be sure that whomever you bring in can address the needs and goals of your organization. Make sure that you don't adopt a new technology just because a board member happens to work for the company that makes it.

Getting Help with Your Technology Plan. TechSoup. 2002. English.

Last Reviewed: October 2012

Last Updated: September 8, 2015