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Digital philanthropy: Part 5 – Don’t think twice – Getting acquainted

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By Todd Cohen

Changing how we think and work is tough, particularly as we move from an existing technology to a new one. And it’s natural to struggle to learn to use new media, which we tend to assume will work like the old media they replace.

A nonprofit, for example, may invest considerable time, money and worry in launching a Web site, yet treat the site as little more than an online version of its existing printed material.

New technologies, however, can trigger huge changes in how individuals relate to one another, and in how organizations do business.

In the 1970s, when offices first began using fax machines, the technology was clunky, messy and hard to use. It was easier simply to use the mail.

But as fax technology improved and costs fell, sending a fax became second-nature, or “transparent,” to all but the mechanically challenged.

Now, because of rapid technological improvement and price cuts, faxes and in turn computer technology are critical tools for any business. Workers don’t think twice about sending email or using a Web browser, which are as central to the workplace as the telephone.

Not only is it unusual for a business not to have a Web site, but online technology is transforming the nature of commerce itself. Companies increasingly look to the Web to market and sell their products and services.

Sadly, technology still is a big deal for nonprofits and philanthropies. While larger and tech-savvy organizations have invested in technology, many others have not.

And even those that have made the investment don’t take full advantage of the opportunities that technology offers to be more efficient and to change old ways of doing business.

Instead of everyday tools that can be put to use to advance a charitable mission, computers and the Web become obstacles to nonprofits – either because the tools are lacking or because it’s tough to know how to use them.

It’s time to get to know these tools and put them to work.

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