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Funders navigate technology

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By Todd Cohen

Community Foundations of America has created a “technology roadmap” spelling out the full range of tech applications a community foundation would need.

Those applications, agreed to at a tech “Solution Summit” in March attended by representatives of 21 community foundations, address five basic functions community foundations must carry out, says Carla Dearing, the group’s CEO.

Those functions include back-office tasks for managing relations with customers and grantees; using the Internet to connect foundation staff, donors, advisers and grantees to that back-office data; maintaining a Web presence to support communication through means such as email, events and meetings; processing the management and custody of investments; and providing accountability through an analysis of the impact of grants.

Depending on its size and its existing tech resources and needs, a foundation could develop some or all of those tech functions in whatever sequence it wanted, says Dearing.

CFA has developed the communication function through its VisionMgr product that provides a Web-site template for communications with donors, grantees and other constituents.

And CFA has teamed up with Chicago-based B2P Commerce, which in turn is working with Microsoft, to develop ImpactMgr, a tool designed to help community foundations track the impact of their grants.

Now that community foundations have agreed on the basic applications they will need, Dearing says, the challenge will be to strengthen and expand the network of tech providers to develop the applications.

CFA aims to lead a funding syndicate among a broad group of community foundations and groups representing them to finance development of the applications, she says.

“Our challenge is to create the demand and find ways to provide incentives for them to build for the future,” she says.

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