Plugging in

Nonprofits use technology to improve operations, civic connections.

By Todd Cohen

Nonprofits are getting connected.

By integrating technology into their work, many nonprofits aim to do a better job running their shops, delivering services, raising money, communicating, and creating civic connections.

A marketplace has emerged to meet nonprofits’ growing demand for technology to help improve how they operate.

That marketplace, which includes software firms, technology-assistance providers, consultants, funders and intermediaries that distribute donated technology, has helped nonprofits make better use of technology.

Software now is available that helps nonprofits and foundations handle back-office operations, raise and give away money, track of donors and grantees, measure their impact, create and manage websites, distribute email newsletters, and build online communities and civic activism.

A growing network of nonprofit consultants and technology-assistance providers helps nonprofits map their technology needs, develop tech plans and train staff to use technology.

Tech companies donate software and hardware for nonprofit use, and funders make grants to pay for technology.

San Francisco-based CompuMentor, the largest intermediary for donated software, expects to distribute about $150 million in technology products to nonprofits this year through its TechSoup Stock program.

Grants for computer systems and technology totaled nearly $66 million in 2003, the most recent year for which data were available, while grants for electronic media and online services totaled nearly $132 million, according to from The Foundation Center in New York City.

“More and more funders are recognizing the importance of technology for their grantees, regardless of the field,” says Emy Tseng, managing director of the Innovation Funders Network, an affinity group of the Council on Foundations in Washington, D.C.

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