Digital divide, Part 2

By Todd Cohen

Flush with excitement about the internet and the peak of the dot-com boom, nonprofits five years ago increasingly viewed technology as a basic operating tool, says Barbara Chang, executive director of NpowerNY.

With basic hardware and software in place, she says, the tech issues nonprofits typically faced involved routine tech maintenance and support.

Today, while nonprofits still must deal with the upkeep of their software and the training to use it, they generally have integrated technology into their back-office operations, and now are “moving into mission-critical work” with their use of technology, she says.

“Nonprofits are requesting more sophisticated uses of technology for work they do in the community,” she says.  “It’s more expensive and it requires more strategic vision.”

So in addition to internet connectivity and email, for example, nonprofits want to use technology to track clients and find “more sophisticated applications that can have greater impact in the community,” she says. “It’s about changing an organization in the way it thinks about its work and the way it does its work.”

With funding from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies, both in New York City, for example, NpowerNY is working with The Children’s Aid Society to use technology to significantly expand its program to help pregnant teens manage their pregnancy, and to prevent high-risk teens from getting pregnant.

NpowerNY, a New York City nonprofit that provides tech support to local nonprofits and is part of the Seattle-based national NPower network, will help assess the charity’s current use of technology to support its operations, and find ways to shift to a tech-based system from a mainly paper-based system to track clients and match them with needed services.

Other stories in the series:

Part 1 — Nonprofits face tech hurdles. 
Part 3 — Nonprofits plug into technology from afar.
Part 4 — Nonprofits face funding gap for technology.
Part 5 — Nonprofits find it tough to find tech support.
Part 6 — Nonprofits work to bridge gap in constituents’ tech access.

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