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Foundations foundering in technology

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While foundations cite fewer barriers in implementing technological advances at the workplace, many still lag the corporate world, a new report says.

Self-portraits may not always be reliable, but they tell a dismal story in the 2007 Grantmakers Information Technology Survey, a follow-up to two similar surveys in 2003 and 2005.

All three were conducted jointly by the Technology Affinity Group and the Council on Foundations.

Of the survey respondents, more than one in three reported “no barriers” in implementing new technology at their foundation, up from just over one in four in 2003.

But technological innovation and adoption at foundations does not seem to be keeping up with this rising optimism.

When asked to rank their organization’s general level of technological proficiency, only 5 percent of foundations categorized themselves as “leading edge/early adopters,” down from 27 percent in 2003, the survey says.

And almost six in 10 consider themselves “lagging behind,” an increase of 35 percent since 2003.

Nearly half the respondents say the biggest challenge has been moving grant applications and donor information online, a practice designed to ease the time-consuming application process for nonprofits.

Though technology staff within foundations is growing, with fewer than three in 10 saying they have no internal or external technology directors, most foundations view their tech employees as service providers rather than strategic partners, the study says.

The report did note progress in a few areas.

The number of foundation offices using an intranet site has grown to 35 percent from 28 percent in 2003, and foundation disaster preparedness has increased post-Katrina, with two in three respondents reporting some work on a plan, up from just over one in three in 2003.

Most also have addressed relevant security issues, the report says.

The Council on Foundations is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit member association of more than 2,100 foundations and corporate fudners.

The Technology Affinity Group is a council offshoot that seeks to increase technology use at foundations through educational programming.

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