Todd Cohen CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When the website at United Way of Central Carolinas crashed in January, its executive director reviewed and signed a contract it had been developing with NPower Charlotte Region to rebuild its website. And after the nonprofit tech consulting firm built the new website, United Way last spring negotiated a new contract for NPower to handle all its information-technology needs, known at IT or managed services. “It is important to always as a nonprofit to try to keep up with technology, and an excellent way of doing that is to contract it out with people who are experts,” says Jane McIntrye, executive director at United Way. In one of her last acts in her previous job as CEO at YWCA Central Carolinas, McIntyre had outsourced the organization’s IT services to NPower, a move that was made possible through a grant to NPower from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support the consultant’s work with smaller nonprofits. United Way and YWCA are not alone: NPower today serves as the IT department for nearly 20 local nonprofits, including The Duke Endowment, Foundation for the Carolinas, Arts & Science Council, Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas, Partners in Out-of-School Time, The Light Factory and Community School of the Arts. And the Catalyst Fund at Foundation for the Carolinas, a fund created to invest in efficiency, effectiveness and innovation among local nonprofits, is working with a consultant on possible development of a “managed-services organization,” that might provide shared back-office services for nonprofits in such areas as benefits, joint purchasing and technology services. The partnership between United Way and NPower “is exactly what we want to see happen across the community,” says Holly Welch Stubbing, senior vice president for client services and legislative affairs at Foundation for the Carolinas. “We are leveraging the talent and expertise this community has built in NPower.” Managed-services work now accounts for roughly 40 percent of NPower’s earned income, and roughly 45 percent its nearly $2 million a year in overall income, says Chris Meade, executive director. That represents a big shift for NPower, which previously generated most of its earned income from consulting with nonprofits on specific projects. While the group’s new business model provides a steadier income stream, Meade says, he does not expect its managed-services work to represent over 60 percent of its earned income. Consulting services offered by NPower, which is part of a national network of eight local nonprofit tech providers, include tech planning to provide a three-to-four-year “road map” of the technology in which a nonprofit should invest; web development that lets nonprofits control and manage their own websites; and work to help nonprofits manage their information. NPower now is developing a technology plan for United Way that likely will result in projects on how the organization can use its data on its partner agencies, donors and volunteers to more effectively and efficiently understand and communicate with them. “By outsourcing support services,” Meade says, United Way can “concentrate its human capital on its mission.”
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