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Nonprofits not satisfied on tech use

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PJ staff report

Nonprofits are doing a good job keeping up with technological change but still are not satisfied with their current level of information technology, a new survey says.

Most nonprofits count on a range of current information technologies, or IT, for administrative functions, as well as delivery of programs and services, says the survey by the Listening Post Project at the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Yet most nonprofits are not content with the extent to which they have integrated technology into program and service delivery, and they recognize they could do more.

The major hurdles they say keep them from tapping the full potential of technology include lack of funding, time and expertise.

“Our findings dispel the myth that the nonprofit sector is a technological backwater,” Lester M. Salamon, director of the Listening Post Project and director of the Center for Civil Society Studies, says in a statement.

“The vast majority of our respondents,” he says, “have clearly recognized the importance of IT to their organizations and are making vigorous efforts to integrate it into their operations.”

Eighty-eight percent of 443 nonprofits responding to the survey say information technology has been integrated into many or all aspects of their organization.

Nearly all respondents say information technologies are moderately important or critical to some of their basic organizational work, including accounting and finance, external communications and fundraising, as well as program and service delivery.

Nearly all say they have website, while 84 percent says their computers are networked to each other, allowing for sharing of information and files.

Big percentages of respondents say the benefits of information technology include greater capacity to communicate with clients, customers and patrons; faster service delivery; improved quality of services delivered; more customer-friendly service delivery; more people served; program innovations; and cost savings.

But the survey also finds most nonprofit managers see significant room to improve.

Less than half, for example, say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their organization’s current level of information technology, and 92 percent believe their organizations should make greater use of technology for delivering programs and services.

And a big proportion of nonprofits are lagging, with a third of all responding nonprofits say they need more computers to meet their needs, and a third also saying their use of technology to deliver services is limited.

Nearly one in five respondents say their organizations still depend on “basic” technologies and are limited by old computers, outdated software and slow internet connections.

Ninety-two percent of responding say a lack of funds poses a moderate or considerable challenge to tapping the full potential of technology, with big majorities of respondents saying lack of time, expertise and tech staff also pose challenges.

Hurdles cites only by 11 percent to 28 percent of respondents include resistance, disinterest or lack of knowledge by executives, donors, volunteers, board members, patrons and staff.

“We are living in a technological age,” Peter Goldberg, chairman of the Listening Post Advisory Committee and president and CEO of the Alliance for Children and Families, says in a statement.

“Nonprofit managers recognize this,” he says. “We need to make sure they have the resources and the wherewithal to act on this recognition.”

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