NFPs and the Information Revolution
16 December 2010 at 10:37 am
Not for Profit organisations across the US report considerable progress in keeping their organisations on the cutting edge of technological change, but many remain disappointed with their current level of information technology, according to a recent survey.
The survey, conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Nonprofit Listening Post Project, found that the overwhelming majority of NFPs (88 percent) report that information technology is integrated into “many” or “all” aspects of their organisation. At the same time, many agencies reported that budget pressures pose barriers to fully integrating IT into their work.
Lester Salamon, the director of the Listening Post Project says the findings dispel the myth that the Not for Profit sector is a technological backwater.
Salamon says the vast majority of respondents have clearly recognized the importance of IT to their organisations and are making vigorous efforts to integrate it into their operations.
Virtually all survey respondents indicated that information technologies are “moderately important” or “critical” to some of their basic organisational activities, including not only accounting and finance (98 percent), external communications (98 percent), and fundraising (91 percent), but also program and service delivery (91 percent).
Ninety-seven percent reported having websites and 84 percent reported that their organisation’s computers are networked to each other, allowing for information and file sharing.
Responding organisations are well aware of the benefits of information technology use, with large proportions citing contributions such as increased public presence for their organisations, increased 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.
However, the survey also found that most NFP managers believe there is still considerable room for improvement. Less than half of respondents noted that they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their organisation’s current level of information technology, and 92 percent think that their organisations should make more use of their existing technologies for program/service delivery.
What is more, a significant proportion of organisations remain well behind the curve. A third of all responding organisations indicated that they need more computers to meet their needs, and a similar percentage described their use of information technologies for program delivery as “limited.”
Nearly one out of every five respondents reported that their organisation still relies on “basic” technologies, with limitations such as old computers, outdated software, and slow internet connections.
The survey also explored the factors preventing NFPs from harnessing the full potential of information technologies.
In the current economic climate, the researchers say it is no surprise that a lack of funds topped the list, with 92 percent of respondents ranking this as a “moderate” or “considerable” challenge. Substantial majorities also cited a lack of time, lack of expertise, and lack of IT staff.
In contrast, resistance, disinterest, or lack of knowledge by executives, donors, volunteers, board members, patrons, and staff had much less impact, with only 11-28 percent of respondents identifying any of these factors as “moderate” or “considerable” challenges.
The 443 NFP organisations responding to this 2009 Listening Post survey included children and family service agencies, elderly housing and service organisations, community and economic development organisations, museums, theatres, and orchestras.
Download the full report – “The Nonprofit Technology Gap—Myth or Reality?”.