Philanthropy is very much a two-sided coin. Charities carry out mission-based work. Foundations fund and coordinate mission-based work. Things work best when the two sides are well aligned, and technology is an important area where we can do that.

Lisa Pool’s Technology Affinity Group and Laura Quinn’s Idealware are two organizations doing good work to make that happen. TechSoup also has a new foundation resource area for software donations.

Strangely, I find that one side of the philanthropy coin seems to get the lion’s share of attention — nonprofit technology. I know that by the numbers, there are far fewer foundations than nonprofits in the US (94 percent charities versus 6 percent foundations), but most foundations are relatively small.

Ninety-eight percent of private foundations have less than $50 million in assets. Foundations need tech support as much as anyone.

The Technology Affinity Group

Technology Affinity Group logo: Promoting technology in philanthropy

As someone interested in online communities, I’ve been following the work of the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) for some years. Here’s the way TAG describes itself:

"TAG is a membership organization of foundations that promotes the understanding of how information and communications technology can help its members further their philanthropic goals."

TAG is an active community of around 550 foundation techies who:

  • Discuss foundation technology on the TAG listserv and blog
  • Hold a yearly conference
  • Organize regional meetings
  • Attend webinars
  • Complete an annual survey of foundation technology among many other things.

Find out more about what TAG offers on their members benefits page. The project grew out of the Council on Foundations and led by one part-time staff person, executive director Lisa Pool. Lisa does an excellent job, quietly working in the background to keep a steady flow of information happening.

Foundation techies can ask any type of question on the TAG listserv, strategic or very specific, and nearly always get an informed answer from a member on the same day.

TAG has a very reasonable yearly membership fee and nonprofits are welcome to participate. TechSoup has been a member for the last three years. If you’d like to see who participates, have a look at TAG’s leadership page.  I suspect it’s one of the best kept secrets in foundation technology.


Idealware logo

One of the least kept secrets of foundation technology is probably the work of Idealware. They actually work both sides of philanthropy technology — charity and foundation, and do both well. They’re a Portland, Maine-based nonprofit software review organization that seems to be everywhere. They do in-depth and impartial software reviews for TechSoup and NTEN, run webinars for TAG, and present at all the major conferences. Idealware was founded and is led by Laura Quinn.

Here are some of their free foundation reports:

  • A Consumers Guide to Grants Management Software: This is their second edition of their comparative review of 20 different grants management packages including Closerware GrantMaker, Foundant Grant Lifecycle Manager, MicroEdge GIFTS, WESTAF GrantsOnline, and ZoomGrants.
  • The Consumers Guide to Integrated Software for Community Foundations: This is a comparative review of the various software systems that are tailored to the work of community foundations with several donor-advised fund accounts. It covers applications like Bromelkamp Community Pearl, ChesterCAP Dotche, FusionLabs GrantedGE,  MicroEdge FIMS, and Stellar Technology Solutions iPhi Suite.
  • Streamlining Online Grant Applications: A Review of Vendors: This is a comparative review of seven online grant application vendors against a set of essential features for online applications and reporting, to help grantmakers identify the best systems to support their grantmaking.  
  • A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy: This is a very recent Idealware report advising foundations on ways to increase grantee effectiveness and efficiency through technology. This addresses the traditional reluctance of foundations to fund grantee technology for fear of ongoing costs. The study includes case studies on how nonprofit technology capacity building is being done well. It’s a free publication like all of Idealware’s work.
  • In Search of Better Data About Nonprofits’ Programs: This is actually one of Laura Quinn’s recent pieces on The centerpiece of this one is an insightful description of the barriers charities have in providing the useful data that funders crave. Most interesting.

    European Venture Philanthropy Association on Getting Useful Data

    And while we’re on the topic of getting good data, here’s a non-Idealware resource by the European Venture Philanthropy Association called A Practical Guide to Measuring and Managing Impact. It’s a free comprehensive resource that distills the best practices in impact measurement into five steps. Very intriguing in one of the most difficult areas of philanthropy — measuring the actual impact of your grantmaking.

      TechSoup Software Donations for Foundations

       And then there's the new foundation resource area for software donations on TechSoup. About a year ago, the whole thing started with our announcement that private foundations are now eligible to receive Microsoft software donations.

      We were pleased with that development because foundations became eligible for many of the same donation programs as nonprofits and libraries.

      Our new foundation section lists several more donations to foundations from Intuit, Symantec, Adobe, Connect2Give, and Efficient Elements to enhance PowerPoint.

      See all of the donation programs you’re eligible for by using our Eligibility Quiz.

      Here are some case studies on how foundations are using the program:

      Image 1: Technology Affinity Group logo

      Image 2: Idealware logo