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What should nonprofit execs know about IT?

What should nonprofit execs know about IT?

  • In her article 10 Things Every Nonprofit Executive Needs to Know about IT, Deborah Finn outlines ways nonprofit directors and managers can make better technology decisions.

    Do you agree with Deborah's tips? Have any tips to add? Share your feedback here.
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • I am the IT Director for a small, volunteer nonprofit and this article gave me the shivers. I can't imagine having my board this involved in the IT decisions that are made. I am fairly certain though, that mine is a unique situation.In a much larger organization I could see benefits to some of the points made.

    I tend to listen to the comments and suggestions from department heads and board members and develop an overall view of the goals of the organization. I will then work with the members of my department to come up with the needed answers or solutions and then let folks know what we will be using or doing.

    I know that I sound a bit controlling but I also know that when the problems pop up, I have the responsibility to fix them, not the board members.
  • A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Showing a CEO how to shutdown the server could prove to be quite dangerous. I know it sounds cruel but servers are not toys and unless you know what you are doing DONT TOUCH! Back-up could prove useful but you should be running and CHECKING a schedualed buck-up quite often anyway and the CEO should not be bothered with that (The frequency will depend upon each groups specific needs, even such at different departments files are on different backup scheduals, for instance backing up your finanacials nightly is a good idea with an additional weekly backup maybe more inportant than backing up all your flyers.) The most important thing for a CEO is to know what they NEED, and what they WANT, their systems to do; that and they need to know the difference. Once they know that, they can ask their staff and/or an outside consultaint for advice.
  • Maybe the title should be
    'What non profit execs don't know about it ?
    It is the function of the IT (%____%) title to create the linkage between IT services and the core product. The CEO / Boards process should be to approve or deny funding / support of the IT services / projects. No more no less.


    Ozzie Non Profit Organisation Network Consulting System Design New York
  • I am IT for a small social service organization. I am not going to forward the article to the head of the organization because it implies that wireless networking is simply a cost issue. For HIPPA-compliant organizations, security is the main issue and cost is secondary. I don't recall reading the word "security" in the article. I feel this is a serious omission that dooms this article to the IT Trash Folder.
  • I am afraid I agree with the other comments here. This reaffirms my opinions of 'consultants'.

    The board is there to set policy and vision. While an IT person on a board helps grease the wheels when it comes to approving funding for projects, they shouldn't be deciding the details of the projects, which IT people tend to want to do.

    Administration (which should include an IT Director) should be deciding how to achieve that vision and how to enforce those policies.

    Then it should be up to the experts in each area of the company to determine the details of implementation based on the given constraints and parameters.

    I have yet to meet a CEO or Director I would trust with enough knowledge to touch a server, let alone mess with the backup system. Frankly, they have better things to do with their time than take a few minutes worth of training on servers and backups, which they will never use (and probably forget) short of a)losing all of their IT staff and b) not having the funds or time to hire someone to come in.
  • As CIO for a large non-profit in Houston one of the biggest obstacles that I struggle with is changing the culture. The culture of our organization (100 years old this year) has been reluctant to modernize processes and adapt to a more efficient model, constantly adding layers of “improvements” over outdated systems. I know it’s my job to help steer the culture towards the discipline of implementing best practices and this article has given me some ideas as how to bridge the gap in a grass-roots fashion. I am going to implement the steering committee with a diverse group of staff and ask them to help me bring technology topics to the forefront.
  • The IT department HAS to decide the details of how to achieve the broad IT vision determined by the board. Normally the board, and the CEO, have more important things to worry about. Once the board has set the goals, it has to be up to the department to determine how best to implement them. When the details involved with a project will have a major impact on operations or budget, the board should be presented with detail options and the pros and cons involved with multiple scenarios. Even in those cases the recommendations of the IT department should weigh heavily on the decision of the board. This is also assuming that your IT department is dedicated to the mission of your organization and not dedicated to playing with the 'bleeding edge' toys their budget can buy.
  • I think the overall IT strategic plan needs to be a collaborative effort between the Board of Directors, Management team, Staff, and IT.

    In my experience it is critical to get "buy in" from these individuals in order for any technology plan or project to be successful.

    It is often far too easy for the IT group to discount input from other groups because of pre-conceived notions of the levels of technical understanding. It is up to the technology experts to effectively communicate the issues despite the aptitude or skill level of their audience.

    The IT group needs the business acumen of the Management team to fully understand the processes, methods, and requirements of the organization. IT also needs the input from the staff members who fully understand the business processes, workflow, and workplace dynamics.

    I think it is a serious mistake to exclude any of these groups from the planning process.

    P.S. I would trust my COO or CEO to perform backups if necessary …
    I would have been the person who trained them and provided the necessary supporting documentation. ;)
    Ed W. Director of Information Technology Twin Cities RISE!