Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Highlights of New Funder’s Guide for Funding Technology from Idealware

 Idealware has just released an outstanding report for FUNDERS entitled “A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology - 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees’ Technical Savvy.”  I have written a number of times about writing a grant for technology and/or including it in your grant proposals as a line item.  But this is the first report I have seen directed at funders.  It is thorough, straightforward and makes an impeccable case for foundations to integrate technology into their funding and full range of support.


You must review the whole report if you are a funder.  If you are with a nonprofit, read the report, forward it to your funders – today, and incorporate these ideas into your proposals.  Here’s the link:

The report puts technology in the mission bucket – not in some off on the side administrative bucket – labeling  it a tool to help nonprofits meet their missions.  It goes on to describe the technology capacity building as a single project you could fund that would have a positive impact throughout all your grantees’ programs and services?  The report continues “even a small investment in your grantees’ technology can have a large impact on their missions.”  Those of us working in the nonprofit technology arena of course know all of this.  But it’s news to lots of funders.

The report features case study examples and quotes from funders.  Here are two of my favorites:
“Providing technology information to our grantees leverages the money we’ve already invested—it helps maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their projects.”
— Polly Seitz, Director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnerships

“Helping our grantees’ use technology effectively is the most cost-effective investment we could ever make.”
—David Krumlauf, The Pierce Family Foundation

The report describes the pyramid of technology and its components as follows:

  • Functional and secure infrastructure – includes hardware (computers, servers, networking hardware) and software (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation)
  • Data Management – Constituent management, program management and accounting software systems.  
  • Website and email -  the online public face and mouthpiece
  • Social media—including Facebook, Twitter, or blogs

Barriers to Technology for nonprofits are:
Lack of knowledge as to what can best help them.
Lack of money to buy the hardware or software they know they need.
Lack of staff time to figure out complex technology issues.
Lack of knowledgeable personnel to support technology.
Turnover of staff members who understand the technology infrastructure.
Well-meaning advice that steers them to solutions that can’t be supported.
Using solutions that don’t have any external support available.
Thinking of technology as peripheral to their mission.
Fear of technology or change.

The report advises that before you can effectively provide help, you need to know where your grantees are struggling and recommends a simple sample survey as a place to start.

So how Can Foundations Help?
You’ll have to read the full report to see all of the ideas.  Here are some of my favorites that I think are particularly helpful to small organizations.


  • Newsletters and social media – feature technology articles, research reports and tips
  • Link your grantees to existing resources that can help them  
  • Include technology books in your resource libraries
  • Write articles about best practices for tech in your focus area.
  • Create and distribute research surveys and present your findings.

Send grantees links to interesting trainings.
Invite grantees to watch an online training with you.
Purchase seats in webinars or live workshops for your grantees.
Bring in experts for informal Q&A sessions.
Invite your own staff to train grantees on topics they know about.
Contract someone to conduct webinars or live workshops for your grantees. l

Technology as a Proposal Line Item
Simply allowing grantees to include technology costs as a line item in proposals will encourage them to think about and share their needs in this area.

Technology Capacity Grants
Concerned?  Require attendance at technology workshop first.

Providing Direct Technology Support
The Pierce Family Foundation is a great example.  They supports its grantees’ IT and
technology needs with a technical generalist who does phone consulting and site visits to help each individual grantee. He provides general technology guidance and help to implement straightforward solutions— everything from installing virus protection software and troubleshooting databases to helping to evaluate where technology can have the biggest impact. By working directly with grantees, he is also able to identify where additional help or funding could best be put to use. (PS - I've heard David Krumlauf speak and believe me he's a gem.)

Create New Resources
A great example is the Annie CaseyFoundation which funded a research report to help organizations understand data visualization, best practices for using infographics for marketing, and how to create them on a budget.

Funding Technology Capacity Providers
Organizations such as NTEN, TechSoupGlobal, and Idealware provide articles, research reports, webinars and conferences where nonprofits – large and small can learn both the basics and what’s new and important for them to keep updated on. These organizations provide invaluable resources for nonprofits – especially smaller ones who don’t have technology specialists on their staff.

These are just some of the highlights…You should read the whole report.  What do you think of the recommendations in this report?  Do you have any to add?  Please let us know in the comments.


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