How technology boosts the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations

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A new study commissioned by Independent Sector and Cisco Systems shows that IT has enhanced the work of human service nonprofit organizations, saving time and increasing productivity.

The survey* examines the attitudes and usage of information technology by a national sample of more than 200 executives in human service organizations.

Eight in 10 executives see IT as a time-saving and productivity-enhancing tool. According to most executives, IT has changed their daily operations at least a little in the last five years, with half saying their operations have changed a great deal.

A majority of human service nonprofits use some form of IT. While email and the internet are the most common forms used, many organizations also have websites or office networks.

- 86% of nonprofits utilize some form of information technology.
- 79% have email and 63% percent use it everyday.
- 77% provide internet access to staff.
- 49% have websites and 52% have an office network.

"Nonprofit organizations recognize the value of information technology," said Sara E. Melindez, president and CEO of Independent Sector. "As they cope with various challenges to their programs such as the effectiveness of direct mail and communications, nonprofit organizations will continue to look to IT as the one resource that allows them to conduct their mission efficiently and effectively."

"IT is enabling them to stretch their time and dollars," said Cisco director of corporate philanthropy Tae Yoo. "Nonprofits are using Internet technology to make administrative functions - such as purchasing and payroll - more efficient."

Key Findings

Human service nonprofits use IT in a variety of applications from conducting research, day-to-day operations, to education.
- 99% of those with email use it to communicate with outside individuals and organizations.
- 91% use the Internet for research on how other organizations carry out their programs.
- 77% use the Internet to conduct day-to-day operations such as budgeting and buying office supplies.
- 44% use the Internet to recruit employees and volunteers.

Of the 49% of nonprofits with websites:
- 96% use them to explain their mission
- 83% use their webpages to help carry-out their missions and programs.
- 43% use their websites to fundraise and
- 49% recruit employees and volunteers through their websites.

The report also reveals the difference in usage of IT by small, medium and large human service nonprofit organizations and finds that large nonprofits are more willing to embrace information technology.

Nonprofits that do not use the Internet, webpages, email or office networks say they don't because they don't need them, they have more important priorities or they cost too much.

The report also notes that a minority of human service nonprofit executives believes that information technology will not help them fulfill their missions and perceive that it may even side-track them from their missions.

Forty-three did not believe that increased usage of IT would give them more time to focus on their programs and missions and 29% said that their staff and volunteers would feel too far removed from their mission if they relied on more information technology.

A majority of human service nonprofit executives also express concern about their capability to keep up with technological advances. Forty-one percent say they are keeping up but find it challenging to do so. Even though nonprofits value IT, only a minority (28%) has an IT strategic plan and 39% have a budget.

Most human service nonprofits possess the tools to use information technology but staffing and support to utilize it paints a different picture.

Most human service nonprofits (80%) have at least one staff member who oversees IT but 86% say the staff member(s) works on IT as part of their responsibilities. Only 13% have a staff member who works on IT full time. Eighty-six percent rate the competency of the IT staff as somewhat or very competent.

* "Wired, Willing and Ready: Nonprofit Human Service Organizations' Adoption of Information Technology," a Princeton Survey Research Associates study was conducted for Independent Sector and Cisco Systems Inc. The survey has a margin error of +/- 7%.

IndependentSector

Cisco Philanthropy

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