The 2013 NTEN Community Survey and how to fix your tech limitations

Have you read the 2013 NTEN Community Survey that came out this month? Nearly 1,500 individuals responded and gave NTEN a better understanding of how technology adoption is moving at nonprofits across the world. Its not the longest annual survey weve come across, but at 31 pages it does take quite a bit of time to process. Want to know what some of the most telling and important findings were, from my perspective, anyway? Read on.

Reading this survey helped me to see that an exciting change is happening in the tech sector of the nonprofit world: More than just techies and marketing nerds, individuals from roles across organizations are joining the NTEN community and paying attention to the evolution of tech and its role in their professional lives.

No surprise here: A key organizational challenge of implementing tech at organizations is finding the time, funding and finding the right resources to train staff. Has anyone not had this problem? Im pretty sure weve all been strapped for time and funding, and both of those directly affect our ability to find the proper resources to educate staff members. Here, read my post last week about time and professional development.

NTEN members and non-members said that technology was more vital for marketing & communications than for any other areas within their organizations. At least once a month, I remind our nonprofit clients that theyre vying for the very same dollars that bright, shiny commercial entities with big budgets are spending millions trying to capture.

Think about that for a minute.

As the world we work and live in becomes increasingly digitized, its absolutely necessary to keep up with technology. Technology and access, combined with messaging and strategy can level the playing field.

Respondent groups & their most pressing tech challenges

These three groups made up a large portion of the survey participants and just happen to have the same job titles as some of our favorite clients. Heres a little more about them and how they feel about tech.

IT Staff

Research is an extremely valuable resource for IT Staff, and they also often participate in webinars. They have a high tech adoption rate and struggle with keeping their toolbox of apps and software current and training team members on them. I think a big issue for IT Staff?? to tackle is how to translate what they care about into impact- or dollar-based strategies that marketing and Administration care about. Thats always the thing, right? Every person or department has a different priority. The solution is understanding and communication. Sometimes you need an outside firm to help with that (cough).

Communications & Marketing Staff

Live events like NTENs Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) are the most valuable part of membership for MarCom folks and they also participate in webinars. They also have a high tech adoption rate. Big issues are (not surprisingly) low budgets and staff members who arent able to make the most of the technology. Thats not unusual – this group also suffers a little bit of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), meaning they feel pressure to keep up with peer organizations and have trouble doing so. Who wouldnt benefit from an extra pair of experienced hands?

Executive Directors & CEOs

Live events like NTC, research and journals like NTEN:Change are valuable to EDs and CEOs. Tech adoption at their organizations is mid-level, so presumably a big motivation for their participation in NTEN is to take their tech adoption to the next level. As industry leaders, this group is concerned with meeting standards, particularly when it comes to data security. Both valid concerns, considering that philanthropists of any budget level are less likely to take any organization seriously that doesnt meet industry standards or thats experienced a breach of privacy.

What can we do to help NTEN members like the 2013 Community Survey respondents?

Were hearing a lot about small budgets, no staff, no time, big goals, lots of tech to sift through, and a million things going on at the same time. These problems arent unique. Id say every organization weve ever worked with has the same issues. We have them too.

Were in the midst of creating a training series that helps organizations no matter what size make tech adoption a realistic and attainable goal for 2014. And more than just adoption, were going to take the position that understanding markets, audiences and addressing your own limitations is WAY more important than the adopting the next shiny new technology. Otherwise, youre going to drive yourself mad.

The launch date for this training series is set for early 2014 and were giving our newsletter subscribers an early beta invite. If you want in, subscribe.

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