A Closer Look at Nonprofit Technology Benchmarks: Staffing

Submitted by Annaliese on Tue, 07/03/2012 - 8:37am

[This is part one of a series taking a closer look at the key benchmarks from our 6th Annual Nonprofit Technology Staffing & Investments Survey Report, conducted with The NonProfit Times. You can download the complete report for free here.]

In our latest Nonprofit Technology Staffing & Investments Survey, we asked respondents about their technology staffing levels. We've been asking about this since our first study in 2006. This year we used language that was a little more inclusive, so that respondents would consider:

"How many staff, excluding consultants, are responsible for supporting or maintaining technology-related tasks in your organization, in Full Time Equivalency (FTE)?"

We phrased it this way so that staff without traditional "IT" titles would be included in respondents' estimations. This was important to us because, especially at smaller organizations, we understand that responsibilities such as web sites, social media, online community management, etc., are often assigned to staff who aren't considered "IT staff" -- but these are important components of an organizaiton's technology landscape.

The graphic above shows the average number overall (3.5), as well as the average number reported by Small (<$1M), Medium ($1M-$5M), Large ($5M-$10M), and Very Large (>$10M) organizations, respectively.

Another useful reference for staffing levels is to look at the range of responses, however, rather than simply the average value:

The median number is the midpoint of the numbers reported, which you can see is very different from the averages. In the case of small organizaitons, for example, even though the overall average was 1.26, the median was 0.58, and the 75th percentile for small organizations was 1.0 (incidentally, the mode was also 1.0 -- the most frequently reported number).

From NTEN's perspective, organizations would likely want to be somewhere between the 25th and 75th percentile range in staffing levels, meaning that you're in a "normal range" compared to other organizations in your budget size category.

As I mentioned in my recent free webinar on these findings, this doesn't mean that nonprofits need to go out and hire 0.5 more technology staff if they're trying to follow these staffing level guidelines. It does mean that you should consider these steps for making your organization more effective:

  • Review your current staff job descriptions
  • Identify missing components related to technology responsibilities (maintaining the organization's website, for example, managing email communications and campaigns, social media monitoring and campaigning, and so on)
  • Formalize those responsibilities in the job description and determine what percentage of their workload goes towards those responsibilities (25% of their time? . . . now you have 0.25 more tech staff!)
  • You're not finished yet, though: set goals around the newly defined/updated responsibilities as part of your annual reviewing procedures (success metrics and professional development goals, for example)
  • Provide staff with the appropiate training and professional development resources so that he/she can meet those goals

Clearly, NTEN has a special interest in these recommendations; it's our mission to help nonprofit staff be more effective with technology. But here's why: our research shows that having skilled tech staff who feel confident about how to plan and execute around technology projects and strategies at your nonprofit organization correlates to overall satisfaction among staff about your organization's effectiveness as well as overall organizaitonal Technology Effectiveness. We'll explore more about those correlations in future posts in this series.

Remember, you can download the complete study with all of the numbers – including salary and budgeting numbers! – for free.

> Download the 6th Annual Nonprofit Technology Staffing & Investments Survey Report