A Closer Look at Nonprofit Technology Benchmarks: Staffing Ratios

Submitted by Annaliese on Fri, 07/13/2012 - 9:08am

[This is part two 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.]

Another benchmark we think is importmant for nonprofits to consider is the ratio of organizational staff to their tech-responsible staff. While we took a look at the number of tech staff benchmark in the first post in this series, I'd like to now turn to the org staff-per-tech staff benchmark.

The graphic above shows the average number of organizational staff supported by tech staff (60.18) according to our survey at the end of 2011, as well as the average number reported by Small (<$1M), Medium ($1M-$5M), Large ($5M-$10M), and Very Large (>$10M) organizations, respectively.

As we saw in the previous benchmark, larger nonprofits report having more technology staff positions than smaller organizations. But even with the increased number of technology staff positions, the number of organizational staff supported by each tech staff (the ratio of total organizational staff to tech staff) increases for larger organizations.

That means that tech staff at larger organizations generally have a larger number of staff they need to support with training, help desk requests, hardware and software updates, etc. This should give those smaller organizations with just 1 (or even just .5) tech staff some positive things to consider: even though you don't have as many tech staff as larger organizations, your tech staff are less burdened and, by extension, should be able to better serve your non-tech staff and, perhaps more importantly, contribute more to organizational strategy and programmatic work.

This idea of smaller ratios of org staff to tech staff positiviley impacting the entire organization, resulting in better application of technology and technology expertise to the organization's overall strategy and mission, is supported by another comparitave look at the data from our research:

In this table we're seeing the tech staffing and staffing ratio benchmarks crosstabbed by the respondents' "Tech Adoption" levels. The tech adoption levels refer to the organization's overall approach to technology decision-making and application (more details about Tech Adoption in a later post).

Tech staff at larger organizations generally have a larger number of staff they need to support. This should give smaller organizations some positive things to consider: your tech staff should be able to better serve your non-tech staff and, more importantly, contribute more to organizational strategy and programmatic work.

As you can see, there is a strong correlation between Tech Adoption and these other two benchmarks, with Leading Organizations not only likely to have more tech-responsible staff but they also have the lowest ratio of org staff-to-tech staff.

This finding is significant because our data also shows that larger organizations are more likely to be in the "Leading Organization" category -- which doubly impacts the results we see here. Even though Leading Organizations tend to be larger, their staffing ratio of org staff to tech staff is still lower than that of Struggling Organizations, who tend to be smaller organizations.

Recommendations:

From NTEN's perspective, this provides more valuable considerations for nonprofit leaders when determing their staffing needs and their long-term strategic planning.

Organizations that want to improve their overall approach to technology decision-making, and to apply technology to achieving their mission in more effective -- even innovative -- ways should take into consideration staffing ratios and workload of their tech staff, striving to achieve, we suggest, a ratio no more than 60 org staff per every 1 FTE tech staff, and, of course, the lower the better.  Remember that "Leading Organizations" have a ratio of just over 40 org staff for every 1 FTE tech staff, so the closer you can get to that number, the more likely your organization is also a Leading Organization in terms of our Tech Adoption scale.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are strategies nonprofits can implement to address their technology staffing levels and effectiveness without having to necessarily go out and hire more staff. Please review that post for those ideas. You might also be interested in viewing the recording of the free webinar on all the findings from the recent report.

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