By Paula Jones, Director of Technology, The N. C. Center for Nonprofits
In my role at the N.C. Center for Nonprofits, I have the opportunity to talk with many nonprofit board members and staff across North Carolina about their use of technology. In doing so, one statement that resonates with everyone is “No one funds technology.” Sounds familiar, right?
If you’ve found a funder that supports your technology needs, congratulations! For the rest of you, I’ve been in your shoes and know that it can be an uphill battle. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be. I’d like to share what I’ve learned so that you might glean something from my experience to help you get the technology funds needed to achieve your mission.
Although I can’t offer the holy grail of technology funders, I’ve found that a combination of the following tactics work well.
- Ask for in-kind donations. Many companies like to donate their products, services, or expertise to your organization. Giving equipment or services, rather than a monetary donation to support your cause, is an easier case for management to make right now. It’s an easy way to build a relationship with a new donor, and it’s a great step to creating a strong, lasting partnership.
Include technology needs in grant proposals. We all have ongoing technology expenses . . . These items should be part of every one of your proposals.
- Include technology needs in grant proposals. We all have ongoing technology expenses, such as phone service, internet, web hosting, and computer replacement costs. These items should be part of every one of your proposals. When you prepare your budget, include technology-related expenses that you will incur to carry out the project. Let’s assume you plan to start an educational program to help children with literacy. You would typically include budget items to cover staff salary and benefits, rent, printing, and other resources. If you stop there, you’re missing an opportunity. Think about what else you might include: phones, webhosting, software, hardware, consulting fees, and/or peripherals. I assume you’ll use your website to market the program, so you should include a percentage of your web hosting costs and any staff or consulting expenses you might incur to update the information online. You may also need specific software to track registration so include that as well.
The point is to be sure you’ve accounted for all expenses you’ll have. It’s up to you to estimate your expenses and pull it all together to create a compelling proposal.
- Buy discounted technology. There are many resources available to nonprofit organizations to purchase services, software, and hardware. Businesses often offer a discount on their products for nonprofits and government agencies. If it’s not advertised, it never hurts to ask! For software, check out TechSoup, which offers deep discounts on many products. If you don’t qualify for donations through TechSoup, you can also find nonprofit discounts through Consistent Computer Bargains, or CDW. For hardware, check out TechSoup, your local United Way (several have Teaming for Technology (T4T) initiatives), or local nonprofit groups that refurbish and resale computers and hardware.
- Check with your state’s nonprofit association. Many state associations hear from businesses or individuals that would like to donate their equipment and other items. Each state handles these requests differently, but in North Carolina, we offer the donated items to our Member nonprofits on a first-come, first-serve basis. View a complete list of state associations.
Has your organization implemented any of these tactics successfully? Found other effective strategies for keeping up with technology trends on a tight budget? We'd love to hear your stories!
Please share in the comments below.