Tech Is Everyone’s Job

Let’s face it: It’s 2015. Technology is a central part of how we do our work, communicate, and even fundraise. The idea that technology – from decisions to training and even testing new tools – would be something reserved for a single staff person or department simply doesn’t meet the needs we have as organizations anymore.

I am not saying, of course, that I think a technology or I.T. staff role or department isn’t necessary! Quite the contrary: I think the opportunity for the staff person or people serving in a technology or I.T. capacity to be leaders in the organization is bigger than ever before. When everyone in the organization is participating in decision-making, budgeting, testing, and invested in effectiveness, those technology staff are the instrumental leaders creating and supporting organization-wide processes, plans, and strategies.

Make Technology Part of Everyone’s Job

Even if in practice we know that technology is part of everyone’s job, if we aren’t reflecting that to each staff person, we aren’t creating many opportunities for it to benefit the organization. Do you include the use, management, budgeting, or decision-making of technology explicitly in the job descriptions or internal job outlines for each staff person? Make it clear for each staff individually which tools or systems they may manage, those they are responsible for purchasing, or even which ones are central to their performance and success. Once you make that clear, you allow that staff person to be able to ask questions, work with other staff, and even more effectively manage their work and the systems they use.

Don’t Stop Training on Day 2

We all may recall our first day in our current job: It was probably a bit overwhelming, maybe stressful, filled with many introductions to new colleagues, and a long list of user names, passwords, and bookmarks. The training we received that first day, and even that first week, probably didn’t stay with us amidst the onslaught of information generally. What does help us improve is continued, regular training. As we bring other staff onboard, planning for that first orientation will still be valuable. Ultimately, we should expand our focus on training to include everyone in the organization and to work in a variety of ways. If you have weekly or monthly staff meetings, include a standing agenda item for sharing tips on the tools everyone uses (quick keys in the database!) or requests for solutions from other staff on technical challenges. Whenever you have a new campaign, a new publication, or another milestone, use it as an opportunity to retrain everyone on staff about how to contribute to the website, use social media, or run donation reports.

Shared Investment in Outcomes

Regardless of your organization’s mission or services, connecting technology to each staff person’s job helps connect the tools and systems you use to the impact you have on your community. Making this connection to the outcomes of your work is integral to connecting your team to what matters: your community. When we see that using certain tools enables us to specific aspects of our work, we can then better evaluate whether the tools we are using are serving us as staff, are appropriate for the program or service goals, and are matched to the needs of our community members. This through line, from mission to technology to impact, should frame decision-making and evaluation.

Creating Space for Innovation

Sure, much of our technology tools and systems are the basic infrastructure of our day-to-day work. Many of these tools may feel almost in the background of our conversations or processes, assuming that they are there as we talk about something else – content, program plans, services. Bringing technology back to the foreground by addressing the suggestions listed above (being clear about technology in everyone’s job description, training everyone regularly, and connecting the tools we use to the impact we make), also opens up the opportunity for all staff to be part of iteration and innovation. Identifying where there’s room for changes – small or large – can’t be left to just the Executive Director or the board. All staff, close to their work from across the organization, can find opportunities to test new processes or tools, and suggest changes.

Technology is everyone’s job because being an effective organization making real progress towards the mission is everyone’s job.

I would love to hear what strategies you and your colleagues have found successful (or not!) in addressing these four areas or other ways you make sure technology is part of everyone’s job.

Amy Sample Ward
Driven by a belief that the nonprofit technology community can be a movement-based force for positive change, Amy is NTEN’s CEO and former membership director. Her prior experience in direct service, policy, philanthropy, and capacity-building organizations has also fueled her aspirations to create meaningful, inclusive, and compassionate community engagement and educational opportunities for all organizations. Amy inspires the NTEN team and partners around the world to believe in community-generated change. She believes technology can help nonprofits reach their missions more effectively, efficiently, and inclusively, and she’s interested in everything from digital equity to social innovation.