Introduction

Download a PDF of the entire guide, including notes for a facilitator.

Register for a free community call on October 29 to learn how the guide was created and how you can use it in your organization.

Nonprofit technology is marked by inequities in both the technology sector and the nonprofit sector. You can see this in staffing, processes, and the way technology tools are implemented. These inequities within our organizations and our sector must be dismantled if we want to address our communities’ needs permanently. Whether you’re a user, builder, or funder, you have a responsibility to ensure the equitable use of technology.

NTEN focuses on supporting nonprofit staff in using technology strategically in racially equitable ways to meet their missions and community needs. It became clear that we needed a resource to guide equitable decision-making and investment at all levels. And so, we began the process of designing this guide in 2017. In subsequent years, the issues have not changed. But the global pandemic and the largest mobilization of protests for racial justice in history have brought them into sharper relief.

The guide was created through a collaborative process with diverse community members who acknowledge it is merely the beginning. We anticipate it evolving as it mirrors changes in society. You’ll find that equity, particularly racial equity, is central to this document as a reflection on NTEN’s commitment to advancing equity as an intersectional issue. Our commitment acknowledges that the foundation of all equity work is antiracism due to white supremacy’s dominance in all oppression systems.

NTEN’s content, research, and training are leveraged by nonprofit staff to advocate for and implement changes in their work. We do not recommend products or have an interest — commercial or otherwise — in which products, vendors, or services you use. NTEN focuses on the ways technology is used and the ways nonprofits can meet their missions. We hope you’ll agree that this guide is an integral part of NTEN’s intent to reach its mission by supporting yours. We offer this guide in the spirit of advancing the nonprofit sector’s commitment to equity.

This guide is not intended as a checklist or a one-time review. We hope you will use it as an active and regular part of your strategy discussions, policy review processes, and as a resource for evaluation. Customize this for your organization; talk with your staff and community to understand their unique needs, and continue evolving its role. If you create technology, we hope you will use this to make public the degree to which you may live these practices and how you plan to improve. If you fund technology, we hope you will do the same.

We acknowledge that organizations of different budgets and staff sizes may have obstacles to their capacity that make complete adherence to this list difficult. Ultimately, these are technology-related guidelines, but technology does not and cannot succeed without an organizational culture that supports it. Similarly, to advance these equity-based guidelines, organizations need to adopt and operate with a commitment to ethics and equity across all their work areas.

The guide is divided into three sections reflecting different nonprofit technology categories. Your organization may participate in one or more of these categories:

  • Using technology within nonprofit organizations to further equity for staff and communities
  • Funding nonprofit technology to ensure successful, sustainable projects and encourage bold experimentation
  • Creating and implementing technology for nonprofits that disrupts the nonprofit corporate model and recognizes the nonprofit sector’s uniqueness

Thank you to the community members who worked with us to create this guide. If you would like to join us in future work on this project, please let us know.

Commitment to Tech Equity

Many aspects of this guide require both an understanding of and a commitment to equity in many forms for your staff, constituents, and our collective world. The compounding systems of oppression that have operated around and through our organizations and our sector will not be dismantled easily. These include white supremacy, racism, capitalism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia.

No ethical framework for technology is singularly sufficient to meet this challenge. But we hope that this document will help nonprofits, funders, and service providers:

  • Acknowledge, examine, and intentionally dismantle white supremacy and other forms of racism.
  • Minimize power imbalances between funders/grantees, management/staff, nonprofits/constituents, and vendors/nonprofits.
  • Create more accessible organizations from which everyone will benefit.
  • Meaningfully return power to staff and community members, regardless of job title or technical experience, to decide their futures.
  • Hold technology funders and providers accountable to (and in relationship with) the nonprofits and communities served through our investments.
  • Create organizational cultures that can adequately support and learn from individuals who have lived experiences of marginalization.
  • Value and protect the contributed expertise of our communities.
  • Build nonprofits that are capable of uprooting oppression and not just treating the symptoms.