IT Helps Nonprofits Increase Productivity

A study by Princeton Survey Research Associates found that information technology has enhanced the work of human service nonprofit organizations, saving time and increasing productivity.

According to the study, which was conducted for Cisco Systems and Independent Sector, a nonprofit coalition of more than 700 national nonprofit organizations, foundations and corporate philanthropy programs, eight in 10 executives see information technology as a time-saving and productivity-enhancing tool.

A majority of human service nonprofits use some form of information technology, led, not surprisingly, by email and the Internet. Overall, 86 percent of nonprofits utilize some form of information technology; 79 percent have email (63 percent use email everyday); 77 percent provide Internet access to staff; 49 percent of nonprofits have Web sites; and 52 percent of nonprofits have an office network.

“Nonprofit organizations recognize the value of information technology,” said Sara Melendez, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “As they cope with various challenges to their programs such as the effectiveness of direct mail and communications, nonprofit organizations will continue to look to information technology as the one resource that allows them to conduct their mission efficiently and effectively.”

Almost all (99 percent) nonprofits with email use it to communicate with outside individuals and organizations. Ninety-one percent use the Internet for research on how other organizations carry out their programs. More than two-thirds (77 percent) use the Internet to conduct day-to-day operations such as budgeting and buying office supplies. Forty-four percent use the Internet to recruit employees and volunteers.

Of the 49 percent of nonprofits with Web sites, 96 percent use them to explain their mission and 83 percent use their Web pages to help carry-out their missions and programs. Forty-three percent use their Web sites to fundraise and 49 percent recruit employees and volunteers through their Web sites.

Large nonprofits are more willing to embrace information technology, the study found. And nonprofits that do not use the Internet, Web pages, email or office networks say they don’t because they don’t need them, they have more important priorities or they cost too much. Forty-three percent of human service nonprofit executives did not believe that increased usage of IT would give them more time to focus on their programs and missions and 29 percent said that their staff and volunteers would feel too far removed from their mission if they relied on more information technology.

A majority of human service nonprofit executives also express concern about their capability to keep up with technological advances. Forty-one percent said they are keeping up but find it challenging to do so. Even though nonprofits value IT, only 28 percent has an IT strategic plan and 39 percent have a budget.

A study done in Canada by Leverus Inc. found that the majority of Canadian associations and nonprofit organizations now have a Web presence, but they have yet to reap the true benefits of the technology.

“The good news is that more than 80 percent of respondents have a Web presence that is at least two years old. The challenge they now face is to realize the value of their investment and to transform their static Web sites into dynamic member service portals,” said Steve Long, president and CEO of Leverus. “The Internet has unleashed competing forces that over time can become a direct threat to associations.”

More than 65 percent of respondents spend more than $5,000 per year to support their Internet strategy.

“We are rapidly moving beyond the first generation of Web sites. Leading associations consider their Web strategy as important for their organization as their overall communication plan,” said Chris LeClair, vice president of marketing and business development. “Organizations who fail to take advantage of this opportunity face the risk of being marginalized as new electronic communities develop.”

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