A CIO, as defined by TechTarget.com, is the person in charge of formulating an information technology strategy and overseeing the systems and services that support day-to-day operations of an organization.
It’s not typically a role we associate with non-profits; but with technology constantly evolving how we do business, communicate with each other, and interact with the world around us, maybe it should be.
Times are changing, and donor behavior is changing too. Technology adoption is no longer a choice for the business and consumer world, and the same is true for non-profits. Potential donors, volunteers, clients and other stakeholders can’t be reached with paper newsletters anymore. Progress is imperative.
Fortunately, the dawn of accessible technology (i.e. “freemium”, DIY, crowdfunding, etc.) has made it easier than ever before to integrate-- as slowly or rapidly as necessary-- powerful technology that boosts productivity and helps shape the way we connect with constituents. If you work for a non-profit organization, these opportunities are especially attractive since you probably don’t have a booming IT department with a healthy budget for tech innovation.
The lack of funding so pervasive within non-profits, combined with access to robust tech tools prompts individual innovators at the ground level to take their own steps toward tech adoption and essentially become the CIOs in their organizations.
Okay, so we can’t promise the typical CIO salary will accompany the efforts. But we can guarantee that harnessing these opportunities will help your organization engage, promote, and operate more meaningfully in its space. And earn you some brownie points in the meantime!
Here are four steps to becoming your non-profit’s CIO.
1. Understand Your People
The first step to innovation is understanding the behaviors of your volunteers and donor base. What do they care about? What’s the average gift? Through which channels do they give? How about volunteers-- which events garnered the most participation, and what kind of outreach was done to get them involved? It can be tremendously informative to go back and analyze past events and interactions to uncover information about how your base operates, which brings us to the next step.
2. Learn from the Past
From the information you discovered about past interactions with supporters, identify a few cases in which participation or the outcome fell below the goal. What failed? Was mobile engagement lacking? Were email campaigns utilized? Which tools were used? Try to pinpoint trends and at what point along the way interest fell off. If you’ve already gone through Step 1, you understand how your supporters work-- you should be able to envision the types of engagement that might address these past deficiencies.
3. Harness Accessible, Adaptable Technology
Once you’ve completed Steps 1 and 2, you can make informed technology decisions based on what may be lacking in your organization. And you can approach the task with confidence knowing there are countless low-cost, no-code tools available to citizen developers just like you. Need to collect information from donors and volunteers? Wufoo offers a web form creation tool with a simple drag and drop interface. Want to create video content and capture potential contributors? Use Viewbix to develop custom videos with integrated calls to action. Do you need a mobile app to distribute and collect survey submissions? AppSheet allows you to turn your Google Forms into sophisticated applications you can share with constituents. These are just a few examples.
4. Present Your Findings, Win a Seat at the Executive Table
Every new initiative needs executive buy-in. If you’ve completed the three steps, you have some valuable information to present to your managers. They’ll be impressed with your research, and doubly so that you’re going to lead the charge in developing and adapting technology that will help reach new goals (and preserve the company wallet!).
Meaningful relationships are the lifeblood of successful institutions-- especially those that depend on members’ generosity to tackle their mission as the world changes. If, through adapting new and innovative technology, you can strengthen the loyalty of your supporters AND your relationship with your management team, you just might be on your way to becoming the CIO of your organization!