Technology helps nearly every industry with operations and administration, but we don’t think of it in relation to nonprofit organizations quite so much. Perhaps that’s because we first think of fundraising when we think of nonprofits. Technology actually has many helpful applications for nonprofit organizations.
Technology is making it far easier to do fundraising than ever before. At the same time, technology is creating issues that cause nonprofit boards to function more like for-profit corporations. As a result, nonprofit boards need the advantages of technology to help them with their duties of oversight, research and strategic direction. Technology is also a boon to a nonprofit’s information, communication and accountability. As nonprofits became better acquainted with how technology can assist and protect them, they need to enlist the help of tech-savvy recruits for their boards.
The Tech-Savvy Talent Pool Is Increasing
One of the greatest untapped resources that nonprofit organizations have is the millennial generation. Millennials grew up with technology in their hands, and they’ll soon compose more than half of our national workforce. Are you aware that Apple posts 60,000 new apps every month? If you want to know what the hot ones are, just ask a millennial.
Millennials aren’t necessarily experts in every part of technology, but they know enough to teach their fellow board directors how to use technology to get the most from donors. They’re experts at using social media to evoke emotional responses for the benefit of worthy causes.
It’s common for nonprofit boards to justify avoiding using technology by virtue of not having the funds to apply to the costs.
People with technological expertise, not forsaking the millennials, know how to get a bigger return on their investment and how to use it to justify additional costs. That’s especially important when giving digital security a high priority.
The question remains as to how to fit technology into board service. How much weight should boards give technical expertise relative to board composition? Should all board members have technical expertise? Does every board need just one, really good technical expert?
To answer this question, we need to take a look at what technology has to offer nonprofit organizations and their boards of directors.
What Are the Technological Needs of Nonprofit Boards?
If boards make just one investment in technology, they’ll get the most benefit for their investment with a board portal, because it offers tight security and an array of helpful features and functions.
A board portal is a hub where board directors can collaborate on board business and build their agendas in a secure online space. Board portals provide an online solution where board directors can communicate, collaborate and schedule meetings, events and activities. Board directors can share articles, information, reports and other documents securely and confidentially.
Board portals provide a cloud-based platform for storing important documents such as the bylaws, articles of incorporation, audits, minutes, agendas and voting records. It’s also quite a time-saver for boards to be able to collect signatures for documents electronically.
Communication becomes more regular and easier to track with the help of a board portal.
By having technical experts on the board, the board can explore electronic apps and programs to enhance their fundraising efforts.
Nonprofit boards also need the security that working in any industry of today requires. Board portals are usually built with the heavy security that for-profit corporations need in mind, which is a much higher level of security than anyone would ever use at home or at a nonprofit.
From a legal perspective, even though nonprofit organizations aren’t tax-paying entities, it doesn’t relieve board members from allegations of liability. Nonprofit boards that make the best use of technology may be reducing liability risks because they would be able to prove that they’re running the organization as efficiently and effectively as possible.
What Is the Future of Technology for Nonprofit Boards and How Does It Impact Board Composition?
Unfortunately, there are many more unknowns related to how technology will affect nonprofit organizations than there are known issues. Technology is in a constant state of evolution, and it affects every facet of industry and community.
What we do know is that the technological needs of nonprofit organizations that we’re currently seeing are merely the tip of the iceberg. Now, and moving forward, boards will need some level of technical expertise on their boards. In fact, most boards will need all board members to have some degree of technical knowledge and at least one person with a high degree of technological expertise. The millennial generation is bound to play a role in both regards.
Nonprofit boards of today tend to be largely reactive. Moving into the future, boards will need to take a more proactive stance, especially with regard to cybersecurity and information protection.
While it will always be difficult to stay a step ahead of the hackers, boards need to be knowledgeable enough to act fast, respond appropriately, and communicate with the donors and other stakeholders transparently.
Should Nonprofit Boards Require All Board Directors to Be Tech-Savvy?
Today’s nonprofit boards need to recognize that the nonprofit environment is far different than it has ever been and that technology has had a lot to do with that.
Moving forward, nonprofit boards may consider requiring all board directors to have a minimal knowledge of technology and how to use it for the benefit of the organization’s mission. At some point, current technologies will become outdated. For this reason, boards need one or more people to serve on their board who have a deeper understanding of technology, as well as the risks and benefits that come from implementing it.
In recruiting board directors, nominating committees should look for recruits who have technological experience working in some type of outside industry. Committee members should be looking for someone who has a solid track record of success in technology, and who also has suffered some failures and learned from them.
Boards need to be careful not to over-rely on IT experts. Some of the best efforts may come from the passion and enthusiasm of a board member who brings big dreams into the boardroom with them.
Boards need to look for IT experts who understand when it’s time to patch or layer technology – and when it’s time to do a full update or replacement of it.
Budgets will always be a top concern for nonprofit organizations. With that in mind, boards need to look for tech experts who know how to balance the budget with appropriate technological solutions that serve the short- and long-term needs of the board and the organization overall.
Additional Considerations for Nonprofit Boards on Technology Matters
Most boards welcome the addition of board members with technological expertise. It’s important to remember that boards still need a balance of leadership skills and technology skills. Board members who weigh heavier on the tech side may need additional mentoring and training on the leadership aspect of being a board member. They may not be aware of their roles in giving of their time and finances, and supporting fundraising efforts.
Succession planning was never more important than it is today, as boards should seek out qualified younger board members who have strong familiarity with technology. Upcoming generations have needed to live and think differently than ever before. That can be a real asset on a board of directors.