By Mona Raina, Senior Director of Technology Solutions and Services and Cameron Jones, Vice President of Solutions & Services
We hear it from nonprofits every day: “Can you help us figure out how to upgrade our systems? Where should we start?”
TechSoup has been focused for years on helping nonprofits adopt new technologies by meeting them where they are. Over 75 percent of the 1.4 million organizations served by the TechSoup Global Network have operating budgets under US$1 million. These are the organizations that do the hard, on-the-ground work: cleaning up the environment, providing food to the hungry, sheltering domestic violence survivors, and rebuilding after a disaster. But these organizations also have the fewest resources (time and money) to dedicate towards updating their systems, and their ability to drive impact often suffers as a result. Working with old tech means less data integration and ability to analyze data for decision-making, increased vulnerability to hacking, and low staff morale leading to high turnover.
Organizations regularly express that they need a way to self-assess their digital capability and get recommendations without having to spend thousands of dollars on an IT consultant. We looked around and could not find a resource that was specifically for nonprofits and that both assessed and offered a set of recommendations that organizations could act on without launching an expensive project with a tech consulting firm.
So we built our own, with generous funding support, and launched the TechSoup Digital Assessment Tool (DAT) in September 2021 to benefit not just nonprofits, but all TechSoup stakeholders. The DAT enables organizations to take an in-depth technology assessment across six areas of digital capability, delivers a score in each of those areas, and provides recommendations for resources. The digital capability model that is built into the DAT evaluates the level of technology adoption and use across three dimensions: the technology they use, the efficiencies and standardization of the processes around the use of the technologies, and the level of training and “tech culture” at the organization.
As we initially thought about developing the DAT, we wanted to make sure we weren’t duplicating an existing resource. We also wanted to understand how our thinking about nonprofit digital capability was similar to or different from others doing similar work. Therefore, we commissioned a landscape analysis of other nonprofit digital assessment tools around the world, held discussions with other global nonprofit capacity-building organizations to test our theories about nonprofit digital transformation, and developed a digital transformation framework (which ended up informing the digital capability model discussed above). You can read more about that work in Part Two of this series.
The data collected by the DAT is giving us insight into the current status and needs of the nonprofit sector — insights that can be analyzed by geography, nonprofit mission area, or organizational size. Additionally, the tool gives us concrete data that can help inform the corporations that participate in the TechSoup Marketplace about what technologies and features are needed by nonprofits and how their programs can be optimized to support the sector.
So what’s next? We are encouraging nonprofits to take the assessment to understand their current digital capacity and receive guidance on what areas they should be prioritizing for investment. As we gather more data, we are working on a report of our findings about the sector and where interventions and support are most needed.
Interested? You can read more about our Digital Transformation Framework and our landscape analysis of other nonprofit digital assessment tools around the world in Part Two of this series.