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Nonprofit organizations serve the public, providing a wide range of services to improve the quality of life of individuals or communities. They are often heavily staffed with volunteers or temporary workers with diverse skill sets, who are strongly motivated by altruism.  The transient nature of personnel and short-term inconsistent funding, contribute to nonprofits’ general lack of ability to provide for long term technology plans and budgets. Managing IT in nonprofit community organizations is a challenge, given these varying resources and needs, along with ill-structured IT management practices. Nonprofit organizations often have a vision for how technology might help them achieve their communitarian goals. However, they often face problems achieving their technology goals because technology planning is often not an explicit part of their organizational practice. Because of the perceived and real complexity of technology, nonprofit organizations can get “stuck”, and are often the last sector to realize technology benefits. They focus on the obstacles of IT rather than on their considerable assets with respect to situational and domain knowledge that can be leveraged to achieve their technology goals.

Essential Conditions


The essential conditions that are necessary to adopt, implement, and sustain technology in nonprofits have been examined in this project, through the perspective of four subsectors: rehabilitation, ESL, Library 2.0, and community based organizations. We have compared essential conditions for each subsector with those identified by Jacobsen (2006) in her examination of essential conditions in K-12. In each case, some conditions were found to be the same, some slightly adjusted to reflect the language and character of nonprofits, new conditions were identified, and some of Jacobsen's conditions were not found to be applicable to the nonprofit sector. We have also compiled a generalized list of essential conditions characterizing the nonprofit sector as a whole, based on the subsector findings.


The K-12 conditions of mentorship and in-house capacity were found to be not essential for the nonprofit sector; they were not recognized in any subsector as essential. The conditions of strategic (supportive) leadership and community/family support (schoolboard and parent support) were found to be ideal; these conditions were found to be essential in some subsectors, but not others. Conditions considered in all four subsectors, and in Jacobsen's study to be essential are: a learning, risk-taking culture among the staff, ubiquitous access to reliable technology, time for discussing and sharing, funder support (securing sustainable funding), diffusion of interest (diffusion of mentoring relationships), and resisting the urge to turn back through seeing the advantages of technology (designing learning communities to resist turning back).


New conditions were identified. Flexibility in reallocating resources, having a technology champion, and facilitation by intermediaries are ideal conditions, required in some subsectors, but not all. Nurturing a culture of trust and dedicated commitment are essential conditions, identified in all subsectors, and these truly reflect the unique situation and challenges of nonprofit organizations in technology adoption. The notion of commitment is crucial, as it can "override" the necessity of another essential condition. Nonprofit organizations have been found to accomplish incredible and unique technology applications due to the will and perseverance of committed leaders, donors, members and staff who put the goal of the organization ahead of their own goals and their own comfort.    



As a result of this analysis, we have come up with a series of recommendations for nonprofits to facilitate their move into the early adopters of technological innovations. 


- Strategic leadership is crucial in nonprofits. It is usually the trend that leaders with limited knowledge or expertise about information technology tend to assign IT decisions to the IT manager (if there is one) or the staff in charge or the IT consultant. However, this leads to IT decisions that don't take into consideration the policy and strategy implications for the organization. Leaders should always be engaged in the key IT decisions; such an involvement does not require technical expertise.


- Outsourcing the technical proficiencies required for the implementation and support of technology, is usually the best solution for nonprofits willing to engage in IT innovations. The staff should be freed from the overhead of hardware and software issues and use the technology towards accomplishing the high-level mission of the organization. It is very important that the staff have a positive experience with the technology for it to be sustained and proved as superior to the previous ways of doing things in order to progress forwards. This can only be reached if the technology is reliable and if technical support and training is constantly available.


- Partnership relationships with similar or complementing organizations is crucial. These kinds of relationships are very promising in the nonprofit sector because of the uniqueness in the mission and value of each organization. Technology implementation can facilitate building social networking and sharing knowledge with others. Collaboration and help in solving technical and usage problems ensure effective adoption.



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