Giving Compass’ Take:
• As more nonprofit organizations incorporate technology into their social programs, here are four considerations to think about when iterating this process.
• Why is it important for donors to support nonprofits that are integrating technology into their programming and missions? How have tech-for-good projects altered the social sector?
The free market has not—and likely will never—solve social problems, but many of the technologies spawned there can help the social sector achieve greater impact.
Tech nonprofits are finding support through accelerator programs like ours at Fast Forward, and developing tools to help children fall in love with math, provide online career advice, and deliver health care to people who have never seen a doctor. Meanwhile, legacy nonprofits like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are now looking to programs like Y-Combinator and 500 Startups to strengthen their tech capacity and scale impact.
As more direct-service nonprofits begin to integrate technology into the core of their programs, it is worth keeping the following lessons—gleaned from our alumni’s most successful efforts—in mind:
Hire strong technical talent.
If you plan to have technology at the root of your impact model, you absolutely need to build up a talented tech team. Even if a nonprofit founder is a proficient coder or engineer, the organization will eventually need to broaden its technical expertise.
Product is a long-term investment.
Tech isn’t just a one-and-done thing. Once you’ve built your product, you need to invest in ongoing product development and support as you scale. And typically, the real work doesn’t begin until your product is in the hands of users. Technology enables nonprofits to evolve and adapt their offerings over time so their services can reach new communities.
Think of tech as program, not overhead.
Technology like automated push messaging and mobile apps can help nonprofits reach more people, and better track metrics so that they can prove their impact to funders and refine their offerings.
There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Don’t waste time building tools that already exist. Explore application programming interfaces that can seamlessly plug into your existing product and do the work for you.
Ask users for feedback early and often.
The product you first launch probably won’t reflect your ultimate vision, but it is important to get a beta or MVP into the hands of users as soon as possible.
Innovative nonprofits are leveraging technology to reach new markets. They are leading the charge in social change and disrupting traditional approaches to healthcare, education, justice, and equity.
Today, technology is cheaper and more accessible than ever, and it is time every nonprofit consider how it can amplify mission and impact.
Read the full article about tech and social impact by Kevin Barenblat at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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