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"Buying technology without a plan is sort of like going grocery shopping without a list after fasting all day." Jason Saul, Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2002 (co-founder of The Center for What Works, a national organization that promotes better business practices in the nonprofit and public sectors)
Does your organization have a technology plan? While experts agree that a technology plan is the single most important ingredient to effective use of technology in your organization, most nonprofits don't have one! This web page is designed to jumpstart your thinking about developing a technology plan for your organization. If you want more information, follow the links to other resources.

What is a Technology Plan? Sample Technology Plans
Technology Planning Steps More Information

What is a Technology Plan
The key to good technology planning is to remember that technology is a tool, or a means, to help you reach your goals, it is not the end. Your technology plan is a roadmap that connects your organization's use of technology to achieving its mission. Therefore, the plan should:

  • Focus on how technology can help you meet your organization's mission
  • Focus on technology that can make something easier or better, or allow you to do something you couldn't do, but wanted to
  • Have strong ties to your overall strategic plan
  • Reflect the values of your organization
  • Take a broad view, considering hardware, software, staff training, support, development and ancillary costs, other IT equipment (phones, faxes, etc.), and funding

The advantages of technology planning include

  • Proactive approach to the use of technology in your organization, rather than reacting to crises
  • Better allocation of financial resources
  • Ability to prioritize technology initiatives so that they best meet the organization's needs
  • Using staff more efficiently
  • Increased ability to fundraise for technology - allows you to focus grant requests on organizational goals that might be enhanced by technology rather than on technology

Good technology planning

  • Has leadership commitment
  • Has a team focus
  • Involves many stakeholders - staff, board, volunteers, membership
  • Allows for evaluation
  • Is ongoing
  • Follows the 70-30 rule: of the money you spend on technology
  • 30% on hardware/software
  • 70% on people who will design programs, train staff, use computers, support systems (including staff, consultants and trainers)

Below are some general steps that you can follow in the technology planning process. Use them as a guide, but don't become so overwhelmed by the scope of the task that you never start! Technology planning is ongoing, so even if you are only able to focus on one or two organizational goals and how to better use technology to meet them, you're on the right track.

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Technology Planning Steps

This overview is an outline on the technology planning steps - you may want to modify them for your organization. Remember - the technology planning process should be empowering by giving you control over your organization's technology needs and future - not a bureaucratic hassle!

1. Form a technology team

  • Some members should have technical knowledge, some programmatic experience
  • Include front-line staff as well as management and board members
  • Make sure everyone on the team understands the organizations' mission
    • For more information: TeamTech's Technology Committee Information sheet

2. Conduct assessment and research

  • What are the tasks/projects/goals of your organization?
  • How do similar organizations use technology to meet these goals?
  • What are your current hardware/software/networking/Internet access resources?
  • What kind of technical support, documentation, and technology use policies exist?
  • What is your staff's level of skill with specific software/tasks?
  • Assessment tool:

3. Set goals and strategies

  • State your organization's mission in terms of how technology can accomplish it
  • Brainstorm technologies that can help accomplish the mission - this part needs the most technical knowledge and may require a consultant. Tech Soup's The Planning Process: Explore Solutions has some guides to help you understand some of the issues
  • Develop the goals for your technology plan

4. Operationalize and prioritize goals, and divide into stages

  • Some goals should be short-term; others should be long-term
  • Include outcomes for each goal
  • Set a timeline

5. Establish a budget

  • Include all costs involved such as: hardware, software, setup, furniture, networking, Internet access, staffing for implementation and maintenance, life cycle replacements, staff training
  • Remember the 70/30 rule
  • Figure out where money will come from

6. Write the plan

  • Synthesize and summarize information from all sources
  • Include a timeline that is cautious and flexible
  • Formats vary, but should include the mission of the organization, technology vision, mission related technology goals, tasks, budget and timeline
  • Resources:

7. Implement (in stages, if necessary)

  • Designate someone to manage the process
  • Set small goals so you don't feel overwhelmed

8. Evaluate, revise, update

  • Evaluate using surveys, anecdotes and statistics
  • Evaluate original outcomes and effect of specific technologies
    • Research for a tool to calculate Return on Investment (ROI) - in planning stage and as an outcome check

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Sample Technology Plans

Look at the following sample technology plan to see how other not-for-profits have used these concepts to plan for their organizations. Notice the different formats and types of goals and gather ideas that can help you as you think about your own organization's needs.

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More Information

If you want more information, the following general resources provide extensive information on technology planning:

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